Season finales often feature the shocking death of a major character. This should prove especially true on a gangster show like Boardwalk Empire, given that impulsively killing people is one of the things that gangsters do best. And most often! So it seems reasonable to assume that, on this Sunday's season finale of Boardwalk Empire, at least one major character will meet his or her maker. But who? To find out, we've parsed the evidence — narrative, technical, and intuitive — and calculated these absolutely scientific and irrefutable odds. Warning: Possible spoilers ahead?
The real-life Nucky Johnson ruled over Atlantic City until his imprisonment in 1941. Of course, the show purposefully altered the character's name to avoid absolute adherence to history. But we don't imagine this leeway includes killing him off in season one. Besides, they'd totally have to reshoot the title sequence.
Odds: 1 to 8
The show's best and most complex female character may have recently enraged Nucky and inspired a psychotic obsession in Agent Van Alden, but we're betting she sticks around to further untangle the knots of being a (sort of) liberated woman in the Roaring Twenties. If the show really wanted to kill off a female character as punishment for bridling under her era's restrictive social mores — well, we'll get to that in a moment.
Odds: 1 to 5
Nope. Not going to happen. This show didn't take him from the boardwalk to Chicago to the dark side to the Commodore's death bed just to snuff him in the final episode. Besides, he looks way too good in a suit.
Odds: 1 to 4
Nelson Van Alden
In the pilot, Boardwalk Empire looked like it would focus on the trinity of Nucky, Jimmy, and Van Alden — two poles of vice and virtue, with young Jimmy torn between. However, Van Alden's descent into temptation (drink, Lucy Danzinger) and madness (his murder of Sebso), suddenly leave him with very few narrative options, save a stage-left exit to his heavenly reward. We've been lukewarm on this character's arc, yet we figure it will resolve with a bang, not a whimper. We wouldn't be surprised to see Van Alden go out in a blaze of irony — drowning in a keg of green beer with two strippers, perhaps?
Odds: 5 to 1
He got thrown off the ticket by his rat-fink brother. This will make him mad. Mad enough to come after Nucky and endanger himself? Well, if the gut-blast in the casino didn't kill him, and he wasn't torn apart by the riled-up Irish mob, or eaten alive by little people dressed as leprechauns, we think he'll make it through the finale in one piece.
Odds: 10 to 1
What were we saying about women bridling under societal restrictions? Let's review Angela's situation: Her husband abandoned her, then returned unexpectedly; her lesbian lover promised to whisk her to Paris, then disappeared; and she left a "Dear John" note for said hair-trigger husband, which he promptly discovered before she could snatch it back. Boardwalk Empire has been leading Jimmy down a path of darkness, but will it really make him this dark? Killing his own wife and the mother of his child? We're guessing that, having seen what Jimmy's become, Angela simply high-tails it instead, to her beloved Greenwich Village. Or maybe she gets rescued by Gertrude Stein.
Odds: 3 to 1
Mary and Robert Dittrich
Wait — they left for Paris. Or have they? An interesting theory floated among our own astute commenters holds that Jimmy disposed of this couple already, after discovering Angela's plans. (He'd beaten the photographer half to death, so he'd simply be finishing the job.) A variation holds that Nucky may have run them out of town, having discovered Mary's Sapphic link to Angela. (This was kind of alluded to in an earlier episode.) Either of these theories would explain the couple's sudden disappearance after Mary seemed so keen to escape with Angela. But we're still guessing they simply skedaddled. Though we wouldn't be entirely shocked if they wound up in the next "catch of the day" net, à la wife-beater Hans Schroeder.
Odds: 7 to 1
Frankly, we're surprised she made it out of the sack with Van Alden alive. Would she off herself? Maybe. Would she take a shot at Nucky or Margaret and get cut down? Not impossible. Will the show keep her around for her semi-regular scenes of naked writhing? That seems most likely to us.
Odds: 6 to 1
Age. Rat poison. A city full of enemies. If you have not yet figured out that, like Evil, Satan, and toe fungus, the Commodore cannot be killed, we’ve got some powdered biscuits you might want to try.
Odds: 1 to 10
Maybe the remaining D'Alessio's find a way to kill him as retribution for choking their brother? Sure, and maybe Marlo sneaks up behind Omar, yanks his pants down, gives him a purple nurple, and sends him home crying. In other words: Not likely.
Odds: 2 to 7
Another astute catch from our commenters: Gretchen Mol, who plays Gillian, has been listed as a "guest star" in the credits all season. Maybe this is simply because Gillian's appeared in about half the episodes. But think about it: She's royally pissed off Lucky Luciano and, possibly, the Commodore. The only way her life could be more in peril is if she forwarded Chalky an e-mail she got from Carl Paladino. Also, her death would further stoke Jimmy's transformation into a rage-a-holic kingpin bent on revenge. If we had to bet on one character biting it before night's end, she's the one.
Yeah, right. Not only is he the best character on the show, he's an expert sniper. Who's going to kill him? Some super-sniper with no face at all?
Odds: Shut up.
The show sometimes plays fast and loose with history, but not this fast and loose.
Arnold Rothstein and Lucky Luciano
See Capone, Al.
Any D'Alessio brother, including the dentist
Dumb, plentiful, and marked for death: If you think any of these guys are making it out alive, you probably rooted for the red-shirted dudes on Star Trek.
Odds: No longer accepting bets.