The second season of "Boardwalk Empire" was propelled by a plot against Nucky Thompson led by The Commodore and Jimmy Darmody, but the coup storyline had to be re-written on the fly when actor Dabney Coleman was diagnosed with throat cancer. The A.V. Club interviewed Coleman and "Boardwalk" creator Terrence Winter, who revealed that the Commodore's debilitating stroke was introduced as a way to compensate for Coleman's condition, which occasionally rendered him unable to speak.
Dabney, who is now cancer-free, suspected his character was written off the show completely because of his illness. His disappointment was understandable. He had been excited to tackle the broadened role, telling Vulture after Season 1, "The role is going to be a little bigger and developed a bit more next year. They told me a story line, which I can’t reveal, that’s going to be a lot more interesting, and a lot of fun."
Winter clarified that The Commodore was always slated to be killed by Jimmy at the end of the season, but what the show's writers did have to change was his role in the plot against Nucky. Originally, the Commodore was supposed to lead the entire conspiracy, but Coleman's illness forced the show's writers to give Darmody more of a leadership role after the coup was already in motion.
The character's stroke felt abrupt to viewers who had just watched him recover from a long-term poisoning to regain his health and political ambition. At the time, HuffPost TV wrote in our "Boardwalk" gangster rankings that, "Just when we were starting to get a read on the complex political landscape developing on Season 2 of 'Boardwalk Empire,' a massive eruption has shifted everything around ... again. With the Commodore incapacitated by a stroke, the anti-Nucky conspirators suddenly find themselves without a leader, and panicked by the thought that betraying Atlantic City's treasurer may be the last mistake they'll make on this Earth."
Winter believes the improvised season ended up working well. He told the A.V. Club:
"We still wanted to keep the original story, where everybody conspires against Nucky and the Commodore leads the charge, but we thought that if there’s a way to have the Commodore set up the conspiracy, set up Nucky’s arrest, Eli’s on board, Jimmy’s on board, everybody’s behind them, and then early on the guy who’s leading this charge is now incapacitated … from a story perspective, it actually amps things up in a really great way. Suddenly the general is out of commission, and these guys start turning on each other."
Below, check out the most recent "Boardwalk Empire" gangster rankings: