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Hell on Wheels S03E05: "Searchers"

While searching for Eva’s missing baby in last night’s thought-provoking "Searchers," Cullen Bohannon suggested to Elam that, concerning the child’s possibly tragic fate, "it might be better if you never knew." He’s of course referencing the pain of familial loss that sent him on a path of vengeance, made worse by the first-hand discovery of his wife and son’s corpses. There’s a waver of helplessness in Bohannon’s hard-earned advice because a few brutal years later still seems to have found him just as hurt by the memory of losing Mary, his son, and Lily Bell, yet unable to summon enough conviction to persuade another man in his same position to do otherwise. His handicap, like Eva, Elam, or their daughter, is one of paralyzed human frailty: forced to suffer emotional trauma at the hands of a greater force. With direction by Neil LaBute, a playwright and director known for trafficking in taboos in gender and religion (and disfellowed from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), the hour functioned as an effective discussion of how people with limited power comfort each other in times of distress.        

That the good folks of Hell on Wheels pitch in at all to find that baby is evidence of how far the Mickeys, Psalms, and Ruths have come in terms of community. Was a time where this railroad town was every man for himself to the tune of German butchers getting fed to their own pigs. But so far Bohannon's running a tight civil ship. Sure Durant's reward might have helped fuel this civic duty, but even before his arrival the majority seemed very concerned about leaving that infant behind. Even though the offer was mainly to hold up production, Durant further made Cullen look the bad guy in a justifiable battle against the elements. In order to stay on schedule and remain within the good graces of his people, Bohannon had no choice but to find that baby, and Doc in all his political scheming ways, knew that.    

Elsewhere, others also took matters into their own hands, boiling things down, as seems to be the case in the Old West, in terms of a moral battle. Ruth finally gave a speech that made her character more interesting and less intense-for-the-sake-of-intense by admitting that she at one point was carrying Joseph's heathen baby, and prayed for God to take it away. This very human transgression makes Ruth that much more relatable, and by extension, likable. Basically, her point to the guilt-stricken Eva was that a person who feels they have committed a misdeed could be comforted by knowing that the good Lord is willing to take on one’s sins, if only said person is willing to admit to them. Eva’s bursting into tears didn’t seem like an official admission of guilt over her treatment of Toole, but it's possible the return of her child and knowledge that even the town’s holiest woman has her own skeletons will make her so thankful that she becomes a disciple to Ruth and her ways.      

Psalms’ more rough-and-tumble approach towards likely suspect Declan resulted in the episode’s greatest dramatic pairing, with Dohn Norwood delivering a riveting speech to a captive authority figure about his relationship with the "white man." Damian O’Hare proved in his scenes with Eva that he could bring a new shade of handsome intensity to the railroad town, and even in bloody confinement on the disadvantaged end of Psalms' powerful threats he still made being beaten in a railroad car look good. Like Cullen Bohannon good. More of both of these guys please.     

With the LDS church growing in prominence, the religion can only expect more representation in popular culture such as in tonight’s hour. Quoting not one but two passages from The Book of Mormon, the Swede (as always) accounted for an ominous element, even as the baby found its safe return home. At this point Gundersen could read "Hop on Pop" by Dr. Seuss and still make it seem like the world’s coming to an end at sundown. Drawing on Mosiah 3:25 and 2 Nephi 1:13, the passages suggested during rainfall that among the citizens of Hell on Wheels are those who are "evil" and unwilling to "shake off the awful chains..." that "bind the children of men," and carry them "down into the eternal gulf of misery and woe." If this weather was God’s way of warning Bohannon, he happily toasted the attempt. As a benevolent city father with a knack for hard love Cullen may believe "we all been left out here," but at least there's companionship in group abandonment.


– Will Declan plot revenge on Psalms?

– Did you miss Louise Ellison? 

– Will Cullen kill Sean?

– Does Eva want her baby?

– Is Ruth an effective religious leader?

– What did The Swede's reading mean?

– What did you think of "Searchers"

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 8/29/2015

Season 5 : Episode 7

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