Hell on Wheels "The Lord's Day" Review: Daddy's Home

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Hell on Wheels S02E08: "The Lord's Day"

Dependency was the name of the game in "The Lord's Day," an episode short on action but big on changing up Hell's dynamics. Beneath the surface of any community is a pecking order, and the return of Thomas Durant reminded everyone of the railroad baron's rightful place at the top of the food chain, just when it seemed the whole symbiotic affair would devolve into selfish cannibalism. Durant's homecoming did not mean business as usual, though, as he came back from Chicago joined by wife/seasoned ball-buster Hannah (Virginia Madsen—seriously, she defeated Candyman this one time). Having pledged a few episodes ago to beg her forgiveness, Durant's newfound dependency on his wife (both in recovery and business matters) had a domino effect on everyone in town, examining the fleeting nature of "home" and leaving more than a few in the lurch.

The Swede was fine, actually, but other Hellions certainly had reasons to be wary: Lily especially questioned her value to the railroad now that Hannah had taken on Ms. Bell's former duties—sorry, only room for one blonde on this rail (same rules as Amtrak). Meanwhile, Cullen had to break the uneasy news of the railroad's delayed bridge-building, and both wondered how their secret romance would be received or even acknowledged. Lower down the drama totem pole, Sean scrambled to account for Elam's land money owed to Mr. Durant, along with Ruth's pro bono property, receiving no help from a drunken, gambling Mickey (who at least did his awesome half-breath booze chuckle—that's the best "heh he..."). Sean compared his lout-bro to their rarely mentioned father, who was an apparent embarrassment to the family for his drinking and gambling ways (because I had heard in Ireland you can play a betting version of hot potato). Luckily, Sean's drugged up debtor let lil' bowler hat off easy with an opium-fueled/boring (is that combo possible?) story about how Durant witnessed a picture show in the Windy City starring two men who had trapped a tiger in a barrel, then were subsequently devoured by the animal. Someone hurry up and invent an awards show for magic lantern establishments so this riveting tale can sweep it! This bit of labored weirdness came right after the railroad baron mildly freaked out over seeing a coffin (understandable) and wild white stallion galloping through town (well that's strange), which either meant Durant was suffering from the rootinest, tootinest case of PTSD in the West, or he actually saw "The White Spirit" and there are ghost horses in and around the surrounding prairies. Either way, the odd tiger "tail" seemed to imply that Durant had an inkling about Sean and his brother's enterprising activities and he would not be one to get "trapped under a barrel."

Elam possessed the only chill attitude early on, happily ignorant of Mr. Durant's return and instead working hard down by the river to build his dream home. His American Dream Home. Since it was Sunday (i.e. the Lord's Day), Psalms paid his buddy a visit to get to the bottom of whether Elam really wanted to hang back and join a domestic group full of "saggy-tittied wives, and squawking-ass babies." As mentioned in the comments section last week, Elam has matured from a pie-eyed rabble-rouser into a man with a clear mission. His charm has always been stubbornness in the face of adversity, so to see him finally set his sights on something as constructive as family living—both by physically building such a recognizably wholesome symbol (who doesn't equate frontier houses with peacefulness?) and deciding to protect his loved ones within/from society shows a marked development. Psalms thankfully survived that bloody gut-punching from a few episodes back and it's always welcoming to see the wise chuckler offer Elam the advice and camaraderie of an older brother.

Unfortunately trouble brewed in the tent of Toole and Eva, with the former expressing concern about the color of his wife's baby. Now why lead with those words? Was "Thank you for this beef stew, I am happy you're back" already taken? Too preoccupied for compliments, he blurt-muttered that the dudes in the saloon were betting on whether the child would be "white or something else," to which she calmly suggested they straight-up just leave this place—as inviting a place though it may be. Eva was still buzzing from visiting Chicago and was pretty stoked at Mr. Durant's payment for her services, so for some reason didn't take that much offense to Toole's petty, kind-of-hateful concern. Maybe she feels like she has options outside of Elam and Toole? Sure, her spouse offers stability, but he's totally going to be an ass to that baby. In any case, the framing of this scene alternately placed Eva and her husband in the small mirror's reflection—instead of two equally featured heads, which underlined a growing disconnect within this already tense union. Or something.

In what promised to be a very awkward dinner party, Hannah and Thomas invited Cullen and Lily over for a private meal and an early iteration of the game Scattergories. Throughout the course of the evening, it was discovered that Cullen (who looked uncomfortably dapper in a presentable suit and slick 'do) actually came from some money before the war, and that his deceased wife was the youngest daughter of Leo Tate, some railroad friends of the Durants. Such a cool turn, and a very interesting, organic layer to the onion that is Cullen Bohannon. Fingers crossed we get to see him go to New York. Maybe he will run into Copper. Hannah played Lily Bell like an all-out ding-dong, forcing her to the outskirts of conversation and referencing the impending conclusion of Lily's employment with the railroad. Wow, looks like the Swede (who meanwhile spent time sabotaging the steam engine) has some competition for "Town's Best Manipulator," with Hannah's clever forcing of Thomas's hand against his former lover. Is it too much to ask for a romance between Hannah and Tor? Maybe that's Season 3. But as far as Lily getting sacked goes, this creates some problems for Cullen because a) he's falling for Lily hard, and is in it for the right reasons, plus b) the Durants want to groom Cullen into holding a more powerful position within the railroad. Then again Durant might've been testing the two for evidence of affection—which could further put Lilyhannon at the wrong end of a powerful man's jealous, opium-loosened anger. While entrenching the former farmer/soldier/bandit in the high-stakes world of trains would be great for the series, his allegiance to (ex-mistress) Lily would definitely not make either Durant very happy—and with the presence of the always clever Swede on Team Pacific Union, this romance is already facing some hurdles as big as gorges.

All the way across town (so like four tents over), Sean got rejected by fussy opportunist Ruth in asking her to wear a traditional Claddagh ring, making it public how he'd officially "captured her heart." She assumed the affectionate offer was a part of his deed-giving, but all he wanted was to express his love so of course this stone-cold shutdown plus an already woeful Irish heart resulted in some hurt feelings something fierce. With this defensive gesture, Ruth became even more unlikable, and it's only a matter of time before her world comes crashing down like the totally awesome bridge collapse caused by the Swede.

Ah, so that was his white horse! Sporting a hot new look—leather duster, hairless body, and what appeared to be Reverend Cole's hat (a.k.a. Death-Bringer Casual), Gundersen's plan to humiliate Cullen (again) worked like a charm, and dozens of fallen beams and broken bones later, Cullen was catching guff from the Durants. Man, all the Swede needs now is a Snidely Whiplash mustache, that he might villainously twirl it. The married barons had pressured Cullen to build a rickety bridge in a short amount of time (wink-wink, ching-ching, crash-smash) and their annoyance with the recent setback prompted Cullen to make known his awareness of Thomas's cooked books. The married A-holes were aghast at this especially unfortunate development for Lily, who went from being a useless ex-mistress to being a certified liability. Durant confronted her about sharing business information while "laying" with Cullen, essentially writing her off as yesterday's news and cementing himself as a true enemy to all that is good and true.

If there weren't enough problems bopping around, Toole and Cullen discovered the Swede's penny in the steam engine, confirming what was already known: Gundersen still hates Cullen and will continue to do everything in his power to ruin the ex-rebel's world. Discord must've been catching, because Mickey and Sean got in a fistfight over some remarks Mickey made about Ruth being an "Indian-laying church whore" who was basically taking Sean for a ride. He had a point, and Sean left the encounter with some things to think about.

Reporting to his former employee, Elam updated Durant on his plans to own a house down by the river and whittle and whistle and rock in a chair, to which the the railroad baron responded by tearing up his land deed, which was more heartbreaking than it sounds. Durant basically laid it out for his "eyes and ears": the only way Ferguson was getting out of his contract with the railroad was either death or walking back through native territory. Impressively, Elam stood up to Durant and let his boss know that he wanted his own house and some GD respect. This gave Durant the kind of idea that really should have made him rub his chin considerately.

Continuing her expulsion from the railroad's inner-circle, Lily got the old heave-ho from her train cart courtesy of Hann-"Queen Bee"-ah, who knew all about Durant's unfaithfulness. Here's hoping Lily takes on the already forceful Durant as her own personal nemesis. Naturally Lily ran to Cullen for support (which he gave of freely) and suggested they share a cart. Like a gentleman, Cullen moved his things out and advised her to not "test a man who's jealous or afraid for his livelihood." With a tender kiss, he was off into the night.

Not to be outdone, drunken mega-Romeo Sean creepy-crawled Ruth's quarters, and demanded the "truth" about whether or not she had lain with Joseph (who'd visited earlier with his own new duds and some sweet Cheyenne earrings). Cryptically, Ruth responded "and I thought it was me you wanted," before sending the lovesick Irishman packing. For those who actually care about this relationship (anybody?), her admission might've meant that she sees herself as the opposite of "truth," and this could be her revealing some self-hate. Or it could've been one of those things where a romantically involved partner is all "don't judge my past, love my present." I think lovers say this.

With nightfall, Cullen retaliated against his own nemesis with a matter-of-fact torching of the Swede's empty tent and ended up sleeping under the stars with Elam and his unbuilt home. It's great these two are back together, but their partnerships never seem to last long. Hopefully they are inseparable for the remaining episodes. How funny was it when Elam greeted Cullen with, "This ain't no boarding house!" and Cullen shot back, "From the looks of it, it ain't even a house." Nice stuff! Anyway, Ferguson divulged a little more about the nature of Durant's offer, basically telling Cullen in so many words that the task was generally bad for Cullen. I'm guessing it's to kill Lily, because Cullen is too useful to the railroad, and Hannah has been angling to get rid of Lily probably since she heard about her. Or maybe it's both Cullen and Lily, since they each know about the shady accounting going on.

Either way, with two episodes left (airing, from the looks of it, on one night) Cullen has found himself changed, yet in familiar territory. Displaced once more, he's slowly building toward a more stable life, but not without his share of obstacles. Durant had his "Lord's Day," proving that when a community depends so much on the livelihood of one powerful figure for survival, whims can easily ripple into a town-wide catastrophe for all involved.

QUESTIONS:

– Will Lily be killed?

– Will an attempt be made on Cullen's life?

– How will Hannah further change the railroad?

– How will Joseph's reconnection with the Cheyenne come into play?

– What color will Eva's baby be born?

– Will she pick Elam or Toole?

– What will Cullen do to protect Lily?

– Have you ever bet on the color of a baby?

– How will Cullen survive crossing the bridge?

– How will Sean react to Ruth's rejection?

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