This Hell on Wheels review contains spoilers.
Cullen hasn’t lost all hope in the aftermath of Ruth’s death, but he has nothing and no one keeping him anchored in Cheyenne. His job as town sheriff isn’t appealing under Campbell’s rule, and working as railroad chief lost any challenge after his success in building the contraption that’s able to bore through granite and large boulders. His mind is set on putting his time and roles squarely behind him. Cheyenne might become a ghost town if Campbell has his way and exiles most of the familiar faces from the last four seasons.
The uncharted Wyoming Territory and its possible future might be overwhelming for Cullen after losing the person who truly loved him, flaws, warts and all. Had Ruth opted for a pardon and lived, he couldn’t have imagined a life with her in light of his having a wife and son for who he feels responsible.
It’s probably better that he pack his earthly belongings and head “Further West,” in a winding pattern until he finds who and what he seeks. The railroad tracks are finite and have specific destinations. Bohannon needs to wander on horseback and on foot. He will slow down or stop when his head stops spinning.
The former soldier accustomed to leading troops must now learn how to fall back and blend in with his surroundings. The badge of honor has to be placed in his knapsack until William is old enough to admire it and listen to his father’s tales of war and defeat.
The situation at Fort Smith can’t be remedied with brute force or a shotgun. Are Naomi and baby William lost to Cullen, or are they waiting for him to find them wherever the smallpox survivors have fled? Is Cullen a victim of his own choices, or are there forces more powerful playing God with his life?
Cullen’s search for his family lands him in Salt Lake City, land of snowcapped mountains, Mormons, and polygamy. In Utah, we reconnect with the Swede and Brigham Young, as thick as thieves. There are more people in Utah to take advantage of in the name of God. It’s odd when the most corrupt souls aspire to live an upright or holy lifestyle, as if the pursuit will bring them closer to God and guarantee their place in heaven.
The fresh air in Utah has done nothing to change the Swede’s murderous inclinations. The father of the Mormon movement would be wise to watch his back and out of the corner of both eyes.
The parallel views of Wyoming and Utah, and later California, are stark contrasts of life before and what might lie ahead. Compared to Utah and California, Cheyenne might feel claustrophobic. The West Coast offers a different climate and genealogical portrait.
Our view of Hell on Wheels seems to predate or does it exclude armed horseback robbers, the Wild West replete with cowboys and saloons, and America in its infancy as a melting pot?
It’s sad to see the regulars board the train from Cheyenne and travel West, but I’ve every confidence that Eva and Mickey will more than handle whatever obstacles fall in their paths. The same holds true for Cullen as he looks out into the great expanse of mountains with the wind at his back and the possibility of reconnecting with his family in front of him.