Last night, Boardwalk Empire ended the season with a moment of truth for Richard Harrow. We're dealing with it. Caution: spoilers.
Richard Harrow, Boardwalk Empire's sad, disfigured assassin, probably didn't deserve to die, but die he did on last night's finally, and so we bid farewell to one of the most wonderful performances on TV.
Harrow's death was mostly unexpected. Boardwalk Empire unfolds slowly, and Harrow did not have as big a role this season as he did the last. After running away from Atlantic City out of shame—going to the midwest to be a hired killer—he returned to be a father to Tommy, the son of his fellow vet and friend Jimmy Darmody, and a partner to Julia Sagorsky, the woman he fell in love with in the third season. But in order to keep Tommy in Julia's care, he made a deal with criminal kingpin Nucky Thompson. If Nucky revealed the location of Jimmy's body, keeping Gillian Darmody in jail and away from her grandson Tommy, Harrow would return to killing.
The job, of course, went awry. He shot Chalky White's innocent daughter instead of the villainous Dr. Valentin Narcisse, and was in turn shot himself. There's a flicker of hope when we see Harrow, on a train, going to meet Julia and Tommy, but then we realize it's only a dream. Harrow is dying, alone, underneath the boardwalk. The mask that hid his gruesome facial injury from World War I, discarded in the sand.