[WARNING: The following story contains major spoilers from Sunday's episode of Boardwalk Empire. Read at your own risk.]
A high body count is to be expected at this point on HBO's mob drama Boardwalk Empire. But Sunday's episode featured a heartbreaking death that was probably harder to predict.
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After asking Nucky (Steve Buscemi) for more responsibility this season, Nucky's assistant/chauffeur Eddie Kessler (Anthony Laciura) learned the hard way that ambition can be dangerous in the world of gangsters. In the previous episode, Eddie delivered a bag of money to Ralph Capone (Domenick Lombardozzi). After the two men spent a night drinking, Eddie was apprehended by eager Bureau of Investigation Agent Knox (Brian Geraghty), who's trying to prove that organized crime is real.
On Sunday's episode, Knox uses Eddie's checkered past in Germany to force Eddie to confess that he was delivering the money on Nucky's orders. Wracked with guilt over betraying his boss, Eddie returned home, where he threw himself to his death from his bedroom window. "It was really a big and difficult decision," creatorTerrence Winter tells TVGuide.com. "We loved the character, we loved the actor. It's sort of like a chess game: You give up one of your big pieces to win the game — winning the game being making this a very powerful, poignant season of our show. Eddie was somebody whose [death] would have a tremendous impact on things as we move forward."
TVGuide.com chatted with Laciura, who was mostly known as an opera singer before Boardwalk, about saying goodbye to his character.
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When did you get the news that Eddie was going to be killed off?
After we started filming Episode 4, it was explained to me that Eddie wasn't going to make it. It was on a Wednesday, and it was 11:17. [Laughs]. ... And before the phone call, I had a suspicion. When Terry did call, I said, "I don't want you to feel bad, Terry because I don't. I saw what was happening." It's very difficult for the producer to do that. I can't imagine anyone going into any series [without thinking] that at some point, you're not going to be in the series any longer. If you can make it to the end, that's terrific. But man, what a run. I've had such a great run.
This season was all about Eddie seeking out more responsibility. What drove him in that direction?
It stemmed from the end of the third season. He realizes, "Jesus, I took a bullet for [Nucky]. I bring women to him. I feed him. I take care of him when he's sick. I do everything." ... [Eddie] is somewhat of a father figure, but at the same time still taken for granted. And I think at this point, Eddie just says, "You know, I would like a little bit more responsibility. I would like a raise. I would like to do more than just folding socks and making sure you have whiskey in the decanter."
In the previous episode, Nucky gave Eddie his first real assignment: delivering money to Ralph Capone. Do you think it's what Eddie had in mind?
Laciura: In his mind, he's fulfilling what he dreamed of. He has been given more responsibility, and he takes that very, very seriously and is extremely proud. We see that when Nucky gives him the money. He turns around and walks out with that smile like, "A-ha. I am important now. I'm not just a servant. I am important."
Why do you think he takes Ralph out on the town instead of just sending him on his way?
Well, you see in his face: "I can't just leave him here. I guess I should take him." Any other pick-up guy would say, "Go on your own way. I don't care whether you eat or not." But Eddie, because he's always been serving and taking care of people, "Well, I'll take care of this guy too."
Of course, after that night out with Ralph, Eddie is taken by Agent Knox. Do you think Eddie wishes he hadn't been so accommodating?
Laciura: No, no, no. Not Eddie. He was given a chore to do. He did it and he saw it through, regardless of the outcome. Eddie [comes] from Germany, and the Germans are very particular and they do exactly what they're supposed to do. They follow orders... because there's pride in that.
Eddie obviously had some secrets back in Germany that Knox uses against him during the interrogation.
Whatever indiscretions Eddie had while he was in Germany, it was more severe for Eddie than anyone else looking in. He flirted or maybe had an affair with a woman. He helped smuggle money. Whatever it was, they discovered that little flaw, and that's what they use.
Is Eddie more afraid of being deported and arrested for those crimes or of facing his family, which he abandoned?
Laciura: His wife has died, and he is somewhat estranged from his sons. They have wonderful positions. He doesn't want to infringe on their big positions, because he knows he does not have a big position. But he has to be told by Knox that he is a grandfather. They're beating up an old man. Can you be more evil than that? But that's not as bad as when he tells him about the kids. That's when everything breaks down.
What Eddie tells Knox isn't in and of itself a huge revelation. Why does Eddie take that betrayal so hard?
Laciura: I felt, coming from the third season, that what was building was this protection as a father protects his son. ... I think he started to take care for Nucky in that fashion. For 11 years, he's done everything and protected him as if he were his son. And then all of a sudden he has to say, "Because Nucky told me to do this." That's it. The poor old man loses it.
What is Eddie thinking when he leaves the interrogation?
Laciura: In his mind, there is only one answer. You can't go explain it. You can't ask for forgiveness, which of course Nucky would have given him. But in the old man's mind, he only thought of one thing: "I have disgraced my family in Germany, and now I have disgraced my family in America. There is no other place to go."
So there was nothing that could have prevented him from committing suicide?
Laciura: I think he knew exactly what he was going to be forced to do. But if you notice... there was that moment between Nucky and Eddie where... it looked like he was just thinking, waiting to say something. [But] then [Nucky] said, "And look at these socks." What does Eddie do before he kills himself? He goes and folds the socks.
A servant to the end.
Laciura: To the end. That's the point. He's going to do his job until death. And he says in Episode 3, "I am here. You are my life. I live to serve you, to protect you. Other people, these other men, they could care less. They don't understand loyalty, what that really means."
Do you think Eddie was thinking about Nucky in those final moments?
I believe that Eddie felt that this would relieve Nucky of any and all questions they were ever going to ask. ... By eliminating himself, he will have eliminated all the other problems that would hang around Nucky.
So are you satisfied with where the character's journey ends?
When you go back and see all that has led up to this, it really does make perfect sense. You fatten the turkey before the kill. I just wish it would have led up to it to the 12th episode, not the fifth. [Laughs] But it is what it is. I wasn't upset that it had to happen, because it's inevitable with anything. ... If you have to die,Howard Korder wrote for me a death scene I hope will never be forgotten. You think he's just finished shaving, he straightens his tie, he turns away from the mirror and walks right out the window. Boom.
And I'm sure his death will have significant impact on Nucky moving forward.
Laciura: What is going to happen to Nucky without Eddie? Who's he going to yell at? Who's going to take care of him? He's got two bodyguards, but they couldn't do what Eddie did. Nobody could do what Eddie did. [Laughs].
Boardwalk Empire airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO. What did you think of Eddie's death?