This Hell on Wheels review contains spoilers.
Hell on Wheels: Season 5, Episode 14
“I hope you don’t want a kiss goodbye, McGinnes. I am not your father,” Thomas Durant
Five seasons later, the series Hell On Wheels, has come to satisfying and bittersweet end with the completion of The Transcontinental Railroad. Viewers have loved, hated, feared and admired an assortment of characters, some of who are based on real people.
The final episode began in a tense, celebratory mood with Huntington and Durant still at odds with each other. Washington’s elite and workers stood assembled for the pomp and circumstance of the moment that would certainly be photographed and recorded for the annals of history. Cullen was missing from the festivities because he had more pressing matters to contemplate. He wasn’t concerned with driving the ceremonial golden spike into the ground, but how to best handle Mei’s return to China. She left him a breadcrumb, and he’d be wise to follow it.
The workers had a difficult time going their separate ways after having worked together many years. The town bar was as good a place to drown their pain and sorrow in booze, had they behaved like gentlemen and not brawling ruffians. Cullen didn’t have much time to feel sorry for himself in his drunken haze, and Durant’s delight was interrupted. Campbell was never a man for small pleasantries, preferring policy and law over anything else.
A journalist to the end, Louise Ellison tried and failed to convince Eva that her life needed elevation and introduction into high society. She needs to prove to herself that she can make it on her own without handouts from well-meaning ladies who lunch and men who want to bed her. No amount of fancy dresses and society parties could tame Eva’s heart.
Mr. Bohannon went to Washington and felt out of place among the bejeweled women and stiff collared men in tuxedos. He’s better suited in the unpredictable outdoors rather than dealing with scheming and plotting politicians. Cullen considered and later dismissed Grant’s promotion to Colonel of the 4th Calvary, Undersecretary of the Western Territory, because it’d cost him his soul. Durant was saved by unlikely hero, Cullen. No mistaking they’re cut from different fabrics, however they’re both good at what they do: Thomas, the great conman, and Bohannon the tireless railroad foreman.
Mickey McGinnes, on the other hand, takes his lead from whoever needs his unique skills set. He has a difficult and perhaps deadly road ahead of him if he continues down the same path he’s traveled as a henchman, bar and brothel owner. Redemption and changing lanes would end him. Previously rejected by Durant, Eva later severed ties with Mickey in an attempt to save herself from a downward spiral in San Francisco.
Cullen has a crisis of faith while in Washington at the thought of killing Indians. He was reminded of Mei when prodded by General Custer as to whether he had a woman in his life. The weight of it all drove him into a confessional in a Catholic church. There would be no turning back from this point. He’s lost far too much, and piling up more dead bodies in the name of the federal government goes against his nature.
Durant took the Washington elite, his former colleagues and co-conspirators to task during his preliminary hearing on bribery charges. They unleashed the genie and asked him to get the railroad built within a certain period of time. They didn’t question how he’d accomplish the job, only that it happen. There was no putting the genie back into the dusty lamp, and there would be no further wishes to fulfill.
Eva said it best to Mickey, “If we stick together, it’s only a matter of time before we devour each other, and you know that.”
Mickey set off to find new business ventures in San Francisco, Eva rode off in the direction of the setting sun, and Cullen forfeited continued railroad work with Huntington to reunite with Mei in China.
This is the end of a cult favorite, and viewers will miss everything about the characters.