Boardwalk Empire Wiki

Ethan Thompson is the father of Enoch and Eli Thompson. After breaking his hip in 1920 he lives with Eli until his death in June 1921, aged 82. He was played by veteran actor Tom Aldredge who died shortly after filming his final appearance for the series. Guest star Ian Hart portrays the character in flashbacks during the fifth season.



Ethan was born in 1839.

Ethan was once Atlantic County Sheriff and an ally of The Commodore. He is a Catholic and the father of two powerful men in Atlantic City - Atlantic County Treasurer Enoch Thompson and current Sheriff Elias Thompson. He is an Irish American and a long standing member of the Order of Ancient Celts. He lives alone in what was once their family home. His wife Eleanor Thompson died in 1903 aged 55. His daughter Susan Thompson also died at a young age from consumption.

Season 1[]

He is a guest of honor at the St. Patrick's Day celebration dinner of the Order of Ancient Celts along with Nucky, Eli and The Commodore. He shouts through Duncan O'Connor singing “Carickfergus” when Eli is late. Later, when Eli is about to give a speech he disparagingly remarks "This one's going to speak now." The dinner is raided by Prohibition Agents and Ethan has to be restrained by Nucky from shouting at them. ("Nights in Ballygran")

In his home near the rail line into Atlantic City Ethan prepares breakfast. His kitchen is unkempt and the house is overrun by cats. He gestures wildly with a fire poker and warns the cats to stay away from him. He pours whiskey into a pewter mug and uses a large fork to retrieve the bread he has toasted on the hob. As he shuffles from the oven to the table he again warns the cats to stay away, then loses his balance and lands hard on his right side pulling a chair down after him. The animals scatter while he grips his leg in pain and cries for help. ("Home")

Eli, Deputy Halloran and Dr Surran tend to Eli’s father; they have splinted his right leg and are preparing to lift him from the floor. Ethan grumbles constantly as they work. Nucky arrives as Eli pleads with Ethan to let them help. Ethan laughs when he sees Nucky and tells the others to look who is finally visiting. Nucky says that he came as soon as he heard and Eli interjects that he called Nucky’s office but that Nucky was out with a woman. Ethan wonders if this was Mabel and Nucky reminds his father that his wife is dead as the others lift him into a chair. Ethan complains that he was on the floor for five hours and worries that he might have lost a leg if Eli had not found him. Nucky thanks Surran as they carry Ethan out of the room on the chair. Nucky looks around the room and fixes on a shelf holding a photograph of Eli in an older style of the Atlantic County Sheriff’s Office uniform, a certificate and cup from the Atlantic City Beach Patrol and two rosettes. ("Home")

Eli decides to let Ethan live with his family when Nucky considers putting him into a nursing home. Nucky gives Eli's house to Damien Fleming who renovates it. Nucky goes to see the house with his partner's son Teddy. Nucky takes Teddy into the kitchen where Eli is showing Ethan around in a wheelchair. Nucky says that Ethan has seen it and tells them to leave. Ethan is carrying the poker but leaves it on the boiler. Ethan uses his walking stick to stop Eli from pushing him out of the room and venomously tells Nucky that he is worthless. Nucky does not respond and Ethan tells Eli to take him out of the house. A train whistles in the background and Nucky picks up the poker. He notices Teddy reading the side of a can of turpentine. Nucky sends Teddy to wait in the car as the sound of the passing train intensifies. Unable to dispel the memories of Ethan's abuse in his childhood he sprinkles turpentine all over the kitchen and then strokes a match on the door frame to set the house on fire. He watches from the gate as the house is consumed by flames. ("Home")

Season 2[]

Eli continues to care for Ethan. His health continues to worsen and he is confused and aggressive. ("A Dangerous Maid")

At Eli’s home his children are playing noisily while he eats breakfast with Ethan. His wife June chides two of the children for running around. Eli’s older son Michael announces a visitor; Dick Halsey, clerk to Assistant US Attorney Esther Randolph. Ethan is worried by the visitor and Eli tries to reassure him. Halsey complains that Eli has been avoiding messages at his work and Eli offers the excuse of the busy tourist season. Halsey is there to deliver a subpoena. Eli is enraged that Halsey came to his home. Michael is worried by Eli’s bad language and Ethan is also furious. Eli stands and Halsey says that they could have had him arrested. Eli grabs Halsey by the lapels and pushes Halsey out of the room. Ethan shouts after Halsey and then grabs his chest. June and Michael rush to Ethan’s side, Eli follows them and holds his father’s face in his hands as he passes away. ("Two Boats and a Lifeguard")

Nucky visits an open casket viewing at a funeral home. Eli also attends and Nucky refuses to forgive Ethan for the abuse he inflicted on his sons. After Eli leaves Nucky breaks down over the coffin. ("Two Boats and a Lifeguard")

Ethan's funeral is held on July 1, 1921, in Atlantic City. Eli, June and their family, including their sons Michael, Patrick and Brian, stand in the front row of the mourners. Representatives from the Atlantic County Sheriff’s Office (including Eli’s first deputy Halloran) and the Order of Ancient Celts are also present. Ethan’s grave stands next to that of his wife Eleanor. The tombstones note Ethan’s year of birth as 1839 and Eleanor’s lifespan as 1848 to 1903. The congregation respond en masse to the traditional Catholic burial ceremony delivered by their priest. ("Battle of the Century")

Nucky does not come to the funeral and he lies to Randolph about wanting to bury Ethan in Ireland in order to get permission to leave the country. He arranges to trade surplus US Army Thompson machine guns that he has stolen for liquor with the Irish Republican Army while away. ("Battle of the Century")


Memorable Quotes[]


Season one appearances
Boardwalk Empire The Ivory Tower Broadway Limited Anastasia
Nights in Ballygran Family Limitation Home Hold Me in Paradise
Belle Femme The Emerald City Paris Green A Return to Normalcy
Season two appearances
21 Ourselves Alone A Dangerous Maid What Does the Bee Do?
Gimcrack & Bunkum The Age of Reason Peg of Old Two Boats and a Lifeguard
Battle of the Century Georgia Peaches Under God's Power She Flourishes To the Lost
Season five appearances
Golden Days for Boys and Girls The Good Listener What Jesus Said Cuanto
King of Norway Devil You Know Friendless Child Eldorado