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Hell on Wheels S03E09: "Fathers and Sins"


Howdy there, pardners. [Squats down at your campfire.] Now, I hate to be a dead rat in the town water, but seems to me t'were a time when Cullen Bohannon was just another handsome AMC anti-hero. A slave-owning, Confederate soldier with a dead family, on a path of impassioned vengeance, and self-destructing in the process. On the one hand he was a cool gunslinger, but on the other he was also questionably edgy for owning slaves. The inherent obstacle with all anti-heroes is that the more engaging part is usually the half of them that can't offer any stability, and at some point they end up on one side of the moral spectrum. Half the time they’re all, I’m way bad and stuff and then the other half, they’re like, but see I got some good in me too, and we watch because we’re like, That’s like my regular life, but with more exciting details. “Fathers & Sins” opened slow, by teasing the kind of boring destiny that could await Cullen once he becomes too mature for reckless shootouts and dangerous business politics, then yanked it all away in a satisfying reminder of past transgressions.

I’m just going to put this out there: Ruth as a character is super boring because of her piety, and she only becomes interesting when she partakes in some vice. That's because there's more variety to her personality in those moments. Otherwise, she's like a robot with one steady point of view. So it was fun to see Louise play with her commitment to God. Sean died in your church and you suspect Mickey might have had a vested interest in his brother's murder? Great, sounds like five more scenes of you weeping behind a curtain, clutching a Holy Bible so hard your fingers all touch.

Man, there’s certainly a spot for her in a setting as proudly immoral as Hell on Wheels, but the trouble is we never see her effect on the people who need it (the "sinful" railroad workers/Dutch after his scrape with the Mormons?). And the prospect of she and Cullen ever getting married would be a HUGE “no-no.” I seriously hope the writers know this. I hope that all the talk in the beginning of the episode with Psalms nudging Cullen toward Ruth was just that: talk. Sure, Ezra could use a mommy, but Cullen marrying Ruth after the two having barely any kind of connection to each other (certainly no comparison to Lily Bell) would be jolting, even if it did further explore a new side of the chief railroad engineer.

I’ve stated in the past that I really dig Cullen’s relationship with Ezra, if for no other reason than we get to see him pass on his hard-won macho lessons to a boy who’s already seen a lot more violence than someone that young should have. Generally in Westerns, heroes fight for a stable home, then they get there and they rest. They don’t continue being gunfighters and also head up a household. They become Michael Landon in Little House on the Prairie. They become "Pa." Well, they do unless they happen to be a Mormon on this show.


Yeesh, these dudes don’t let up. I’m probably in the minority here, but I personally enjoy the fact that Mormons are part of an antagonizing force this season because of government interference. It’s a unique factor, and as a religion born within the United States, certainly worthy of attention. Who is right here? I mean, Cullen did hang one of theirs, but that’s more on the dad for not 'fessing up to the crime he committed. And none of this would have happened if Lady America didn’t demand her range war-starting railroad. 

And what a range war! Long coats, bandanas, and a hilariously stinking drunk Elam (who sobered up real quick—must be that cowboy coffee) all played the part in this week's excellent mini-western shootout scenario. Guys rolling off roofs. Common had to have done the best inebriated acting I’ve seen in a long time. Good job! It certainly was no revelation that the Mormon dad was behind all this, but at least it gave way to the most exciting scene of the hour. Everyone all barricaded in Maggie Palmer's hotel upon Cullen’s arrival was pure glee, what with cocked rifles (with names!), someone dragged under a horse cart, and Durant nonchalantly blasting that dude sneaking up on Cullen. For a split second I kind of wished they were all fighting zombies, but that’s another show.

And so, with Elam taking on the responsibilities of the railroad in Cullen’s absence, the episode ended with a stirring speech, before touching base with some of the other characters back in town we don’t care that much about. Like, Louise Ellison took two steps off the train and then worded up that concierge/former snake oil salesman, just to keep Eva in a warm bed. Don't get me wrong, this turn is real interesting, but it would have been SO GOOD earlier in the season. It would have given Louise Ellison something to do other than seek out hot scoops. There’s only one more episode to explore the idea of same-sex relationships in the Old West, and definitely not in any thorough way, given the implied focus on Cullen's fate (note: any time the director of photography chooses to frame you in a hangman's noose, it's a bad sign). 

My worry for this season is that looking back, it seems like the whole thing has served as setup for a new direction, and a lot of times the setup is nowhere near as fun as the execution. I mean, think of where we were by this time last year: The entire town of Hell on Wheels was under attack, and Lily Bell was about to get murdered. Cullen just now seems to be opening up, and it'll be fun to see him return to his dark nature while maintaining a higher station in life. I hope that, come October (when Season 3 was announced last year), AMC recognizes this and bets on the future of Hell.


QUESTIONS:  

– Lots of God/religion references in this show overall. What is its main message about spirituality?

– Do you miss Sean?

– Dutch is so good. I think Dutch is my favorite new character this season. Not a question. 

– Who is your favorite new character this season? Have they been used effectively?

– Is there a big death coming in this last episode? 

– What is your favorite element of this show?

– What'd you think of "Fathers and Sins"?


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 7/23/2016

Season 5 : Episode 14

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I know there is one more ep to go, but overall I found this season quite bland. I didn't find the whole Mormon plot, nor the various baby issues very interesting. Yes, Elam and Cullen are still fun to watch and Ezra and Louise Ellison turned out to be good characters but it wasn't enough to diffuse this strange sense of anemia this season seem to have been suffering from. It was like watching the show through a big foggy 'meh' transitional lense.

I'll repeat what I said last year: you can only pull a "Game of Thrones" and kill one of your main lead when you have a large ensemble cast with lots of plotlines and equally strong characters to fill the void. Which is in no way the case with HoW.

A year later, I maintain that killing Lliy Bell was a huge mistake. Not because OMG!!!!THEY KILLED MY SHIP!!!1!!! (okay, that too) but because it affected the entire balance and dynamic of the show. Lily was fascinating to watch, and so was the Swede but one is dead and we've barely seen the other this season and we weren't given anybody worthy to fill their shoes. Ruth is not interesting enough a character to deserve that much screen time and the idea of the writers trying to shoehorn a romantic angle with Cullen where there never was one - ughhh, srsly? Methinks the writers were on Heisenberg's blue when they came up with this boneheaded plan.

Louise, Eva, Maggie Palmer, Hell even Ruth, all have interesting sides to them, but they are or at least have been treated like supporting characters not leads. The previous years we had four leads: Durant, Bohannon, Lily and the Swede. This year we were left with two: Bohannon and Elam. Durant and the Swede not getting much in terms of screen time.

So I guess, HoW has gone back to being a boy's action show with lots of fighting and shooting and drinking and not much else. Oh wait, let's include a sapphic storyline with Louise that we'll barely adress and which will only be there to pretend we're still an edgy, modern show.

Not. Fooled. For. One. Minute. Guys.

In my perfect TV world, next season the writing staff comes up with a Calamity Jane character who brings back some much needed female kickassery into this show. Maybe she can even top Lily's "I take and arrow through my hand AND shoulder and then use it to kill the guy who shot it by shoving it in his throat."

Voila.

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Hey, I have been having problems with messaging for over a month, and now two other friends here sent me messages that they have great difficulties too. Is that your case, too? Please Pat, do something about it, thanks.
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Enjoyed the episode thoroughly. I love that the Mormoms have been brought in as the villains considering there was a time when the Mormon church and the US Government were practically at war. Nice to see that little unexplored bit of American history on "Hell On Wheels". Also, can't wait to see the look on Bohannon's face when he realizes the Swede is alive and well.
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RANT PART 1

I don't get where this show is going this season at all. I love westerns and thought that the first season went pretty well. Bohannon was consistently torn between revenge and doing the right thing like any good western does. Like in Deadwood, you had people that were conflicted between their desire for riches or revenge or even love, and how to walk the fine line between good and evil. WHERE is that reflected in this season? Bohannon, the farmer, the soldier, the gunfighter and now the railroad tycoon! We are to believe that he has the engineering, surveying and mechanical know-how to build a railroad? They should have never have sidelined Durant and then had Bohannon decide how far he would go to get Durant's instructions done without violating his moral code, which was pretty sketchy to begin with. We have various potential conflicts that the "REAL" railroad could have had, range wars, Indian attacks, homesteaders, tornado's, disease, ethnic conflicts, and yes even Mormons, etc.
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RANT - PART 2

But all we get is that the Mormon father kill's the Sheriff and then lets his son hang for it and convinces the Mormon settlement, (+ the swede) to hang Bohannon for it? I always thought that Mormon's were turn-the-other-cheek, peace loving polygamists instead of gun-toting ranchers. Man, what did the writers of this crap get their inspiration for this from? I can't believe how ridiculous this whole storyline has become from something so straight forward as a guns-a-blazing railroad western. The whole Bohannon-Ezra plot that leads to the Swede show down is totally off the rails, lol. Where do you think in a western that a gun-slinger would be taking on an orphan boy he found in the wilderness. He would have dumped him off at Ruth's church as soon as he got back to camp, you would think he has enough duties and problems to deal with already. I don't know why this show is so touchy-feelie this season and I can't stand to watch another modern musical montage again. Jeez, if you don't have anything else to show us then give us some flash backs of the war or something about the railroad construction supposedly being done. Sorry for the long winded rant, but instead of looking forward to each weeks show, I now dread when sat night rolls around because of this TRAIN-WRECK of a show.


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Is it just me, or was Common's acting pretty bland on what was supposed to be a soul stirring speech to rally the troops to git the railroad done and free Bohannon? That fool needs a new acting coach. They shouldve let Dohn Norwoord deliver that speech. Other than that, pretty good episode, especially since it brought Bohannon and The swede together again. Ezra might have to save his arse again, if The Free Men and The Fightin' Irish don't get there first. I'm glad Cullen aint sweet on Ruth, cause I can't appreciate kissing a frog faced woman, but that reporter lady sure is pretty. I don't miss Lily as much with her around.
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I hope hope hope there is another season. I love this show so much. The charecaters feel so real and you can actually feel for them...I am so scared to see the last episode of the season because I hope Cullen doesn't die...but am still looking forward to see it...will miss this show when it's over
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Inasmuch as Hell on Wheels is somehow following a loose interpretation of the historic railway connections between the eastern and western seabord of the United States, Mormons are definitely shown as the enemies of progress and by extension, the means by which this federation became the greatest nation on earth. Ruth is the image of diffused spirituality, and hence is the boring character you mention. In fact, she was brought up by her father to espouse this way of life and knows no other. While Louise has chosen her field and is therefore more confident and indeed as her encounter with the hotel manager proves, knows how to use that choice to make her presence known. The fact that Ruth could not even imagine Sean as the serial killer he was, and that Mickey saved her life just goes to show how narrowly frigid she is in her faith.
Elam has been my favorite character in this show from the get go. I love the man as much as I can care for any fictional character. He is just so human and humane, his weaknesses and strengths are always for the right reasons and for the best reasons. He and Cullen are best friends at a time when the notion of "best friends" did not yet exist. It is summarized in that splendid sentence he uses while haranging the workers": " He called me a nigger, but never treated me as one".
This has been the best episode so far because it established that there was deep down, when all was said and done, a brotherhood and an understanding by the people involved in that crazy adventure that they were involved in one of the greatest endeavors to make their country exist and become abundant.
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Nicely said.
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this episode was so wonderful! one of the better music montages ive seen too! <3
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I don't care for Louise or the "friendship" between her and Eva. We're supposed to believe that after 2 1/2 seasons of Eva loving Elam all of a sudden she's switched teams??? I know she's going thru a very difficult time but really?? Why can't they be friends and leave it at that. Ruth and Cullen will never work. I hope the Swede meets a dastardly ending soon. I'm so over him. How dare the Mormon leader who let his son die in his place be judgmental with Cullen?? Maybe next season they will resurrect Lily!!
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Switched teams? Eva's a hooker. She probably likes men and women, but after the way Elam discarded her, she needs a place to stay and probably a boost in the self esteem. What do you mean ''leave it at that''? Are you personally disturbed by the prospect of these two ladies ''gettin it on''? I wasnt really concerned either way, but now I hope they 'do the booty' just to piss you off! :)
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Amen to that :)
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Eva is/was a prostitute, she's willing to trade in the only thing of value she thinks she has. It is actually quite sad, that entire scene, because it was obvious that the poor woman cannot imagine why anyone would keep her around otherwise.
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I concur, but still it is a mark of character. Calamity Jane, for instance, was a prostitute for many years and her background is miserable enough.Yet she has risen to the occasion of becoming a free, independent, and strong women equal and even superior to most men of her era.
What is further sad in that scene is that Eva does not seem to have understood how much Elam truly loved her and in the back of her mind, with all the noble humanity that Elam displayed, she still saw him as a "n-word". More broadly this is an indinctment against people who define themselves by their status.
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I see your points, but I'm not certain Calamity Jane began her life as an "Indian whore"; Eva knows that she herself will always be viewed as such. Elam will always be a former slave in Reconstruction America, regardless of how high he rises within the railroad. As difficult as the decision was, as much as it cost her to do what she did, as a mother, Eva made the best decision possible for her daughter in sending her to New York to be raised by her Irish kin. In New York the girl will have a respectability and opportunities that would be denied her as the daughter of a whore and a black man. I do not think that Eva is so guilty of seeing Elam in a certain light as she is unable to ignore the reality of how they are each viewed by society. In many ways Elam is a dreamer and his vision of the life he wanted with Eva and Rose was a fantasy, one he did not think through, and when he sobers up he will see that the girl would have been made to bare the hate and shame heaped upon the parents had she been raised as his daughter. Sometimes love means letting someone go, even if it tears your life apart.
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I think that Elam is counting on Cullen completely and the relationship he has with him. This is why he is dreaming and has the hopes he has. He is counting on Cullen remaining and making a career within the railroad, even when the mission of joining both railways will be achieved and believes that under those beneficial conditions, he will thrive.
Of course your assessment is undeniable concerning Eva and her daughter. I don't think anyone, including myself, is denying that. My recolloection from Deadwood guide my reflections on Calamity Jane, so really it all depends on how accurate is that information.
At the same time, there is no indication within the current series that Eva is being treated as a "whore", indian or otherwise by anyone on that camp. People see her as Elam's companion and mother, full stop. Elam is respected and not considered by the color of his skin , mostly, and while in the world at large you are right, within the railroad environment they are both living in, these prejudices are either inexistent or very much depleted.
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Maybe Lily had a twin. Who knows? I for one would be glad if they did introduce her again as a twin.
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I have to say, this season has been great. After season 2 I had my doubts this show could be saved but they did it.
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No seve nada ok
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????????????????????????????
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