Hell on Wheels: 61 Degrees review

There's plenty of railroad related mayhem on the latest episode of Hell on Wheels.

This Hell on Wheels review contains spoilers.

Hell on Wheels Season 5 Episode 10

“It is in the nature of the lion to eat the zebra.”

– Thomas ‘Doc’ Durant.

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On a map elements are displayed in various degrees. Some are closer than others, however all must be present for the parts to equal the whole. If the wrong components are missing or imbalanced, the final picture is untrue. In Truckee, the wrong people commingling could spell disaster.

A good example of this is the renewed romantic relationship between Cullen and Mei Mei. There’s inherent danger for both, however she would suffer more as a Chinese immigrant whose sole purpose is to help build the railroad. Cullen would temporarily endure sneers and jeers as a white man, but he’d rebound. The scale is tipped in his favor. Mei Mei would be an outcast, possibly beaten and made to work in Chang’s brothel for her betrayal and subterfuge.

A far more deadly mixture is the nitroglycerin at the center of tonight’s episode. A degree too hot or too cold in the batch of capsules would bring expected loss of limbs and or death. Who else but Bohannon limps into the mouth of a tunnel with volatile explosives rather than deal with his emotions? The scale to which he’s emotionally wounded is kept hidden. Having laid his soul bare and his family behind, Cullen’s ready to do the work that needs to be done.

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Progress on the railroad includes mayhem, double-crossing and Chinese workers as collateral damage. The Freedmen fare slightly better than the Asians and whores in town.

Durant came out of the womb plotting and scheming against his siblings and classmates. As an adult, his schemes have destroyed many lives, including his wife and child. Is hotelier Maggie Palmer foolish enough to think she can redeem Durant by bedding him given the number of corpses left in his wake?

Durant’s first thought is scheming, while Cullen’s compelled to rescue. Unfortunately tonight, Huntington prevented Bohannon from saving Jim Strobridge and his family from an uncertain future. Faced with possible death at the wrong end of a gun barrel, Thomas continued lying because it is nature. He has to derive pleasure from routinely living on the mountain’s edge. The ranchers were ready to execute him, and he seemed unmoved, like a man who had nothing more to offer or lose.

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Thomas is the ultimate carnival barker intent on mesmerizing passersby and embezzling funds. He doesn’t know how or refuses to pull up stakes and fold his circus tent after substantial financial losses. He prefers moving into a bigger, more vibrant tent, and enlisting more day players to enact his farce.

Each succeeding underhanded drama pulls in innocent bystanders, and sometimes leaves a hill of unmarked graves. Whichever direction the wind blows, Durant tries to anticipate, bottle it, and sell to gullible townsfolk.

Life in Wyoming is harsh, however there are moments of joy for a handful of the locals. Eva gets the untamed horse she eyed last week as a rehabilitation project. Something to mold, reshape and love that would be grateful and not challenge her authority as do the girls on occasion in the white brothel.

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There are some stories and quotes that ought not be pursued when paying attention to and interpreting the signs. Louise Ellison learned this important lesson in Durant’s private rail car. His latest plan, despite promising Maggie he’d stop scheming, resulted in Delaney’s death and nearly Louise’s. Perhaps Mickey’s cousin, the triggerman, isn’t completely out of control.

How has Mei Mei managed to fool the majority of the people in Truckee, save for Cullen and the Chinese prostitute? Is it that no one cares, or that no one’s paying attention to the otherwise nondescript translator? Chang, the ever-astute businessman, appears to be putting the pieces together. The clues are both ephemeral and tangible. Cullen and Mei Mei are trying to contain their love within earshot of others, which might soon be exposed with Chang skulking just outside her tent.

“Every step of my life, I’ve lost everybody I ever had. All I got left is scars,” Cullen confessed to Mei Mei. They best be careful, or he might lose Mei Mei in one of Chang’s revenge or one-upmanship plots meant to prove he’s as important as any reputable white man in town. Stay tuned to see the degree to which he’ll go to achieve his goals and solidify his place.

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4 out of 5