Boardwalk Empire Wiki
Main article: Nelson Van Alden

Nelson Van Alden remains a major character in the second season. This article details their actions in each episode of the season.

The Age of Reason[]

Main article: The Age of Reason

Van Alden reads the bible in the apartment he is sharing with Lucy Danziger. She calls from the kitchen, asking him to buy lemons on his way home from work. He walks through to her and she asks if he heard her. He confirms that he did. Heavily pregnant with his child, she complains that she cannot get comfortable. Van Alden has little sympathy, they are not lovers but are merely in an agreement for Van Alden to give the child to his wife once it is born and for Danziger to remain in the apartment until that time. He points out that his subordinate Agent Clarkson is still in the hospital with extensive third degree burns and wonders at Clarkson's level of comfort. She apologises and says she just wants to be done with the pregnancy. Clarkson suffered his injuries while following Van Alden's corruption to a bootlegging warehouse.

Van Alden waits in a hospital corridor and watches a nurse pass, carrying a newborn. A second nurse allows him in to see Clarkson. Horrific burns cover Clarkson’s right side and he is unconscious. Supervisor Elliot and Agent Sawicki enter shortly after Van Alden. Elliot blasphemes in shock and Sawicki tells Elliot that he had not exaggerated Clarkson's terrible injuries. Elliot marvels at Clarkson's survival and Van Alden professes that it is due to Clarkson's faith in God. Elliot blasphemes again; observing that Clarkson has a one-sided relationship with God. Van Alden asserts that Elliot's blasphemy is an insult to Clarkson's faith and supports this thinking with Clarkson's doctor's admission that his fate is out of their hands. Elliot has no reply so Van Alden begins a prayer for Clarkson. The other agents remove their hats to join him but Van Alden is interrupted as Clarkson gasps for breath and awakens. Van Alden touches Clarkson’s fingertips as they are the only un-burnt flesh on his right side. Clarkson looks at Van Alden and says “I see you, I know what you did.” Elliot asks if Van Alden understands Clarkson's words. Van Alden excuses himself, claiming he will fetch a doctor. Outside the room Van Alden braces himself against the wall and covers his mouth. He then notices the ceiling light at the end of the hallway flickering.

Van Alden calls his wife, Rose, from a payphone in the hospital. She is concerned because it is late in the evening. He informs her about Clarkson’s injuries and expresses self recrimination. She is supportive and tells him he cannot blame himself for the evils in the world and that he should find solace in working to combat them. Van Alden's guilt overwhelms him and he holds the receiver to his chest. He gathers himself and prepares Rose by telling her that he has always acted out of love. Rose is frightened by his tone. Van Alden tells her he is unfit for both their marriage and his badge. He says that he loves her and ends the call abruptly.

Van Alden returns to Clarkson’s bedside where Elliot is sitting vigil. Van Alden explains his long absence as a visit to the chapel. Elliot tells Van Alden that a message has been sent to Clarkson’s family in Montana. A nurse treats Clarkson’s burns as Van Alden praises Clarkson's character and admits that he deserves Clarkson’s fate. Van Alden begins a confession to Elliot but is interrupted by Clarkson repeating his earlier utterance “I see you, I know what you did.” The nurse explains that Clarkson is delirious and has been repeating these same phrases to everyone. Clarkson’s rambling progresses and it becomes clear that it relates to a childhood memory rather than to Van Alden's corruption. Van Alden leaves the hospital telling Elliot that the conversation he wanted is no longer necessary.

Van Alden arrives home with the promised lemons. He notices the broken china and finds Lucy cradling the baby in the bedroom. She tells him she delivered the baby herself and that it is a girl. He smiles and goes to fetch a doctor. Lucy kisses her daughters forehead.

Van Alden returns home with the promised doctor. He notices that the lemons have been put into a glass bowl, the shattered crockery has been cleaned up and the bloody bedding is soaking in the sink. He goes through to the bedroom and finds Rose mopping Lucy’s brow. Disbelieving, he closes his eyes and looks again. Rose turns around and observes that Lucy has a mild fever. Rose offers to leave the doctor to his work and walks into the corridor with her husband. Van Alden asks why she is there and she explains that she was concerned after his call, came to town and got the address from Sawicki. She says that she now knows what was really upsetting him. He tries to explain his deception as a way to give Rose a child and touches her arm. She loses her composure, telling him not to touch her and pounding on his chest with her fists. He grabs her wrists and pins her against the wall, asking her to calm down. She bites his hand until he releases her and she then leaves the apartment. He stands alone in the corridor as the baby cries.

Peg of Old[]

Main article: Peg of Old

Van Alden enters his rented apartment to find his new daughter quiet and the baby’s mother Lucy Danziger in the kitchen. He asks where the baby is and Lucy explains that she is finally sleeping after crying all day. Van Alden asks if Lucy fed the baby and she is offended, telling him of course she did. He apologises, blaming a headache. Lucy asks how Van Alden’s discussion with his wife went and he explains he has been unable to reach her because she is visiting an Aunt in Milwaukee. Van Alden had agreed with Lucy to pay for her lodgings until the baby was born and then give her a lump sum of $3000 to give the baby up so he could raise it with his wife. Van Alden believes that he is being tested by God. Lucy reminds Van Alden that he owes her money and he says he does not have it. She asks if he means he does not have it now or does not have it at all and he responds that she is enjoying the phonograph he bought her. She turns off the music as the baby’s screams fill the apartment. She presses Van Alden about the money but he is distracted by the baby crying. He claims he cannot concentrate and leaves the apartment. Lucy follows him out of the apartment shouting about their terms. A neighbour yells for quiet and she angrily bangs on his door before going back inside.

Van Alden goes to his rooms at the post office and is surprised to find his desk occupied by a woman. Van Alden angrily asks for an explanation and demands to know where Agent Sawicki is. Sawicki emerges from behind a desk at the back of the room. Van Alden asks Sawicki who the woman is and Sawicki urges Van Alden to be quiet by telling him that she is talking to the Attorney General. The woman concludes her phone conversation and introduces herself and her team. She is Assistant US Attorney Esther Randolph and her men are her chief investigator Clifford Lathrop and two clerks, Pratt and Halsey. Van Alden demands to know why they are there and why they have taken over his office. She says that her investigation into Nucky’s election rigging takes precedence over his work. Lathrop points out that they have moved Van Alden’s things to another desk. Van Alden complains about the lack of notice. Randolph reminds him of the need for discretion regarding her team’s activities and he is offended, citing his oath of office. Van Alden finds an ashtray that does not belong to him on his new desk. Randolph instructs Lathrop to search Absecon bay for ballot boxes that one of their confidential witnesses claims were dumped there because they were filled with non-republican votes. Lathrop asks Van Alden where he might be able to buy wading boots for the search. Van Alden ignores the question and says they will be eaten alive. Lathrop misunderstands and Van Alden clarifies that he means they will not get a conviction. Randolph asks why and learns that he believes the level of corruption is insurmountable; she sarcastically dismisses his concern. Van Alden gives the ashtray to Pratt.

At the post office headquarters Randolph has closed the partition to Van Alden’s new office while she deposes Alderman Jim Neary. She is recording his testimony using a Dictaphone and clarifying evidence that he originally gave to the State investigation. Van Alden listens as she questions Neary about cash for votes and his arrest in March 1920 for his involvement in bootlegging. Neary claims that he has paid his debt on those charges with a $500 fine. Randolph believes the punishment was too light and threatens to reopen that case if Neary is not co-operative despite his deal with the previous prosecutor. Van Alden answers a phone call and hurriedly leaves the office.

Van Alden arrives at Nucky Thompson’s office and Nucky asks Lucy to give them privacy. She takes the baby outside, telling Van Alden that she did not know what else to do on her way past. Nucky offers Van Alden a drink, saying that this may be the time to start. Van Alden declines and Nucky pours one for himself and toasts Van Alden’s new daughter. Van Alden bluntly asks what Nucky wants and Nucky says that Van Alden may want to charm him. Van Alden suspects blackmail. Nucky tells Van Alden that he is not in the habit of judging people and instead tries to help. He wonders if Van Alden’s disposition towards this attitude has changed. Van Alden asks what Nucky proposes to help him with and Nucky expresses concern about his ability to support his wife, mistress and daughter financially. Van Alden tells Nucky to stay out of his financial arrangements and Nucky reveals that he wants Van Alden to spy on Esther Randolph. Van Alden asks what Nucky offers in exchange and Nucky says he will take care of any budget problems and prevent questions being asked about Van Alden’s ability to support Lucy until now. Nucky asks what Van Alden has named his daughter and Van Alden admits that he has not chosen yet. Nucky suggests choosing a biblical name and asks Van Alden to consider his offer and says that he has given Lucy a gift with no strings attached. Van Alden is furious that Nucky has given money to Lucy.

Van Alden returns to his apartment looking for Lucy. He hears singing from the bedroom and smiles. He finds a stranger serenading the baby and asks who she is. She introduces herself as Alfreda Short, his downstairs neighbour. She explains that Lucy left to buy formula about twenty minutes ago and asked her to care for the baby. Van Alden returns to the living room and hears the turntable spinning. He smells something unpleasant and lifts the case to find a soiled nappy with the front page of the script for A Dangerous Maid pinned to it.

Van Alden holds his daughter and reads names from the bible. She murmurs when he says Abigail and he smiles at her.

The following day Van Alden arrives at the post office with a heavy briefcase. Randolph is instructing Lathrop to begin following Nucky. Van Alden asks to speak to her alone and she clears the office. He tells her he is married and she sarcastically says he has ended her dream. He confesses his affair and the birth of his daughter. She asks if he should be discussing this with a priest and he explains that he is baring his soul to prove that he is an honest man. He gives her a file he has compiled on Nucky over his sixteen months in Atlantic City. He explains that he was ordered by his supervisors to focus only on illegal alcohol so did not take his investigation further. She flicks through the file and asks if Van Alden will testify about the accusation he makes in the file. He agrees to do so and she tells him that they will resolve his domestic problems but that he should keep them to himself.

Two Boats and a Lifeguard[]

Main article: Two Boats and a Lifeguard

Van Alden stands over his daughter in a wicker crib and checks his watch. He answers a knock on the door of his apartment and lets in a young woman. He asks if she is Ingrid, the nanny he is expecting, and she corrects him; her name is Sigrid. He offers to take her suitcase and then interrupts her as she goes to the baby, telling her that her room is the first door out of the hall and that she will be expected to keep the baby in her room at night. He points out the kitchen, bathroom and the Vitrola record player. She is delighted with the new technology and confides that she enjoys singing. He asks if she has questions and she enquires about the salary. He offers room and board, meals and $18 a month. She agrees to this and he points out that he expects her to work seven days a week. She asks for some time to herself and he concedes one Sunday a month providing that she prepares food in advance for the baby. She agrees and says that she is an excellent cook. She offers to make fish stew for Van Alden but he declines but says that the cupboards are well stocked. She asks him what the baby’s name is and he hesitates before saying Abigail. Sigrid picks Abigail up and rocks her gently. Van Alden puts on his hat and Sigrid wonders if he wants to kiss Abigail goodbye. He does so and then leaves as Sigrid tells Abigail that her father loves her and begins to sing.

Van Alden eats lunch with his subordinate Stan Sawicki in an open cafe opposite the St. Louis Hotel. Sawicki notices tongue on the specials board and remarks that he has a friend who would eat it. Van Alden asks for the bill and the waiter says that it is covered. Van Alden wonders if he misheard and the waiter explains that they have a policy that police men eat for free. Van Alden states that they are federal agents and that accepting a gift is against regulations. Van Alden stares at Sawicki until the junior agent finally agrees with him. The waiter says that he was being neighbourly, writes out the bill and moves off to serve other customers. Van Alden recites the Latin phrase “Malum in se.” He explains to a baffled Sawicki that it means evil in and of itself. Sawicki suggests murder as an example and Van Alden agrees. Van Alden moves on to “Malum prohibitum.” He defines this as an evil prohibited by statute. Sawicki realises that Van Alden is referring to them accepting a free lunch and Van Alden confirms this but gives a second example; the sale of whiskey. Sawicki admits that he shares Van Alden’s doubts about the legitimacy of prohibition given the difficulty of enforcing the law. Van Alden says that they should leave, crumples the bill in his fist and leaves it on the counter, unpaid.

Van Alden arrives home to find Sigrid still serenading Abigail. He walks past them and closes the door to his room. He takes an evidence bag from his trousers, removes a wad of cash and hides it behind his bedroom mirror.

Battle of the Century[]

Main article: Battle of the Century

Assistant US Attorney Esther Randolph works through Van Alden's files as she prepares her case against Nucky Thompson. His notes on the murder of Hans Schroeder cause her to bring in Deputy Halloran for questioning but she is unable to get more information from him. She plans to have Van Alden testify regarding Volstead Act violations at Nucky's trial. Her investigator Clifford Lathrop is doubtful about the veracity of Van Alden's accusations.

Georgia Peaches[]

Main article: Georgia Peaches

On July 23, 1921 Van Alden sits in the kitchen of his rented apartment while his daughter Abigail is fed by her nanny Sigrid in the adjoining lounge. He observes that Sigrid seems at home caring for a baby and she explains that she is the oldest of seven children and cared for her siblings growing up. She reveals a story from her childhood, apparently aged six she tried to feed her baby sister from her own breast. Sigrid tells Abigail that she wishes she had milk for her. Van Alden stands and takes out a bill, leaving it for Sigrid to buy groceries. As he goes to put it down he noticed an unopened letter from his estranged wife Rose on the side. He demands to know when it arrived; Sigrid tells him she put it there yesterday. Annoyed, he instructs her that he should receive all correspondence from his wife immediately and opens the letter. Inside there is a petition for divorce with a short note politely and formally asking him to complete the paperwork as soon as he is able. As he reads the contents Abigail begins to cry. Sigrid stands and rocks her while Van Alden grips the bridge of his nose.

On July 24, 1921 Randolph rehearses Van Alden’s testimony for the upcoming trial at their shared space in the post office. Van Alden is detailing following Nucky to a meeting with Chalky. When he stumbles into presumption Randolph’s chief investigator Clifford Lathrop stops him and Randolph explains that he has to stick to facts. Van Alden apologises and Lathrop urges him to only cover what he knows. Randolph changes tack and asks Van Alden about Hans Schroeder. He is reluctant to talk about Hans so she prompts him by saying that he mentions Hans and Margaret frequently in his files. He wonders if she is baiting him and she denies doing so. She says that he claims Nucky ordered Hans’ murder and he admits that he has no direct proof of that. She observes that he spent a long time investigating it. He explains that his supervisors told him to focus on alcohol as they have asked him to do in his testimony. She asks for his opinion off the record and he says that he is certain that Nucky did. She announces a lunch break and Van Alden leaves the office.

Under God's Power She Flourishes[]

Main article: Under God's Power She Flourishes

On July 26, 1921 Sigrid cooks breakfast in Van Alden’s apartment. He emerges from the bedroom and they exchange greetings. He asks about his daughter Abigail and learns that she is sleeping. Sigrid pours coffee for him as he sits at the table. She speaks to him in Dutch and he does not understand. She explains that she assumed he was Dutch and that she asked how he was. He clarifies that he comes from upstate New York. She asks if he visits his parents there and he says that they do not enjoy his company. She wonders how this came to be and he elucidates that his parents were followers of Reverend Edgerton Sterry who incorrectly prophesised that the Second Coming would occur in 1892. Sigrid notes that she was not even born then. Van Alden goes on to say that his father gave away the family farm in anticipation of judgement day and that the family lived in poverty, in a tent for a year. Sigrid says “this did not happen.” Van Alden notes that his father never recovered from the failure of the prophecy and cannot bear seeing him because he is a reminder. Sigrid reassures Van Alden that Jesus will still come. He wonders if this worries her. She recognizes that this is a sign of his own concern and reassures him that he is a good man and need not be afraid.

Randolph convenes a meeting of her team at their post office headquarters. Van Alden sits in the partitioned section, staring at his divorce papers. Randolph wonders how a poor widow like Margaret ended up living with a powerful racketeer like Nucky. Clifford Lathrop suggests that Margaret seduced Nucky. Dick Halsey gives Randolph a cup of tea. She asks for Van Alden’s opinion about Margaret and he claims not to have one. Randolph asks Lathrop to bring Margaret in and he instructs Halsey to type up a subpoena. Van Alden signs the divorce papers.

Van Alden arrives at a bootlegging warehouse and is greeted by Mickey Doyle. Van Alden tells Doyle that he found his note confusing and mispronounces his full first name; Miechelslaub. Doyle says that he was trying to keep their contact on the hush and invites Van Alden to sit. He insists when Van Alden refuses the seat, saying that he does not like the way that Van Alden looms. Van Alden complies, then asks what Doyle wants. Doyle complains that he worked hard on his current operation and has been rewarded with only pain. Van Alden commiserates and Doyle tells Van Alden that he and his partners are going to sit down to split up their money, naming Luciano and Capone. Van Alden asks about Jimmy and Doyle says that he has left town. Doyle says that Jimmy is lucky that he is a forgiving person and gestures to his neck, now free from its brace. He tells Van Alden that there will be a lot of money on the table. Van Alden wonders what Doyle wants in return for federal intervention and Doyle demands half of the money for himself. He tells Van Alden that there will be two to three hundred thousand dollars there and reminds Van Alden that this is a far greater amount than that in the envelopes that he has been receiving. Van Alden blinks and Doyle offers a hand. Van Alden says that he would prefer not to. Doyle wonders if he means no. Van Alden walks out of the meeting and Doyle asks if Van Alden is going to act against him. Doyle claims that is not how he thinks but gets no reply from the departing agent.

On July 27, 1921 Van Alden arrives at the post office. He is met by Randolph, Nucky's counsel Bill Fallon and Deacon Lemuel Cuffy. Lathrop sidles up behind Van Alden as Randolph introduces the visitors, reminding Van Alden that he has met Cuffy. Fallon produces Sebso’s gun and new shoes from a box; Sebso removed them before going into the river where Van Alden drowned him. Randolph asks if Van Alden recognises the items. Cuffy quotes Proverbs 21:15 “It is joy for the just to do justice.” Lathrop instructs Van Alden to hold his hands up as he takes Van Alden's gun. Van Alden grabs the weapon once it is out of the holster and fires it into Lathrop’s right knee. Lathrop collapses, dropping the gun and Van Alden flees the room. Van Alden pushes past Agent Sawicki and runs out of the building.

To the Lost[]

Main article: To the Lost

A landlady shows Van Alden, his daughter Abigail and her nursemaid Sigrid into an apartment. She extols the virtues of the property including a greengrocers and the St. Mary of Częstochowa church nearby. The church bells can be heard outside. She says that Cicero is a quiet town for quiet people like most of the Midwest. Van Alden says that he is sure they will be happy there and she agrees. He takes out his wallet and gives her cash to cover the first two months rent. She welcomes them to Cicero, calling them Mr and Mrs Mueller. Sigrid looks down and then shares a smile with Van Alden.

See also[]