Aug 20, 201212:42 PMThe Telegraph
The Premier Blog of the West
TV Recap: Top 5 Things To Know About 'Hell On Wheels,' Season 2, Episode 2
Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) is back where he belongs – working on the Union Pacific railroad, all the livelong day – by the time Season 2’s Episode 2 of Hell on Wheels concludes. But that’s not the only plot development of note in the segment aptly titled “Durant, Nebraska.” If you missed Sunday evening’s installment, here are the Top 5 things you need to know before tuning in next week.
OUT OF THE FRYING PAN: When we left Bohannon last week, he was steeling himself for a close encounter with a firing squad, the punishment for his brief, ill-advised career as a train robber. This week, he indicates he’s ready to accept his execution as just punishment for his killing the wrong man – someone he mistakenly thought was involved with the murders of his wife and son – at the end of Season 1. But then, along comes railroad boss Thomas “Doc” Durant (Colm Meaney), brandishing a pardon signed by his close and personal friend, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Mind you, Durant’s still mightily perturbed that Bohannon robbed his trains, and he expresses his displeasure by striking the Confederate army vet (while, of course, Bohannon is safely shackled). But he needs Bohannon back at Hell on Wheels to help keep the construction gangs proceeding at a steady pace. “Sometimes,” Durant says after both men have come pretty dang close to killing each other, “it seems one has to make a deal with the devil.” Bohannon responds: “Who's the devil in this deal?" Durant laughs and strolls away – leaving behind the key to Bohannon’s shackles.
WAR AND RESENTMENT: Durant is especially eager to have a tough customer like Bohannon back on his payroll after a devastating attack by Sioux warriors on the recently founded railroad town that bears his name (and provides Episode 2 with its title). Indeed, Durant takes very seriously the prognosis offered by the young Cheyenne Joseph Black Moon (Eddie Spears): “They’re sending you a message … You’re now at war with the Sioux Nation.” The surviving residents of Durant, Nebraska – including ex-prostitute Eva (Robin McLeavy) and Toole (Duncan Ollerenshaw), her husband – are transported back to Hell on Wheels, where Irish siblings Sean (Ben Esler) and Mickey McGinnes (Phil Burke), now employed as property managers for the railroad, attempt to exploit the evacuees’ need for new homes. But Lily Bell (Dominique McElligott) – who, it should be noted, is now quite openly attached, personally and professionally, to Durant – demands that the brothers treat the evacuees justly. This triggers a brief, barely polite conversation that reveals long-simmering, class-conscious tensions between the sometimes-imperious Brit (Lily) and the two working-class Irish guys.
LOVE AND DEATH: Elam Ferguson (rapper-turned-actor Common) – the ex-slave who has worked his way up to a job as Durant’s security assistant – is happy to see Eva, his former sweetie, again. But Eva gives him the brush-off. Later, Eva expresses profound dismay when Lily informs her that, no, it doesn’t really look like anybody is in any big hurry to catch whoever killed the prostitute (Eva’s close friend) found dead in her bed in last week’s episode. Lily tells Elam that Eva would like to see the guilty party punished, Elam takes this information as motivation, the killer (a new construction foreman) sneeringly admits to his crime when confronted by Elam – and the next thing you know, a bunch of folks are drinking and laughing and celebrating in the camp while, nearby, a corpse with multiple stab wounds hangs on display, draped with a crude sign that reads: “Woman Killer.”
THE ODD COUPLE: Reverend Cole (Tom Noonan), fallen from grace and driven to drink, appears increasingly unhappy about the ongoing romance between his daughter Ruth (Kasha Kropinski) and Joseph Black Moon. Worse, he’s spending far too much time conversing with Thor Gunderson (Christopher Hyerdahl) – a.k.a The Swede – who behaves as though in the grip of a quieter but potentially more dangerous kind of craziness. As they sit around the campfire, discussing the possibility of an epic clash between Sioux warriors and white settlers, The Swede pulls out a saber-toothed tiger skull that he recently unearthed near the railroad construction site. This, The Swede insists, is a portent of bad things to come. Well, maybe so.
MEANWHILE, BACK AT HELL ON WHEELS: As Bohannon strolls through the camp, various other folks note his unexpected return and register reactions ranging from bemused surprise – Elam suggests that his occasional ally get a gun as soon as possible – to bug-eyed shock. Bohannon himself looks a bit nonplussed when he sees Reverend Cole still ranting and wandering around Hell on Wheels. By the end of the episode, however, he is ready, if not eager, to resume his “walking boss” gig.