Hell on Wheels: Chicken Hill review

Cullen rolls into town to set things straight in the latest episode of Hell on Wheels. Here's Kendall's review.

Welcome Home, Cullen! Oh, how we’ve missed you after your brief separation at the hands of the Mormon militia who felt you had to repent for your sins.  Since you’ve been gone, Cheyenne has almost gone to pot, and it hasn’t all been Thomas Durant’s fault.

While you were away, your best friend, Elam, has gone missing, presumed dead. You should’ve known he’d come looking for you after all you two have experienced. More on Elam later, as details of his whereabouts or final resting place are as muddy a pig pen or Durant’s moral compass.

We didn’t want to give up hope that you were still alive, but some of the townsfolk probably gave into despair and moved on when you didn’t return within a few days. Winter is a long time to have been gone, but now that you and spring are back in Cheyenne, we townsfolk expect you will help restore order and some of our faith.

– Signed, Residents of Cheyenne.

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Hell on Wheels season four episode three picks up with the return of Cullen, Naomi, and baby William. He guides their horse drawn carriage through the middle of town with a sense of abandon and self-confidence, or some might suggest, like a victorious soldier from war. Well, his side lost that war. Far be it from this reviewer to take much away from our flawed hero. 

The confines of Fort Smith now behind him, he can look forward to the smell of coal and soot. The townsfolk are going about their morning routines as Bohannon absorbs the scene, no doubt contemplating his first of several strategic moves in the game of Cheyenne Chess. The onlookers in the middle of town get their first taste of Cullen handling the new sheriff and his lecherous sidekick who tries to get too familiar with Naomi. I’ve yet to warm up to the provisional governor and his men. They read too dastardly and villainous for the size of Cheyenne. I’m expecting one of them to grow a bicycle mustache and twist it while caressing their leather vest.

Not all are pleased with Cullen’s return and/or the terms of his return. Reverend Ruth has held a torch for him since the last few episodes of season three. The news of his return ignites an expectant fire in her loins and upon her face that is soon extinguished and frozen over. What, pray tell, dear Ruth, did you pray for and continue to do so as you process Naomi and William? Would a miracle leave your beloved Cullen a fatherless widower yet again? Perish the thought, reverend, that’s surely not Christian.

If anyone should be first in line to welcome Cullen, it would be Durant, but alas, he doesn’t. His ego stretches wider than unpopulated Wyoming Territory. Pride and bravado have gotten the best of him through the previous three seasons, and make no mistake his shortcomings continue to undermine and backfire on him. After dealing with Father Hatch and the Swede, Cullen wants nothing to do with the new mayor and whatever crooked schemes he’s running. Cullen’s pride is appropriate when he refuses to work for Mickey.

Who is this with his back turned to Cullen as he and his family stop in the Freedman Camp? For a moment, the profile, height and beard are reminiscent of Elam. Dear viewers, we’re being toyed with like a ball of string between two kittens. The themes of resurrection, faith, ghosts and redemption are woven into season four. It will only be fitting that Elam returns to Cheyenne in future episodes.

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New beginnings at the near bottom for the Bohannons living among and working alongside the freedmen. The song the freedmen sing as they work is ideal for the entire episode: keep your head down and do what you must to survive. Cullen doesn’t get his foreman job, Eva falls back into her old habits to new learn a new trick, Ruth steels herself against her feminine desires for Ezra’s benefit, and Naomi accepts a gift Cullen would’ve rather she didn’t.

Vengeance is mine, said The Lord. Like sulking children who didn’t get their way, the two men who Cullen put in their place return to exact revenge. The stage is set for what I hope are epic showdowns over successive episodes.

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4 out of 5