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Hell on Wheels S03E07: "Cholera"


Water has a history with the Western and, well, life itself. Without it, humans die, and how many cowboys can you picture stuck in the sun, all chapped lips, stumbling for a drop of refreshment from this basic ingredient for survival? This season of Hell on Wheels has benefitted from simplified storylines, with some main obstacle to the railroad—like some stubborn homesteaders or the hunt for a missing baby—coloring more intimate ones among characters. "Cholera" tapped into this successful trend to present yet another enjoyably focused episode this season. Quite simply, the climate had turned hot, critters sought relief in the water supply, died, and yielded bad water. It was a little weird, a little wholesome, and as is often the case with Hell on Wheels, nice and dark.  

First, I'd like to draw attention to a constant, yet perhaps overlooked (at least on my part) element of the show: the notion of craftsmanship. The crude glass bottles, fresh-looking wood, and tactile fabrics of yore are some of the reasons we watch Hell on Wheels, even if there aren't whole episodes dedicated to the subject. We’re essentially watching the birth of transcontinental industry, so every manufactured item that pops up on screen—whether it be a floral-print tent curtain or a pepper box revolver—reminds us of how the efforts of this railroad ultimately affect the common consumer. Or maybe have cholera. Of the brain.  


Whether Durant is making power moves or squirming like a fat, slimy toad to escape one, he’s one of TV's most interesting characters to watch. There’s not a lot of humor in this show, aside from Cullen’s tough justice. Usually we’re witnessing stoic decisions or awesome violence, so Durant’s machinations and boisterous manner of speaking serve to add comedy while keeping things tragic. He even made getting day drunk after the impulse murder of a senator seem alluring. Beats leaking out of both ends! Stumbling, muttering drunk, Colm Meaney did an excellent job of silently expressing his way through the episode’s best scene, in no small part due to Mickey. Give this McGinnes bro a bigger plot already! Did his monologue about magic and the queasiness of murder not convince? I say, did it not convince?  

Cullen may have escaped the wrath of high society last episode, but he found himself subject to a more basic foe on his journey to rescue the village. It looks like Ezra did escape the Swede after all—and, I might add, turned quite feral in the process. Seeing Cullen battle nature in the form of thirst and sickness was reminiscent of this season’s opening winter scene. Cullen being the one out of everyone in Hell on Wheels to search for a solution reaffirms his role as leader into the unknown, and takes the story of this railroad-building to a mythic level. If he dies, so does the town, and society is denied progress. Time and time again, our hero is reminded of that. 

Okay, I understand why Eva would send her baby away from the heat and rat-water, but still, seeing her do this made me pretty angry. Did she not think for a second how this sort of thing would make Elam feel? If she cares about him as much as she says she does, then I can’t imagine her pulling this kind of stunt behind his back. Who cares if she drew a little-chin tattoo on a little baby’s little chin and chanted? Or that Declan's a hunk with a good copper job? She'd better have an excellent explanation for her behavior, and it better not be "because the writers wanted to create drama for the sake of creating drama." I could maybe see her citing motherhood and the drive to protect her child against all else, and this sort of thing was certainly done back then, but still, Elam’s going to be pisssssed.  

Was a time when I thought the Swede had fulfilled his arc with Hell on Wheels, what with his burning down the town and killing Cullen’s love interest. But he’s too good a villain to kill off, and watching him continue to be insane outside of the context of Cullen’s development makes him just the representative of evil in this world. That Gundersen is basically just a bad destructive force opens up the world to a more fable-like level (huh, kind of like Cullen's heroic hunt for water). There are psychopathic monsters in every time and setting. Always monsters looking to do ill-will. Always family-killers who take on the identities of Mormon Bishops because, well that’s just an interesting story development. Good show, hellions!  


QUESTIONS:

– Do you appreciate Cullen and Ruth's occasional faith discussion?

– Will Mickey and Sean truly never interact again?

– How will Sean's relationship with Durant change following this murder?

– What is the Swede planning?

– Is Cullen going to be a good dad to that boy?

– Did you make the connection between the water-pumping and diarrhea? 

– Are you keeping up with Louise Ellison's column?

– What did you think of "Cholera"?

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 7/23/2016

Season 5 : Episode 14

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Bohannon and his shenanigans ... I love it.
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Interesting theory. I'd like to see that played out. Am I wrong to assume the waterboy is the mormon kid who ran away when the swede killed his parents?
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Yeah, it's the same boy. I'm hoping he brings out the father side of Bohanon we have yet to see. Lily, in some way, helped him resolve his issues with vengeance over his wife, so it would be a great character development to bring this boy out to resolve his issues over losing his own child.
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Great episode in an excellent series.

Like I said last week, the best thing for the baby would most likely be to leave Hell on Wheels and that while it would be a heartbreaking decision, if she truly loved the baby she would do what was best for the child. Hell on Wheels is no place for a baby. That's not to say the child wouldn't of done well and not to say that something bad won't happen in the city but since you can't predict what will happen you can just look at the pros and cons of each choice. It was a gut-wrenching choice but I think she is doing what she thinks is best for the baby.

She couldn't tell Elam because he would of prevented her from doing it since he put his desires above what is best for the baby (but he probably thinks the baby staying is the best decision).

It's hard to know what best option is but the big city is likely less dangerous and has more opportunities with a middle to upper class white male in the city than Hell on Wheels with a tattooed former Indian captive ex-whore mother and a black father...sad but true in those times.
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Wherever the baby ends up, danger will lurk. This was an extremely unsavory, unhealthy, and perilous world. child labour and human slavery existed if not covertly, but in secret as it exists today and orphans or single woman where always in danger of losing their child and freedom. Fires and epidemic were galore and people without employ were condemned to a life of extreme sufferance. The baby should have remained where there were people who cared for her and with her father.
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her biological father is death and her uncle loves her (as does Elam and her mother who really showed her love by her self-sacrifice and doing what she thinks is best for the baby---life is hell everywhere then but the town is struck with Cholera and she knows all the hardships, high risk of mortality and the better prospects in a big city with a fairly well to do uncle who loves her in the big city).

there are pros and cons to Rose staying in HoW and going to the big city...when I look at it objectively I lean towards Rose being more likely to have a better likelihood of surviving and thriving in the big city without all the negatives/cons I previously listed in my original comment.
Like I said last week and this week, I say she will most likely be better off in the city with her uncle (both in the short term and long term but no one knows for sure). I don't speak in absolutes and there are no guarantees in life. I just tried to look at it rationally/objectively and even then I guess I lean around 60/40 on the decision (60% on the side of going to the city and 40% on the side of staying in HoW).

I'm not saying that I am 100% sure she made the right decision but I understand her reasonings and if I was in her shoes I would only hope I would have the strength to truly do what I thought was best for Rose (send her with her loving uncle to a big city; he has $ and loves her; no stigma of a ex-Indian captive ex-whore mother and black "father figure"--sad but true)
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Her uncle is a cop in New York. The chances of him surviving his job are slim and who is going to take care of her while he is working? . If you are watching Copper, you will see that there was a yellow fever outbreak there at the time. And if as you sa y:
I don't speak in absolutes and there are no guarantees in life.
Then I say it is best to remain with people who love her and Elam. Anyway, Elam is my favorite character and anything that makes him unhappy makes me unhappy and that's the way it is.
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Agree with Vicky ―there's contagious death, severe water shortage + deadly heat in HOW. Plus, it's obvious both parents are white, making it likely the uncle is her biologic relative, who's shown deep care in being part of her life.
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There's no way to conclude both her parents are white. That would require dna testing or at least more detailed knowledge of when she was concieved. I don't necessarily ''disagree'' with Vicky. She makes a great point, I just think that Eva's selfless sacrifice was a little selfish overall. Even though she gave Elam and Declan a piece of what they wanted. Eva really didnt seem to want the baby, like the sick girl said.
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I think it was unfair to exclude Elam from this decision. She disregarded both his and Declan's feelings about the best course of action. Elam only said 750 times "I gots me a baby!". The best place for a baby is where there are people that love it and are willing to sacrifice for it. You have to understand what man has gone through in order to procreate throughout the ages. Both Hell on Wheels and The big city are both paradise compared to most places parents have had to conceive and rear their young. Though there may be more resources, in urban areas.
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