Hell On Wheels: Get Behind The Mule, Season Finale Review

The Hell On Wheels Season 3 finale has come and gone, and unfortunately, no one noticed...

**Major Spoilers Ahead**

Finish the railroad first, or save Cullen–a truly tough choice for Elam to have to make, considering the rise of Elam and Cullen’s bromance throughout this season. The decision was made at the end of the previous episode, as Elam chose to do as Bohannan asked and finish the railroad.

“You hung my boy, and you WILL stand accountable” were the last words spoken in last week’s episode, and it was probably one of the best cliffhangers we’ve seen yet in Hell on Wheels.  Unfortunately, the finale doesn’t capitalize on the opportunity for greatness with tonight’s Season 3 finale, “Get Behind The Mule.”

The episode gets off to a slow start with Cullen saying, “I gave you a choice that day; that boy didn’t have to hang,” to the Mormon boy’s father, but it wouldn’t be the last words Bohannan said to the man.

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In an interesting twist (unfortunately, one that AMC ruined via the preview trailer for tonight’s episode), the Bishop of the Mormon community is none other than The Swede—the man responsible for killing Lily Bell in the Season 2 finale, and leaving Hell on Wheels fans without a love interest for Cullen.  While it is satisfying to see that The Swede’s storyline for Season 3 wasn’t as aimless as it seemed, it is disappointing that AMC ruined the revelation with the teaser.

The Swede isn’t the only character that will be gaining more prominence if Hell on Wheels returns for a new season, asNaomi, the daughter of the Mormon man whose young age didn’t stop the aging Cullen from fornicating with, revealed that she is pregnant with Cullen’s baby. Say whatttttt?! Scandalous! Just kidding, but that’s how the audience likely felt during this part of the trial scene. AMC isn’t known for having this type of teen drama in their dramas, but I’m willing to look past it, since Cullen’s reaction is that worthy of an internet meme (coming soon). To make matters worse for Cullen, he is to be married to this young woman by The Swede, himself—an unfortunate hell that is multiplied by The Swede’s gentle, unshaken tone throughout the episode.

That conniving Durant takes back control of the railroad while Cullen is in captivity, a move we all knew has been coming all season. And, he does it in full-on Durant-like fashion; he makes a mockery of Cullen’s situation via a sarcastic toast. Colm Meaney nails the uppity-douchebag that viewers love to hate, and if Hell On Wheels does come back for a Season 4, his return would be a welcome one.

It’s not important at all to even mention the extremely creepy scene with Mickey watching some random woman from a distance, but I’m going to mention it because it just adds to the randomness that was tonight’s episode.

And then there was a bear. What, the random hell. Elam’s venture to rescue Cullen felt very underwhelming, as did Elam’s apparent death. Elam’s death shouldn’t have been introduced to the viewers by Eva saying she “felt his spirit pass,” as it feels like an improper send-off for one of the most likeable characters in the series. If Elam was going to be written out of the show via a bear, than we should have at least seen the full scuffle with the bear—he’s too important to the series to have just been given a five second scan of his mangled body. Not only did we not see a proper send-off for Elam, but we didn’t see a proper conclusion to the bromance between Elam and Cullen; there were no moving last words, aside from Elam telling the railroad workers that Cullen “called him a n*gger, but never treated him like one.”  Unfortunately, Elam’s death is probably going to mean a major loss of viewers if there is a Hell on Wheels Season 4, as it means Common will not be returning.

Hell On Wheels‘ season 3 finale was one of the most middling season finales in recent years. Cullen now has an insta-family, Durant took back over the railroad (shocker), and Elam was mauled by a bear (which hasn’t been previously been introduced in Hell On Wheels as the villain). In just 10 episodes, the Hell on Wheels writers have taken us on a short ride that started out with a bang, dropped the speed for a couple of episodes in the middle there, started on an incline again, but only to never send us down the roller-coaster in an exciting fashion.  The disappointment created by tonight’s episode is by no means a reflection on the show’s cast, but is a reflection on the rushed writing of the episode.  Although Anson Mount, Colm Meaney and Christopher Heyerdahl all do incredible jobs with their characters, Hell on Wheels will likely feel like a hell without Common as Elam rounding out the cast if the series continues on for a Season 4.

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Related: See our interview with Anson Mount on what’s next, westerns, and acting.

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2.5 out of 5