Hell on Wheels – Season 2 Premiere

Season 2 premiered Sunday night, with a lot of questions.

If you follow my reviews, you know there’s two things I hate: seeing spoilers, and writing that is so transparent you know what’s going on for the rest of the episode ten seconds in. I had no idea at this point, where the episode was going.

I want to address the questions I posed in my run-up article to the season 2 premiere, because they were (mostly) all answered, in addition to making me ask more!

1. Cullen. I was shocked to see Cullen as part of a gang of train robbers. I always believed that Cullen Bohannon was a man bent on justice and setting things right, however he has to go about it. I was glad to know that I wasn’t wrong – it becomes clear through a conversation with one of his cohorts that they are robbing trains to finance a new life in Mexico. Noting that it is not exactly done in the interest of meting out justice or exacting revenge for the death of his family, we can kind of understand and sympathize with a new start in Mexico, no?

Prediction: My prediction here would have been that somehow he would get out of the mess he was in and be reinstated as walking boss at Hell on Wheels, but unfortunately for everyone watching the episode 2 preview at the end we already know that happens (more on that at the end of this post). So, going against the grain as I so love to do, I predict that Cullen Bohannon will yarn bomb the entire settlement when he is released from jail, pre-walking boss reinstatement..

2. Mickey/Nell. When a dead hooker is found in her brothel, she agrees to pay Sean and Mickey ‘for their services’ after lamenting that if the Swede was still running the show, the killer would have been found and hanged already.

Prediction: Nell!! Already more action in one episode than all of last season. Look forward to more of Nell, something tells me she’s going to be very visible. I think she will end up helping Mickey somehow; either to get out from underneath Sean, or to get the upper hand, at least.

3. Eva /Elam. I am so very sad about this. I really liked the Eva/Elam plan. Elam stops 60 miles east of Hell on Wheels, in Durant, Nebraska; it’s clear he knew Eva was there. They speak awkwardly, and the minute he notices the wedding ring on her finger, Toole emerges from a tent, telling Elam that Durant has appointed him station agent in that town, and that the two of them now work for Durant. Toole asks Elam to stay for dinner, while placing a proprietary arm across Eva’s shoulders. Elam declines, and they watch each other as Elam walks away, and Eva is led away by Toole. Sidenote: heard a few kids in the background, no word on whether or not they belong to the Tooles.

Prediction: No way this is going to last. There was too much feeling in the way they watched each other walk away to let this die. Watch for a Toole/Ferguson showdown in the future. I mean, she was already a ‘lady of the night’, I doubt she’d frown on running away from a marriage, no?

3. Lily/Durant. This grosses me out for many, many reasons. Durant is a fat-cat, arrogant, high-roller type who believes he should get everything handed to him on a silver platter. That being said, don’t think I don’t know it takes a massive set of cojones to do the job he’s doing, and successfully blackmail a senator at the same time. So I was immensely pleased when Lily seemed to grow a pair of her own by picking up the reins where her husband left off, and swindled Durant into hiring her to carry on Robert’s survey work. Cue the gross-out when it seemed the two were going to pick up a relationship; imagine my glee when she clearly had to take a moment to steel herself before approaching him as a lover. Also, paying The Swede to give the whore a proper burial after Durant likens the dead woman to someone ‘worth less than a horse thief’ gives her back some of the humanity I felt she was starting to lose.

Prediction: Durant’s going to get played. Somehow Lily is going to gradually take over more and more, while gently cajoling Durant into thinking he is still in charge.

4. Ruth/Joseph. RUTH!! Bear with me while I try to sort out my thoughts. She appears to enabling her father’s drinking, and it would seem that meek little Ruth is a ruthless (HA!) and cunning young lady. She fairly taunts him into getting drunk while he is trying to stay sober enough to write a sermon, by threatening to pour the bottle out onto the floor. We later see Cole laying awake in bed, the bottle beside him, listening to Ruth and Joseph make love in the next room. The bottle appeared to be empty, but the clarity in Cole’s eyes made me think that he knows exactly what the score is, and that he wasn’t drunk in the least.

Prediction: Cole and Joseph are getting taken for a ride by our little Ruthie. She is publicly supporting Joseph as Hell on Wheel’s chief preacher, while privately subjugating her father with liquor. Cole will figure it out and either drive her out, or put her back in her place. Hopefully innocent Joseph will survive that war.

5. The McGinnes Brothers. I was initially very fond of the two irish lads looking to build a fortune for their ma in the west. However, apparently after tarring and feathering Gunderson (The Swede), they have taken over the  protection and extortion racket over the residents of Hell on Wheels. They are also in the business of selling lots in the town, which sort of bewilders me because doesn’t the town move with the railroad as it expands further west? I imagine it would have been hard in those days to prove you owned some random square of land in the middle of nowhere, should you want to claim after the railroad was completed. Anyway, as mentioned above Sean get’s in on the action with Nell by promising to find and execute whoever killed the whore. Mickey balks when Sean tells him to get on it, protesting that he is not a killer, and that one time in Chicago was different. Hmm? I knew there was more of a story there.

Prediction: Sean continues to embrace the ‘lawless’ life of extortionist, while Mickey struggles to retain the values they came with. There is going to be a showdown between the two, and I have arguments for both sides. Of course, I want Mickey to win – classic good over evil. But, the writer in me knows the Hell on Wheels story has to have a villain, and we would probably be left hanging if Sean was too.

6. Cole & The Swede. After The Swede crumples up the wanted poster for Cullen Bohannon and throws it in a fire, I have high hopes for Cullen’s survival. The Swede’s new job is to collect garbage, dead bodies, and the chamber pots from the tents at Hell on Wheels. Oh, how far the mighty can fall! Incidentally, this puts him right in the path of Cole, who (as the resident preacher), has to perform the funeral rites on the dead whore. I have a feeling here that two kindred spirits may have found each other in what was quite possibly the strangest funeral service that ever happened. I was pretty sure I heard Cole say that the dead whore performed the will of jesus with her hair…and The Swede went on to offer a blessing (?) asking the lord to basically forget the woman had ever lived (I’ll post a transcript of it once I have the episode – it was truly the best dialogue in the entire episode!). They find themselves looking at each other as though they’d had no idea the other was so strange, and a friendship is born!

Prediction: The Swede will be returned to his former post, his beef with Cullen over. Cole will overthrow his daughter, and he and The Swede will have a lively time being in cahoots together.

I’m not sure if Hell on Wheels has a doctor, but if not the doctor who knew Cullen from Meridian would fit nicely into life there. The train robbery gang is arrested after Cullen holds a gun to the head of a cohort, who happens to be holding HIS gun against the head of a small boy. The episode closes with Cullen in jail, watching his cohort shot to death by marshals.

Hell on Wheels airs Sunday nights at 9:00 pm on AMC. Check your local listings.

All photos courtesy of AMC TV.