This Sunday’s episode of “Boardwalk Empire” belongs to Michael Shannon.
And that will come as good news to fans of Shannon and the hard-to-peg character he plays on the show. He is — or was — Nelson Van Alden, the by-the-books federal agent who formerly waged war against bootleggers.
That was until he drowned another federal agent and then lammed out of Atlantic City with a Norwegian woman and wound up in Chicago, where he changed his name to Mueller and began working alternately for crime kingpins Al Capone and Dean O’Banion.
The violent, unpredictable pathway charted by Van Alden (aka Mueller) — a former bible thumper-turned killer — comes to a head in this weekend’s episode of “Boardwalk Empire” — the ninth installment in the series’ ongoing fourth season (Sunday night — Nov. 3 — at 9/8c on HBO).
We’ve seen the episode, thanks to HBO, and it involves many more characters than just Van Alden. Still, anyone fascinated with Van Alden will be happy to hear that the character remains visible in this episode for longer than he’s been seen in weeks, if not ever. As a result, Van Alden’s storyline gets significantly advanced as he comes to a personal epiphany about his life.
As usual, Shannon is great in the role: Icy, wooden, tough when he wants to be — even standing up to Capone in one great scene you’ll see if you watch the show.
Elsewhere in the episode: Look for major storylines involving Chalky White (Michael Kenneth Williams) and his battle with Narcisse (Jeffrey Wright), Gillian Darmody (Gretchen Mol) and her battle for custody of her grandson, and the World War I vet Richard Harrow (Jack Huston), who, along with Van Alden, is this show’s most compelling character.