This Hell on Wheels review contains spoilers.
A number of misfires have happened storywise in recent episodes, but I hope we’re heading back to what makes Hell on Wheels a fan favorite: Cullen versus the bad guys and situations in Cheyenne.
The title of this week’s chapter is “Two Trains” but if we dig deeper beyond the physical machinery and what unfolds onscreen, I think it has more to do with Cullen emotionally and spiritually separating himself from others to achieve the necessary turnaround. Campbell hijacked the town at Grant’s behest, train one, and Cullen has had to commandeer a heretofore dormant or inoperable train two, and is set to collide with Campbell.
Cullen is fed up with Sidney Snow, and so am I. Cullen means business after his life has temporarily changed. His best friend is dead and he has deposited his wife and son with the Mormon Militia in Fort Smith. What better way to get things back in order than to take on a corrupt marshal and the governor who put him in charge?
Cullen’s motto is expect the unexpected and Cheyenne is all the better for it. He knows what others expect of him, but flips the script and uses his guile instead of his fists or revolver. Outgunned, our flawed hero uses the element of surprise.
Sidney is a loudmouth bully who needs to be put out of his misery, and fortunately for us, Cullen’s more than capable to do the job. Patience is one of his strengths. When everything and everyone else around him falls into chaos, he waits it out and steps up when he has a plan that works more times than not. He’s cunning whereas Sidney is brutish, and Campbell delegates to his henchmen rather than getting his hands dirty with actual work.
Cheyenne has been stuck in the same place since Campbell’s arrival, and the railroad hasn’t fared much better. It is this stasis that has forced Cullen into action. Naomi and William are safely out of harm’s way, which should further embolden him to assert himself and get the town figuratively and literally back on track. Bohannon will go through fire to reclaim the town given all that he has gone through. His stand against Sidney and Campbell hopefully will ripple throughout future episodes.
The locals should be given what is due to them – forward progress and eventual prosperity, rather than being held captive and subject to Campbell’s whims. The refugees of Cheyenne have made their way here for numerous reasons and deserve a level playing friend. Elsewhere they have been duped, shortchanged or made to feel less than man, or too much to comprehend as a bisexual woman. The unjustly imprisoned or disenfranchised workers need to make their voices heard and intentions clear.
Campbell probably fantasizes about being the bogeyman as often as he had dreamt about sleeping with Louise. He’s not cut from the sinister dark fabric that makes for a formidable villain. He’s more wannabe mustache-twisting, privileged political fat cat suckling on Grant’s teat. The provisional governor is closer to tumbleweed rolling through town than anything else. He’s never in the midst of a situation propelling it forward. I still find no credible reason for his passive presence in town. For what it’s worth, he could send letters and or telegraphs from Grant’s office with expectations and mandates and spare us the annoyance of his being in town.
This stand isn’t Cullen’s first, second or third time at the rodeo, and those on the side of human decency and fair play aren’t immune to being swept up in the fever. An otherwise docile engineer becomes an ally because he too feels his back is against the wall. Inaction would eventually see his rights trampled or denied.
Cullen as the ringleader is a welcomed sight in this episode. I only wish we’d seen it sooner. There is suspense in the latter stages of this chapter. Will Cullen accomplish his goals? How many casualties will there be? Will the previously imprisoned men do their part in Cullen’s impromptu drama?
There is no outcome other than what happens to maintain future interest and intrigue. Cornered, desperate men will do what they can to survive. Champions of justice fight for their cause even at the risk of personal peril. A snake usually slithers away from a losing battle to strike another day, perhaps under the cover of darkness. Sidney Snow, we’re waiting and watching for you in what you think might be a surprise return to Cheyenne.