Hell on Wheels airs Saturday nights at 10pm on AMC.
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Right on the heels of Bohannon returning the bodies of the local Indians to their rightful tree-graves, we get this episode, where he has to go broker a trade with the local Kiowa to harvest lumber from their land. If he can do this, they'll be the first railroad ever to make their own studs for the track, and as he says "that's unprecedented". It gets him out from under yet another of the scammy suppliers who want to make themselves rich off his and his men's hard work. Unfortunately, that means he has to go talk to people who are mighty ticked off about the "blue coats" attacking innocent women and children last episode.
He and Elam go and find a trapper who can translate and who has a personal relationship with the local chief--he's married to the chief's daughter, as well as to another member of the tribe. Since all they do is fight, he's glad to get out and go help these railroad people. And he's kind of awesome, what with the borderline nutbar personality and the not quite telling them what they need to know. Best of all, he's chatty and fun and doesn't die immediately (cough-railroad police captain-cough).
When Bohannon and Elam make it to the camp, they find that to make up for the loss of the peoples' family in the Blue Coat attack, if they want to make a deal they have to survive the meanest lacrosse game ever. One Indian, who lost his family in the attack and doesn't like them anyway, is assigned to their team to even the numbers and immediately has his head beat in by the opposite side. They go back and forth, mostly with Elam and Bohannon getting bloodied and tenderized, and mostly not winning at all. When Bohannon finally gets one of the guys down and has the chance to kill him honorably in stand-in-battle, he has a fit of conscience that I blame on Ruth, and spares him. He sees just an angry kid, not a warrior, and a bloody game, not a battle.
Unfortunately, mercy means you don't respect them enough to kill them, which the chief takes as an insult because that's his son there. So they're tied to stakes and set on fire. Bohannon actually apologizes to Elam--he was only there because Bohannon made him go and now he's going to die slowly and painfully without ever marrying his lady. And then, crazy of crazies, Bohannon starts praying!
That is, of course, when the braves come and cut them loose; seems while they were being set on fire, the trapper brokered a deal to spare them and get what they wanted: He'll marry the cheif's hairy and unmarriageable daughter Buffalo Face (making her his third wife), and the guys who insulted the son, the chief and his whole family will be let go and given access to the woods.
That must've been a really deeply-wanted marriage.
Meanwhile, back in town, the following:
- Durant arrives and immediately starts messing with people. He tells Newslady Louise that Bohannon isn't a good man and that he killed five men in revenge, which leads her to question him and ticks him off because he's trying to get past that. He tells Eva about the article there on her, and assures her that he'll never forget her kindness when he was gutshot last season, and it seemed to be sincere, but it's hard to trust anything from him. He meets with Sean and learns that Bohannon has actually been doing well, which leads to Mickey telling Sean that when this blows up, he's on his own.
- Mr Toole the Second comes to see the baby and tries to make friends by telling Eva about how his own wife and son were taken by the Influenza, which just makes her dilemma harder; it's easier to hate him when he's a jerk. He is, however, a jerk, and he tells her he isn't going to leave her alone. While she and Elam are fighting about her letting him see the baby and Eva is telling Elam about the gift of railroad stock that Durant gave her--their ticket out of there, because she can't stay much longer without going mad--someone steals the baby. It looks like it's Toole-Two, but knowing this show, it could be anyone, and just trying to blame him.
- The hooker who was sick and bleeding and screaming last episode was well enough to be upright and Mickey sends her to Omaha for a doctor; Eva doesn't think she'll make it, but he thinks it's better than dying slowly here. It gets hammered home again that Eva only barely missed this sort of fate herself.
- And out in the wilds, The Swede finds out that the family he's traveling with and helping are on their way to Fort Smith, the very place where Bohannon sent the Mormon family he had to evict; the father here is going to be Bishop there, and the Swede seems very interested in this info.
It can never be said that nothing happened this week! Bohannon hasn't said as much--but he never does say much about anything, really--but it seems like he's under a specific attempt to be a better man, to find the faith he lost when he lived through the Civil War, and to stop killing people. Unfortunately, he's in a tight spot where weakness of any sort only makes things worse, and apparently mercy and a conscience are considered a weakness. And is Ruth getting sweet on him? She does like the downtrodden who have been brought back to God, as we learned with Adam last season.
Eva's getting all sorts of character development, with her conflicts with Elam, and her ambivalence about giving the baby a better life, and her admission that she's afraid she's going to hurt the baby, that she's not as good as everyone seems to think she is. Her story is getting heartbreaking--as if it wasn't already pretty dire.
And what the heck is the Swede up to???
Here's where it looks like things are going, as we almost reach the half-way point of the season. Let's see how close I can get to what happens--which will tell us how conventional the writers are!
- Eva will eventually give in and leave Elam the way he left her before; she'll go to New York, but either this season ender or during next season, she'll find out that it's not any easier there than it is here, and in some ways--like the ones that have to do with how she was a prisoner-wife to an Indian, then shacked up with a freed slave--things'll be harder.
- Bohannon will have to decide once and for all whether he's going to be a hard killer or a good man, and it'll come down to whether or not he gets to keep the railroad; he'll probably choose good man and get kicked off because of Durant, which sets him up to take down Durant again next season.
- The Swede will leverage his friendship with the Bishop of a town that has people already mad at Bohannon to kick up a religious conflict...but I have no idea to what ends!
- The battles with the local Indians will get worse as the Blue Coats start getting more and more out of hand, and only Bohannon's tenuous ties to the Kiowa Chief will keep his town from getting totally burned down. Again. And maybe help broker peace later on. I see some Dances With Wolves stuff coming on this front, if they don't just all get killed by the soldiers.
So what do you think? What do you see coming and what did you think of this episode? Share in the comments!