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Initially he appears incompentent and is a source of comic relief. He is later revealed to be corrupt and manipulative. He is very skilled at hiding his relationship with Nucky Thompson and Nucky uses him to interfere with Van Alden's work including murdering their informant Billy Winslow. Van Alden deduces that Sebso is a traitor and drowns him in front of the congregation of the Shiloh Baptist Church, a simulation of the Christian baptism ceremony. The murder is uncovered by Nucky a year later and Van Alden goes on the run.
Van Alden investigates Chicago gangsters James "Big Jim" Colosimo and Johnny Torrio when they visit Atlantic City. Sebso and Van Alden trail the mobsters to a meeting at the Traymore Hotel. As they enter the lobby Van Alden and his Sebso look on as they greet Atlantic County Treasurer Nucky Thompson, New York crime boss Arnold Rothstein and Rothstein's protege Lucky Luciano. Sebso is confused while Van Alden can easily identify all of the party. ("Boardwalk Empire")
Van Alden and Sebso later submit a report on Nucky to their boss, Supervisor Elliot. They describe Nucky’s lifestyle including his suite at the Ritz Carlton, tailored suits and his chauffeur driven blue Rolls Royce. Van Alden details Nucky’s involvement in protection rackets and payola for public jobs. Van Alden describes Nucky receiving payments from aldermen and the emergency services. Elliot is surprised that Nucky has managed to win re-election and Van Alden explains that he is popular, particularly among African Americans. Sebso tells Elliot that Nucky is involved in casinos, whorehouses and a wire service for racing results. Elliot asks his agents about alcohol and they tell them it is practically out in the open. Elliot reminds them that their original target in Atlantic City was Arnold Rothstein and asks about their progress on him. Van Alden believes that Nucky Thompson is a better target; Elliot looks doubtful. ("The Ivory Tower")
Simon, a survivor of the Hammonton hijacking, is discovered in the woods and taken to hospital in Pennsylvania. Van Alden and Sebso go to the hospital to question Simon. When they arrive Eli Thompson pretends he was making Simon comfortable but was really attempting to silence him by suffocating him with a pillow. Van Alden flashes his badge and tries to question Simon. Eli claims Simon needs rest and refuses to let him be interviewed while in his custody. Van Alden claims that because Simon has been taken across the Pennsylvania border for treatment the case is now federal. Eli refuses to back down and Deputy Halloran shoos the agents away. Sebso accuses Eli of obstructing a federal investigation and Eli tells them to get a warrant. Van Alden asks Sebso to guard the witness and leaves. ("Broadway Limited")
Van Alden returns to the hospital with a group of men following him. He presents a piece of headed paper to Halloran claiming that it gives him custody of Simon. Halloran goes to make a phone call while Van Alden has Simon carried down to his car. Sebso complains about the risk of Van Alden using a falsified document. Van Alden gives the men cash; they are destitute and go straight to buy food. Sebso asks where they are going and Van Alden says they will take Simon to New York because he is one of Arnold Rothstein’s men. ("Broadway Limited")
As they drive North Van Alden has Sebso check Simon’s pulse – it is weak. Van Alden aims to get Simon to Bellevue in just over four hours but Sebso is doubtful Simon will survive that long. Van Alden instructs Sebso to keep Simon awake by slapping him and Sebso complies to no avail. They enter Raritan, New Jersey and resolve to find a doctor. ("Broadway Limited")
Van Alden and Sebso burst into the offices of a dentist, Dr Lissender, as he is treating a small boy. They carry Simon into the room and demand that the dentist revive him. Lissender sees that Simon is dying but offers to give cocaine (which he keeps as an anaesthetic) when Van Alden is insistent. He gives an injection into the only site he knows – the gums. Simon does not respond to the first dose and Van Alden impatiently instructs Lissender to give more. After a second injection Simon awakens. He speaks Yiddish in response to questioning and while Van Alden does not understand the boy’s mother, Mrs. Fishbaum, is shocked. Van Alden forces her to translate and finds that he was being insulted. Sebso, also a Yiddish speaker, chimes in with a minor correction. Van Alden sits next to Simon and asks where he wants to die. Van Alden plunges his hand into the shotgun wound and Simon screams in agony; Lissender is horrified. Simon admits that there were two young men and that one was named Jimmy. Van Alden describes Jimmy Darmody and Simon confirms the identification moments before his death. Van Alden recites a passage from Revelations. Sebso points out that Simon was probably Jewish but Van Alden continues as Halloran and more deputies arrive. After completing his prayer Van Alden tells Halloran that Simon is all theirs. ("Broadway Limited")
At the post office Van Alden calls Supervisor Elliot. As Van Alden holds the line Sebso reads out a post card; Van Alden reprimands him for going through private correspondence. Van Alden requests permission to arrest Darmody but Elliot orders him to await confirmation from a prosecutor. Jimmy is ordered to leave town and flees to Chicago. ("Broadway Limited")
At his ad hoc post office headquarters Van Alden reads off places and volumes of liquor while his partner Eric Sebso marks them on a map. Margaret Schroeder arrives and Van Alden stands to greet her and introduces Sebso. She lightheartedly asks if the post office runs prohibition, Van Alden does not see the humor. She reminds Van Alden that he asked her to come forward if she had information. He orders Sebso to make Margaret comfortable and then block the entrance so that they can talk in private; Sebso complies, slowly. Margaret explains that Hiawatha Garage at 2727 Caspian is being used to store a large quality of alcohol and asks Van Alden to close it down. Van Alden refers her to the map and says he lacks the resources to close even 10% of the businesses involved in alcohol. He goes on to elucidate that the role of Atlantic City as a port for illegally importing liquor is the greater problem. He says that there is a growing criminal class who see murder as a way of doing business and subtly mentions Hans’ death as being connected to bootlegging. She asks if he is trying to be cruel and he says he is just being honest. She asks about the law that creates these criminals and he says that it is the very law she asked him to enforce. She says that she has been lectured enough by men who do not act for one day and goes to leave. Van Alden has Sebso block her path and asks who else has lectured her. She says it is not his business and asks if she is to be arrested. He responds by wondering if she has committed a crime; she capitulates, naming Jim Neary. He asks her to confirm that she means James Neary, Alderman of the Fourth Ward. She says she does not know but that he works for Nucky Thompson.("Nights in Ballygran")
Van Alden's seizes control of the alcohol stored at the garage. Later, at the St. Patrick's Day dinner of the Order of Ancient Celts Van Alden and a team of agents burst in and announce a raid. Nucky and Eli Thompson are among those at the top table. An attorney from the crowd of Celts states that consumption of alcohol is not a crime. Van Alden knocks him out with a single punch and asks if there are further objections. Van Alden orders Sebso to shoot anyone that tries to flee and then announces an arrest warrant for Neary. He has men take Neary away, ignoring his protestations of innocence. He announces the end of the dinner and tells the Celts to leave. Outside the press and the member of the Women's Temperance League are waiting for the diners. The women sing a song in support of prohibition and attempt to shame the Celts as they exit. Van Alden has his agents lock the doors of the assembly hall. ("Nights in Ballygran")
Supervisor Elliot conducts a surprise field office review of Van Alden’s unit at their post office headquarters. Sebso complains that his desk has been covered with bags of post and Van Alden instructs the postal workers to clear the room. Van Alden gives Elliot a recently completed report that he had planned to post. Agent Keener, one of Elliot’s team, jokes that Van Alden has plenty of stamps. Elliot leafs through the report and summarises its content. Van Alden details Nucky’s criminal organization throughout the County. Elliot wonders where Van Alden’s financial records and witnesses are and points out that they have no evidence to present to the district attorney. Van Alden says that he is requesting resources to build a case against Nucky. Elliot tells him to concentrate on seizing large quantities of alcohol, telling him that his performance will be judged by the numbers. Van Alden says that his file ties Nucky to a capital crime – the murders involved in the Hammonton hijacking and the use of Hans Schroeder as a scapegoat. Elliot observes that Van Alden is obsessed with the Schroeder family and notes that he requisitioned Margaret’s immigration file. Sebso looks away as Van Alden weakly offers that he is being thorough. Elliot reminds Van Alden that he is employed as a Prohibition Agent and not a private investigator like the fictional character Bulldog Drummond and again orders him to focus on numbers. ("Family Limitation")
Van Alden and Sebso meet with an Deputy State's Attorney in Tom’s River, New Jersey. He tells them that they have Billy Winslow in custody for the armed robbery of a jewellery store adding that he is caring for his sick mother and terrified of going to prison. Van Alden wonders how this relates to them and the prosecutor says that Winslow has asked to talk to a federal agent from Atlantic City. Sebso and Van Alden go in to question Winslow. ("Home")
Winslow asks them who they are and Van Alden gives their credentials. Van Alden asks for Winslow’s story and Winslow asks why he should talk to them. Van Alden cautions that he is facing ten years of hard labour at Rahway Prison and is not in a position to bargain. Winslow shakes his head and then tells them of his involvement in the Hammonton hijacking in January. He explains that he acted as a decoy by blocking the road with his car so that his accomplices could steal a shipment of liquor on its way to New York. He truthfully claims not to have killed any of the five men murdered in the hijacking himself. He says that the hijacking was planned without violence and Van Alden asks how the murders came about. Winslow offers to tell them the name of the ringleader behind the hijacking if they give him a deal on his current charges. Van Alden promises to do what he can if Winslow will testify; Winslow names Jimmy. He adds that the third man was called Al. ("Home")
At the post office headquarters Van Alden ends a phone conversation and thanks the caller for bringing something to his attention. His partner agent Sebso enters the room backwards carrying a coffee and a pastry. Sebso complains that they only had plain ones and Van Alden slaps the pastry out of his hand. He tells Sebso that it was Western Union on the phone and that they have had a complaint from Eddie regarding their failure to deliver Jimmy’s telegram. They told Van Alden that the wire was passed on to Sebso. Sebso feigns confusion and Van Alden asks him to explain the meaning of his actions. Sebso initially claims to have forgotten, retrieving the telegram. Van Alden reads the telegram aloud; it says that Jimmy was due to arrive on the 11 a.m. train on Thursday, it is already Friday. He shouts that Sebso is either incompetent or corrupt and that he will not stand for it either way. He asks why the telegram was hidden and Sebso claims that he was concerned what Supervisor Elliot would say about their continued investigation of the Hans Schroeder murder given that he had previously described it as an obsession. Van Alden counters that they have a witness who can place Jimmy at the scene of the murders he committed during the Hammonton hijacking. Sebso shakes his head and says that he was not thinking. Van Alden nods and gestures for Sebso to pass him the coffee. Van Alden tells Sebso that the way to kill a snake is to remove its head. Sebso is shocked, assuming he means Elliot. Van Alden elucidates that he meant Nucky, irritated. He says that if they can convince Jimmy to give Nucky up then they can cleanse the city all at once, likening it to Sodom. In reality Sebso is working for Nucky and concealed the telegram to prevent Van Alden arresting Jimmy. ("Belle Femme")
They track Jimmy to his mothers home, where he is attempting to kidnap Luciano. As they round the corner at the bottom of the staircase they are met by Van Alden and Sebso with weapons drawn. Luciano ducks out of the way as Jimmy aims at the prohibition agents. Van Alden instructs Jimmy to drop the gun and Jimmy hesitates before complying. Luciano chuckles at his good fortune. Van Alden tells Jimmy that he is under arrest as Sebso wonders what Luciano is so happy about. Luciano says that the agents are a sight for sore eyes as Sebso and Van Alden frisk both of them. ("Belle Femme")
At the Atlantic County Jail Van Alden questions Jimmy about his whereabouts on January 17 1920, the night of the Hammonton hijacking. Jimmy claims to have been at the cinema watching ‘’Wagon Tracks’’. Van Alden asks Jimmy to summarise the plot and Jimmy wonders if Van Alden really wants the ending ruined. Jimmy continues to give smart responses to Van Alden’s enquiries. Van Alden details the alibi Jimmy has given reminding Jimmy that he claimed to have been in the cinema from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. He unfolds a slip of paper from Sebso and reads the running time of Wagon Tracks to Jimmy, it is just 78 minutes long. Jimmy claims to have fallen asleep in the cinema. Van Alden changes tack, noting that Jimmy has a child but is not married. He asks if Angela is unfit to marry. Jimmy smiles and says that is none of their business. Van Alden asks what the name of the character played by William S. Hart is in Wagon Tracks. Jimmy says that it was Buck something, perhaps Buckskin. Van Alden presses, wondering why Jimmy is unsure, and Jimmy says that he is engaged to Angela. Van Alden wonders if he aims to make her a respectable woman. Jimmy laughs. Van Alden asks how Jimmy knows Hans Schroeder and Jimmy says that he does not. Van Alden asks about Margaret and Jimmy says that he does not know her either. Van Alden tries Lucy telling Jimmy that she is a dancer for the Ziegfield follies. Jimmy admits that she is Nucky’s girlfriend. Van Alden raises his voice, asking Jimmy to describe the relationship between Margaret and Nucky. Jimmy goes to stand and they restrain him. Jimmy says that if they are interested in Nucky’s sex life then they should question him. Van Alden stands up and begins to ask about the hijacked shipment of alcohol that Nucky sold to Rothstein. Jimmy reminds him of his alibi. Van Alden asks how Jimmy knows “Al from Chicago” and Jimmy denies knowing anyone called Al. Jimmy says that Van Alden is mixed up. Van Alden stalks away from the desk and then turns back to Jimmy, pointing at him. He asks if Nucky had Hans murdered because he is in love with Margaret. Jimmy snorts derisively and Van Alden rushes forward and grabs him by the lapels. Van Alden asks how many of the men in the woods Jimmy killed and Jimmy repeats his alibi. Van Alden says that he thought that Jimmy might find satisfaction in living long enough to see Tommy grow up. Jimmy looks puzzled and asserts that they have no evidence. Van Alden states otherwise, glances at Sebso and then pushes Jimmy back into his seat. ("Belle Femme")
Sebso shows Jimmy back to his cell. The move is timed to coincide with Billy Winslow being moved by a guard so that they pass in the corridor. Billy claims that he was going to be sent up the river to Rahway and Jimmy wonders what he has said. Sebso shoves Jimmy into a cell and locks the gate behind him. ("Belle Femme") Sebso calls Nucky to tell him about the arrest. Later he shows Nucky into Jimmy’s cell. Nucky thanks him and pats him on the shoulder. Sebso says that they have ten minutes. ("Belle Femme")
Van Alden calls Supervisor Elliot as Sebso types a report. Sebso asks what Elliot said and Van Alden says that he was pleased. Sebso congratulates Van Alden and Van Alden allows that he was not working alone. Sebso apologises about the telegram, saying that it was a foolish mistake. Van Alden leafs through his file on Nucky and tells Sebso that a man needs the courage of his convictions. He says that he knew they would get Darmody eventually, staring at Margaret’s photo. Sebso pauses and then asks about Winslow, wondering if it is safe to keep him in New Jersey. Sebso suggests moving him to federal jail in Manhattan and Van Alden agrees that it would prevent interference from Nucky. ("Belle Femme")
Sebso drives Winslow North and talks about the sea air. He mentions a cousin who went on a world trip but was seas sick the entire journey. Sebso claims that he needs to urinate and asks if Winslow needs to go. Winslow says that he will stretch his legs. As they exit the car an Atlantic City limits sign is visible behind them. Sebso helps Winslow out of the vehicle; Winslow’s hands are securely cuffed behind him. Sebso relieves himself as Winslow looks out at the ocean. Sebso cautions Winslow that he should not have lunged for his weapon. Sebso draws his gun and shoots Winslow saying that he killed him for trying to take his weapon. He uncuffs Winslow’s corpse, picks up a small rock, removes his hat and hits himself squarely in the forehead with the rock creating a small laceration. He returns Winslow’s corpse to the vehicle. ("Belle Femme")
After Agent Van Alden realizes that Sebso killed Winslow, Van Alden drowns him into the water at a Christian ceremony under the guise of a baptism.
After Sebso's death, Van Alden lies that he had a heart attack.
After nearly a year passes, Harlan (a member of the Shiloh Baptist Church and servant to Nucky Thompson) comes forward as a witness to Sebso's murder. In an effort to imprison and discredit Nelson Van Alden from testifying against Nucky in a criminal trial, Harlan informs Nucky and his lawyer, Bill Fallon, that he and the whole congregation saw Van Alden drown Sebso during a baptism.
Bill Fallon and Deacon Lemuel Cuffy from the church present Sebso's gun and distinctive shoes that he took off shortly before the baptism as evidence of Van Alden's crime to US Attorney Esther Randolph. When Van Alden is confronted with the evidence at their post office headquarters, Clifford Lathrop attempts to arrest Van Alden, but he is able to escape after shooting Lathrop. ("Under God's Power She Flourishes")
- Nelson Van Alden: Local supervisor (former), murderer (deceased)
- Supervisor Elliot: State supervisor
- Nucky Thompson: Criminal associate, employed Sebso as a mole in the Department of Prohibition (deceased)
- Billy Winslow: Hijacking witness, murder victim (deceased)
- Jimmy Darmody: Murder suspect (deceased)
- Arnold Rothstein: Bootlegging suspect (deceased)
- Simon: Bootlegging suspect, hijacking murder victim (deceased)
- "Isn't he Jewish!?" ("Broadway Limited")
- "They were on discount, I got 'em at Driscoll's!" (in response to Agent Van Alden remarking about his nice, new shoes)
- "You can trust me, Goddamnit!" (after it being revealed that he is completely untrustworthy)
- "...what do you expect me to d..." <splash>
|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|