Hell on Wheels "The Railroad Job" Review: Party Time's Over

Hell on Wheels S02E05: "The Railroad Job"

At some point in every journey, be it road trip, religious pilgrimage, or undie run, there comes a point of decisive retrospection. Is it time to keep trucking into the unknown future despite danger and loss, or head back to the comforts of a familiar past? In "The Railroad Job," Cullen Bohannon's rebel bandit history reared its ugly head, leaving Mr. Durant with at least one extra hole and the town wondering if this train party was coming to an end. In a hail of bullets, loyalties were tested, rekindled, and ended, positioning various factions for what may come to be a truly hellacious power struggle. Mainly though, a pretty cool shootout happened!

Led by Hawkins (Ryan Robbins, Tector of Falling Skies/Charlie Connor of Battlestar Galactica), last night's story opened with Cullen's ex-gang casing the town of Hell on Wheels. The plan? Post up at different parts of town, deal with ersatz guard Elam, and rob $50,000 from the railway station, which in today's economy is the equivalent of $5.9 trillion dollars. Surprising, with all this Sioux talk, that the threat was actually some ex-soldiers. Everyone seemed kind of worried about running into Bohannon, especially Doc Whitehead, who was surprised to find out his friend was not only alive, but "...walking the streets like the risen Christ." Hmm, Durant has been compared to God in the past, so does this make Cullen his tragic son? Jesus was a carpenter, and it made total sense that when we caught up with Cullen he was overseeing that much promised wooden bridge, rare smile on his face, swapping earnest handshakes with Toole, JUST LIKE CHRIST.

Back in town a gorgeous storm rumbled ominously above, as Lily admitted worry concerning her place in Durant's New York life once the railroad had reached the Pacific. Whoa, slow down, lady. Even in today times, it still takes like 10 years to build railroads. Considering theirs is a relationship founded primarily on business, Bell is already feeling out just what degree of independence she can look forward to (or not) without jeopardizing the rich and powerful setup she currently has in Hell. Over by America's zaniest muck pile, the Swede helped Reverend Cole reach sobriety in the most obvious way possible: by chaining him to an anvil. Are we witnessing the early beginnings of AA? Maybe recovering alcoholics can chime in here, but is writing a manifesto about things like the "white man's predilection for racial eradication," common on the path to dryness? We all knew the Swede had a plan that involved manipulating Cole, but to what end has now become a little clearer: self-righteous vengeance against evildoers (i.e. those seeking to fight the natives) who will most likely just be a list of the Swede's enemies. Kind of scary, considering that group includes most of Hell's main characters.

Settling down to a nice bottle of Corn Likker (a real type of booze, didn't know that!) Elam ran into one of the gang members in the bar and became alarmed at seeing the same gun Bohannon used to hold him up in the payroll train (a Griswold to be exact—nice work, props department/armourer!). BTW, where's Elam's drinking problem headed? This show makes a point of showing him drinking his time away, but with no real consequence; like, he's not getting in barroom brawls all the time, or showing up late to work. Also, Carl the bartender said he didn't want Elam shooting again, but he hasn't really shot anybody, right? Toole, that one time. Am I missing something? Probably am. Anyway, convinced of some doings a-transpiring, Durant gave the okay to arm what few people were in town (just shopkeepers plus the sick list), and fetch Bohannon. Definitely liked how Sean and Mickey took this opportunity to remind everyone that they were not killers, as if that's how one avoids suspicion. Works so far! However, a bedridden Psalms and the McGinnes Bros. do not an army make, so it was no surprise when Hawkins and his crew easily marched straight into the railway office. At this point you'd think Durant would've invested in a little more security besides Elam and Cullen. The gang stormed the place so easy! I don't feel so judgmental about all those Old West robberies that took place. You'd be a fool not to rob things at gunpoint. Nine times out of ten, there'd just be an empty shack with an old man tapping at a telegraph (that sound is super soothing actually). Mr. Durant pulled out his pepper-box gun (love that lil' pea-shooter!) and killed one of Hawkins' men, but then got plugged in his tum-tum by Hawkins himself, forcing Lily to open the safe.

Hearing gunshots, Cullen returned to town to fight off the gang members, while Lily forked over the monies. There was a sense that Bohannon had overshadowed Elam once again, but when your life is on the line are you really going to split hairs? Durant bled out in pain, and Lily displayed genuine concern for his well-being—maybe through this tragedy she will grow to truly love him. "Ain't much fun killing them," Bohannon said of his dead and dying friends, "but they seem to need it," while Elam narrowly escaped being pinned down. A few tents over, the Swede was happy to hear the rifle shots (one of which ended up killing Nell the prostitute), and told Cole they were in fact "trumpets announcing the breaking of the seal of your prophecy." As the fight wrapped up, Psalms blasted one dude off a horse despite internal bleeding, and the McGinnes Bros. teamed up against Nell's murderer. With a look that indicated she perhaps thought Durant was a goner, Lily used his pepper-box to blast Hawkins in the leg and give Cullen the advantage. In the end, three townsfolk had died, to Hawkins' six.

Elam locked Hawkins in the pig cart and spit in his water (gross, but he deserved it) while Cullen brought back Doc to mend Durant. The local newspaper tampered with the dead bodies, making the whore's cleavage more prominent (and making TMZ look like The Washington Post), which made Mickey furious. He was all "Get back to work!" to the other prostitutes. Don't know if they'll be able to drum up all that much business considering the day's events. Also, is he now, uh, a "pimp"? In an interesting admission, Lily told Cullen she nearly felt relief Doc wouldn't survive. Mainly because Cullen would be free. Oh that's right, Durant still "owns" Bohannon. Why isn't the show doing more with this idea? We should see more of the emotional toll that being someone's property takes on this ex-slave owner from the South. So far, it just seems like Cullen has a sweet job. Maybe it's because he knows that in bossman's absence, hooking up with Lily is a mathematical certainty, right? I'm sure viewers would appreciate an indication one way or another with this "will they or won't they" pair. However, it's refreshing to think they're just two separate characters on different paths, but Durant has voiced some worry about Bohannon and Bell, so there's a good chance of seeing the debut of "Cully" or "Lilyhannon" in the not too distant future.

Feeling more than a little betrayed that his "sawbones" buddy knew there was never a plan to go to Mexico, Cullen put the pressure on the under-qualified Doc to medically rescue Durant. While the railroad baron dealt with an extra bullet in his spinal column (apparently a bad thing?), Cullen and Elam marched Hawkins out to an open grave. Foolishly, Hawkins tried to demand a fair trial but forget that in Hell, judgement gets handed down by anybody with a fast-enough pistol. Hawkins accused Cullen of being a trader and insulted Elam with the N-word, never getting to finish his last words. Bohannon was all, "He wasn't done saying his last words," and Elam was like "Yes he was." Pretty cool line, any way you slice it.

Durant woke up and seemed stable enough for a trip to Chicago for state of the art 1865 medical treatment—which probably just meant bandages that had never been reused. The Swede got the Reverend all shaved up and literally whisked him over to his store of stolen guns. At the white people bar, Mickey stood tabletop, remembering Nell and her uh, "traits," performing a motorboat that transitioned into tears. Is this an Irish thing to do? Also, this is the third episode in a row that's involved socializing after someone's death. Wow, the West must've sucked in that respect. Poor Elam got kicked out of the bar and went to drink with Psalms and the freemen. They joked about rot-gut and being second-class citizens and how they would go to Georgia if Durant died. It was nice to see Elam enjoy some camaraderie after forcing himself into so much unnecessary exile. The Swede will likely try to rally up the freemen in Durant's wake, and its then Elam will have to really choose sides. For now, though, he should just focus on clapping backs and chuckling. As another day closed on this rascally railroad town, Lily informed Cullen he'd have to kill Doc Whitehead for aiding and abetting Hawkins. Yeesh, with friends like that, who needs...etc.

My favorite thing about "The Railroad Job" was how much it explored the aftermath of a town-wide shootout. There was room for a little more character development, but overall an episode that is one-part Western wish fulfillment, one-part personal reactions to said wishes is a strong format for Hell on Wheels to follow. God only knows what madness Cullen will have to deal with next week, now that the lanky-loons got some heat, and the always-at-risk Pacific line is without a leader. Bohannon and Lily will definitely have to put their heads together, but if anything romantic happens, you can bet your sweet bippy the Swede will use that in his favor. Once that goes down, there's no turning back.


That was badass, when Psalms "raised up."

Earth medicine? Hmmm, thanks but no thanks Eva.

Sweet, a bridge!

Can I have a different cup please?

Whoa, kind of weird seeing the Rev without his beard.

Top of the "mourning" to ya, Mick' !


– Will the Swede successfully manipulate Reverend Cole into killing people?

– Who will join forces with the Swede?

– Will there be any complications in Durant's recovery?

– Are we looking at a power struggle in his absence?

– Is Elam going to become better friends with the freemen?

– Will Psalms die?

– Have you ever made Corn Likker?

– Is Eva going to miscarry?

– Who is best suited to take over Durant's position?

– Will Cullen and Lily make sweet love to each other?

– Who is your favorite character?

– What new character would you add?

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