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Hell on Wheels S03E08: "It Happened in Boston"

Well, true to the episode's title, we learned just what allegedly "Happened in Boston," an hour that found nearly every character occupied with very Old West-y activities: Oh you know, trading a mute boy to a fort for workers, getting drunk because your ex-prostitute lover gave your baby to New York. Also, "muck." You know, those sorts of things. The sum of all these parts made up one of my favorite types of Hell on Wheels episodes, where most of the action going on isn’t necessarily that threatening. Cullen got to spend time with Durant, Elam went on a non-lethal drunken tear, Eva set to finding work, and then out of nowhere, Sean caught a belly full of hot lead.    

Remember way back in the day when Sean and Mick were two Oi-rish lads just trying to find their way in this, the new America? Remember when they mentioned Boston, all like, "not again—just like Boston"? They had to leave for some undisclosed shady reason, and this week we learned that reason (according to Mickey, at least), and it involved the deaths of a shopkeeper’s daughter and a schoolteacher. While I was shocked to see Sean get killed by his own brother, I didn’t feel all that bad about the decision. Seeing Sean act all nervous ever since things bottomed out with Ruth has been zero fun in terms of television viewership. Maybe he didn't deserve death, but it says a lot that, in the moment of his murder, I was immediately relieved I'd never have to see his panicked eyes dart back and forth ever again.

It’s no fault of actor Ben Esler, who’s done a phenomenal job playing the dramatic cards dealt to him, and who was very fun to watch in the character's ambitious, non-obsessive days. Now, the question remains: Was Mickey really more involved with these murders than he’s let on? I mean, yes—there was the accomplice business, and we’ve seen the two commit murder together in the slaughterhouse—but maybe Sean was the sidekick throughout all this grisliness. In which case, I’m bummed it had to come to this between family members, but happy that the more dangerous McGinnes brother was left behind to deal with Durant.  

Eva telling Elam her baby news had the expected effect. The latter got pissed, grabbed his lady-friend by her dress collar, and tossed her right out of his tent/life. She landed on her rump, bounced twice, then skidded to a stop. Next, the chief of railroad "po-leese" cleared his schedule and did what any reasonable person would do when you find out your lover gave your baby to New York: got drunk all day long on top of a two-story sleeper train. Remember when Elam used to get drunk all the time on Corn Whiskey? Maybe his problem will come back. Even though this kid wasn't biologically his, I understand Elam's reaction. That baby was part of his future, part of his home. Part of his plan to be a man. And being a "man" back in the Old West was like the best thing you could do with yourself. Of course he'd be enraged.  

Meanwhile Eva trundled around town looking for work in Mickey’s brothel, and Mickey very smartly refused her services on the grounds that Elam would probably hassle him about it. Beneath his scraggly head of hair, Mick's got himself a pimp's heart, so he sent her off with some cash money. That pimp's heart was so bountiful that he even poured some free whiskey for Elam—which, hell, the more liquor Elam buys, the better, so it was a very good scheming business move, that. The main turn in this plot happened at the end of the episode, when Eva wound up in bed with Louise Ellison, freshly healed from her cholera and looking, I guess, to bed down with a warm body for the night. The slow pull out to an empty liquor bottle on the nightstand implied that some sort of revelry went down, but who knows if she merely offered Eva her bed, or the two were intimate. Who knows? 

Cullen’s relationship with Ezra is actually one of my favorite of the series so far. Seeing Cullen take on the responsibilities of the professional world has leveled him out some already, but his interaction with a kid shows us the softer side of a very rough man, and lets us witness the type of hard-parenting that went on back then. Carry this saddle, boy! Don’t draw your knife on churchfolk! Plus let’s not forget that along with a wife, he did lose a son back during the war. So technically, any attachment he forms with this kid can act as another element of healing that the Swede could brutally take away, for whatever cockamamie reasons. Heck, I thought he was going to come face-to-face with his old nemesis at the Mormon fort. But then, that’s probably what the next two episodes are for. 

So all in all, it was a relatively bloodless day in the sleepy railroad town of Hell on Wheels, unless your name was Sean McGinnes. In that case, R.I.P. bro!  The town will miss your scheming ways! 


– Is Mickey the real mastermind?

– Does Cullis Huntington respect Cullen Bohannon?

– What sort of relationship does Cullen share with Ezra?

– Should Elam be be able to get over the fact that the baby was probably biologically a "Toole."

– Do Durant's contemporaries respect him at all?

– Did white Chinese people like Scoggins really exist back in the day?

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 11/22/2014

Season 4 : Episode 13

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