Sep 24, 201203:40 PMThe Telegraph
The Premier Blog of the West
TV Recap: Top 5 Things To Know About 'Hell On Wheels,' Season 2, Episode 7
In the wake of the hostage crisis and its violent aftermath detailed in last week's episode of Hell on Wheels, Cullen Bohannon found himself facing some important decisions -- and forced to consider his own motivations -- in "The White Spirit," the episode that aired Sunday on the AMC cable network. If you missed all the action, here are the Top 5 things you need to know before tuning in next Sunday.
DUE PROCESS: Although still upset about having to more or less mercy-kill his buddy Doc Whitehead in last week’s episode, Cullen Bohannon isn’t so moody-bluesy that he doesn’t notice the tell-tale signs that The Swede, his long-time nemesis, brought rifles pilfered from the camp armory to the Sioux warriors threatening progress of the railroad — and that, in fact, it was The Swede who incited Reverend Cole to lead the Sioux in a hostage-taking raid that ended only when Joseph killed Cole with a knife provided by Cullen. (“You took a harmless drunk,” Cullen says, “and you lit a fuse.”) Despite protests from Lily — who needs The Swede’s expertise as a bookkeeper during Durant’s absence — Cullen hauls The Swede off to the camp’s boxcar-jail (the same place where, ironically, The Swede briefly held Cullen early last season) and proceeds to interrogate him.
MAKE THAT A DOUBLE: At first, Cullen gruffly dismisses The Swede’s claims that the two of them are very much alike. But it’s obvious that The Swede’s words hit close to the bone when he accuses Cullen of being perhaps a little too eager to dispense death, whether the victim is a wrongly suspected innocent — remember the poor guy Cullen killed in last season’s final episode? — or a friend like Doc Whitehead. Lily eventually orders Cullen to free The Swede — she really, really needs his bookkeeping expertise — but the two men resume their conversation in the camp bar. The Swede describes the horrors he endured at the hands of Confederate captors during the Civil War throughout his imprisonment at Andersonville, and freely admits that’s why he’s long wanted to destroy Cullen by any means necessary. (“When I see you,” he tells the ex-Confederate officer, “I see them. I hated you even before we met.”) But he doesn’t stop there: The Swede claims that Cullen has an even more potent reason to hate him in return: “I’m a constant reminder of the capacity for evil that resides within you.”
A SHOT AT REDEMPTION: Cullen doesn’t spend much time disputing The Swede’s claim, quite possibly because he despises himself even more than anyone else could possibly hate him. And it doesn’t cheer him up at all when he seeks comfort from Ruth — after admitting that he provided the knife for Joseph to kill her father — by asking, in the vaguest possible terms, if redemption is possible for anyone, regardless of his sins. Ruth, who appears to know exactly who and what Cullen is talking about, responds: “The truth is, I think some people are beyond redemption.” So Cullen decides that maybe it’s time to move on. In fact, he very nearly departs from Hell on Wheels before he’s delayed by Lily, who calls him on his selfishness and unreliability, and accuses him of always wanting to run away from responsibility. Shamed and sobered, Cullen opts to remain in Hell on Wheels — which, by this point, might just as accurately be described as Cullen’s Own Private Purgatory — and, by the end of the episode, he finally winds up in Lily’s bed.
BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES: Irish siblings Sean (Ben Esler) and Mickey McGinnes (Phil Burke) want to buy the camp saloon, and Elam Ferguson offers to help them “convince” Carl the Barkeep to sell his business. First, the three men — with some help from the seemingly recovered Psalms — sabotage a liquor shipment due to arrive in Hell on Wheels. Then Sean and Mickey strong-arm Carl by bluntly telling him that they’ll continue to sabotage future shipments — and that if Carl complains, well, remember what happened to that butcher who tried to make life miserable (and short) for the brothers. By the end of the episode, Carl is signing the deed over to Sean and Mickey, and Elam — after telling Lily to take his railroad job and shove it — claims a piece of land down by the river, where he hopes to build a place for himself and the temporarily (he hopes) absent Eva.
INTIMATIONS OF COMING ATTRACTIONS: Turns out that The Swede really does have bookkeeping expertise — enough to find that Durant has been cooking the books and committing fraud, information he duly shares with Lily. But this doesn’t mean The Swede suddenly has become an honest fellow. At the beginning of the episode, we see him shaving his head, tricking himself out with white paint and a loin cloth, and impressing the Sioux as some sort of warrior-spirit ally. (By the way: Cullen’s wide-eyed double take when he sees the newly bald Swede is the otherwise dead-serious episode’s funniest moment.) At the end of the episode, we see The Swede taking off in a horse and buggy, presumably on his way for another confab with The Sioux. Meanwhile, Ruth is pleasantly surprised to find that Sean McGinnes has given her a really great deal on land for a new church. Maybe some men aren’t beyond redemption.