Boardwalk Empire’s Eli

Boardwalk Empire is truly a great show. I only realized how great it was after I had watched the series finale, which I will write about another time. For now, I want to go through my musings on Eli. At first, I did not like Eli. I thought he was a piece of shit for betraying Nucky, not once, but twice. How could one betray his own brother? The brother that did everything for him? Well, that is exactly the reason. Eli was extremely frustrated with his role in life. He was never his own man. This is easily seen by his job as sheriff in the beginning of the show. Nucky was sheriff first, when he was younger. Once he finished, Eli became the sheriff. The younger brother steps into the shadow of his older brother. Sartre famously said, “Existence precedes essence.” Eli never found his own essence. He did what Nucky told him to do. He never found his own purpose, he was always apart of Nucky’s. His purpose was to help Nucky achieve his. Now that’s frustrating, your purpose in life is to help someone achieve all the things they want. No wonder Eli betrayed Nucky and tried to take over with a group of other people. He wanted to control his own destiny, instead of Nucky handing it to him. He wanted to eat off his own plate, not Nucky’s. Eli is a more complex character than meets the eye. The more I’ve thought about him, the more I appreciate his existential struggle.

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