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Hell on Wheels S03E01 / S03E02: "Big Bad Wolf" / "Eminent Domain" 


A whole episode’s worth of the psyche-busting first six minutes of "Big Bad Wolf" would’ve been completely fine in lieu of tonight’s double-sized season premiere. The opener to the Hell on Wheels' third chapter featured a completely insane Cullen Bohannon living in a gutted train car, scribbling big ideas, hallucinating ghosts, and yelling at wolves in the snow through a mess of facial hair. Apart from being madly entertaining, the sequence acknowledged the devastating effects of last season’s conclusion: Here was a man who'd lost everything he’d worked for, both professionally and personally. The railroad town was torched, vengeance had literally slipped through his hands, and his love was murdered (for the second time in his life); surely Bohannon would require a heap of introspection to get back in the saddle. While "Big Bad Wolf" and "Eminent Domain" explained the return of all HoW’s characters and competently illustrated Cullen’s achievement as new Chief Engineer of the Union Pacific before providing his first obstacle as such, there was a gross lack of character exploration. While still plenty entertaining, the overall result was an unevenly paced premiere that rushed where it could have paused in its hurry to return to business as usual.  

So after warding away the ghost of Doc and punching some wolves, Cullen powered up a snowbound train engine and collected Elam from Omaha, Nebraska. Imminently awaiting the birth of his first child, Elam was skeptical as always of Cullen’s offers, considering most people thought Bohannon was dead, or assumed that he was mad (jury's still out on that last one). The mission: Head to New York and claim his official promised title as Head Choo-Choo Honcho, only there was one problem. The senator behind this offer had failed to earn reelection, and so Grizzly Adams had to convince the hoity-toity stuffed shirts of the Credit Mobilier of America that the smelly man beneath nine generations of raccoon pelts could take their train into the future. Baths were had, furs were burned...


Jailbird Durant obviously refused to offer his recommendation, and instead took the opportunity to get inside Cullen’s head. In a rare moment of character examination, Durant deduced that Bohannon fostered doubts about his former protege's ability to take on such a huge responsibility. Aside from being evenly matched opponents, these two also know each other well enough to convey to we viewers their internal strengths and weaknesses. After successfully earning back his position with the railroad via the 1847 equivalent of a PowerPoint presentation (pointing at maps), Bohannon later confirmed Durant’s reading in a heart-to-heart with a Jesus Christ wall-hanging. You can do it, Bohannon! The reintroductions to Psalms (happy to work), Sean (Cullen’s accountant), Mickey (owner of a saloon and whorehouse), and Ruth (church-bringer) felt a little shoehorned in, but this was Bohannon’s episode, so that’s understandable. Another last-minute introduction came in railroad rival Collis Huntington (Timothy Guinee, Revolution) as head of the Central Pacific and a challenger to Bohannon’s progress. Don’t know a lot about this guy, but he sparkled in his few minutes on screen, so that’s a good thing.


The second episode/hour of the premiere, "Eminent Domain," benefitted from the table-setting of the first to deliver a more satisfying, self-contained story. New York Tribune reporter Louise Ellison (Jennifer Ferrin, The Following/The Cape) seems to be a new character to replace the feminine absence of Lily Bell, but also provided a nice narrative structure to the ensuing events. In her best Garrison Keillor, she was all, "And so the sun sets on another muddy day for the folks of Hell on Wheels, where the women are whores, the men are drunks, and the children are non-existent...Again, not enough here to go by—other than her getting walloped by the weird-ass redhead. We barely saw that guy because I think the show wanted us to think of the Swede, though it totally wasn't him. Yet and still, he WAS very creepy. Seriously, every time that gargantuan appeared on screen it felt like a scene out of a David Lynch film. This show thinks all tall people are weirdos! 

Non-tall person Elam dealt with working under chatty new police chief Dick Barlow (Matthew Glave), who was way too likable to survive the episode, while Cullen had his hands full with a stubborn Mormon family. He also had his hands full of ass with the father’s daughter. These Latter-Day Saints were none too pleased about having the railroad built through their land, and generally feisty because of pockets of national resentment toward their faith.  Last season was Native Americans, I guess this one’s Latter-Day Saints (with Native Americans probably appearing for good measure, probably). 

Down but not out, Durant is already rebuilding his empire by concocting schemes with investors via Credit Mobilier and paying off Sean McGinnes as a spy. Like most of the peripheral threads in this early start, there wasn’t much to this plot aside from a declaration of presence, but a great seed to plant. What this show could be! Intrigue and business double-crossings on one side of the tracks, shoot-outs on the other! Speaking of which, the main story with the homesteader Mormons succeeded as a miniature Western arc. Two opposing forces—the big and small—wanting the same thing. So continues the tug-of-war for Cullen’s soul. 

Certainly as a Southerner he can understand the wrongness of losing land at the hands of the government. And yet there are rules to be enforced, and at the end of the day Bohannon has his sights dead set on completing this railroad. The conflict only became personal when shots were fired by the Mormons, and the lovable Dick Barlow found his guts smelling like onion water. At Bohannon's command, an uppity son of the family hung for the crime, even though the dad probably did it and the kid took the fall to protect the family. Oh, historical Mormons!

There you have it: an at times jerky return, but a fun one at that. It looks to be a dense season, what with Cullen in charge. Seems like he has even more work cut out for him, basically running a town and a railroad, dealing with New York, Washington, and the Central Pacific—it's going to take more than gunslinging to handle these new problems.   

Not to mention the Swede... 

QUESTIONS:

– What did you think of Cullen and Elam’s trip to Copper territory?

– Would you let a dying man hold your newborn baby?

– Is Louise being positioned as a new love interest for Bohannon?

– What new problems of character will Cullen face?

– Is Durant more or less dangerous now?

– Are you excited about the inclusion of Mormons in this season?

– What is your favorite thing about Season 3 so far?

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 7/23/2016

Season 5 : Episode 14

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The Salt Lake Tribune got it exactly right. Hell on Wheels is a “big, lazy slap at Mormonism.” It’s not just a slap. It’s not just that it’s a big slap. It’s that it’s such a big and lazy slap. Lazy. Lazy. Lazy. Shamefully lazy. Embarrassingly Lazy. You couldn’t get any lazier if you just scripted The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and had Bohannon out rescuing captured Christian babies from blood-drinking Jews, and the writers’ only “historical” adjustment was that they put Amish hats on them and called them “Mormons.”

http://lrwhitney.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/amcs-heck-on-wheels-breaking-stupid/

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Great show, very glad it's back. That said, McGuinness betraying Cullen for a penniless Durant is utterly unbelievable. He knows Cullen would kill Durant of he could, knows Cullen holds power presently, was elevated to a position of trust by Cullen, and his interests lie with the success and stability of the railroad in current form. No realistic promise by again a penniless powerless Durant would make any sense. It's basically Durant saying "I have nothing, but if you betray a guy who trusts you and treats you well and make me king instead, I'll treat you better! But you'll have to take my word because unless you make me awesome via betrayal I don't have shit."

"Mmmm, I'm a conniving, clever Irishman ... SURE DURANT THAT DEAL SOUNDS TOTALLY REASONABLE, don't sweat not paying me either."

They could have taken a couple episodes or just had Cullen do something offensive to the twisty Irishman due to Cullen not wanting to be twisty himself, or really anything, to give a believable motive, instead of just "oh look there's a traitor harhar!"

Otherwise awesome!
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Man, that new sheriff guy was way too awesome. Too awesome to stick around. But dying or not, I wouldn't hand my baby over to him. Well, depends on the baby. As for the new lady love interest, I did not like her. And thank you for pointing out she played that horrible lady on The Following, now I know why I don't care for her. Anyway, this show is great, glad it is back. Can't wait for the Swede to come back!
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I was so gutted last year when they killed Lily - a character with such a gripping story arc and so much potential left to explore, I thought - that I started watching this S3 premiere with all the enthusiasm of a wilting lettuce.

This said I did enjoy this premiere to some extent. It was nice to see what was left of the cast again, and it was great to recapture the sense of new frontier adventure that had made me pay attention to this show in the first place. I loved how Cullen convinced the big shots to give him the job, I loved that Durant hasn't lost his edge and is still oozing scheming, calculated menace. I think it's Great that Elam is the new sheriff in town, as it were.

Mormons, oh yeah, because religious fanaticism will allow such great parallels with what's happening in the current.....zzzzzzzzz....oh dear, it looks like I dozed off. Seriously, I wish we could see more about native Americans and the impact the rail road had on them from their point of view. The show began to address the issue last year with Joseph Moon, but I think they could weave many more story lines around this rather than just have "Indians" referred to as a threat once in a while and have the odd attack delay construction.

I thought it was a shame they killed "Sock Coffee" sheriff so soon. I think such a moustache deserved longevity. Halas Hell on Wheel seems to make a habit of disposing of some of its more intriguing or likeable characters (Lily, The Swede) and keeping the annoying ones ( that church lady, whose name I can't even be bothered to remember.)

Now Louise - the obvious Lily replacement....well, I don't hate her. Sure she lacks Ms. McElligott's radiant charisma and looks (I gave up objectivity for lent) but there is something like a poor woman's Gillian Anderson air about Jennifer Ferrin, and that's never a bad thing. She is poised, clever and seems pretty tough - her black eye casts no shadow and she wears it well (insert cryptic song reference here). I'm not seeing much chemistry between her and Bohannon, but again I'm biased because I thought the power of the Lily/Cullen Ship could have powered a dozen train engines and send them hurtling across Indian territories without tracks, mowing down everything in its path, bisons, mormons et all. So, yeah, the Louise/Cullen Ship is going to be a hard sell for yours truly. But I always say that good story telling makes anything possible, so I'll wait and see.

But maybe at this stage the last thing Hell on Wheels need is a romantic story line. Maybe if it's best if the show sticks with what it does best: bromance, dirty hair and railroad politics.
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Really enjoy Hell on Wheels and was excited to see how Mormon's would be introduced to the show (as I am a Mormon and Mormon's were a big part of the West and the Railroad). I was rather disappointed with the portrayal, and yes I know it's a fictional show and needs an interesting plot, but their depiction of Mormons was really off.

First off, most, if not all Mormons would have been in the Salt Lake Valley and West of the Rockies by then, there may have been a few outliers back then that decided to stay put, but the active believers all headed to "Zion" or the Utah Territory at the time.

Second of all, in the show Mormons were depicted as being really against blacks...even more than regular white people. This is again false, as when Joseph Smith the founder of the religion lived in Nauvoo, Illinois he decided to run for President and ran on an anti-slavery platform. Many Blacks moved to Nauvoo to escape the south and found refuge with the Latter-Day Saints and some moved west with the Saints to Utah. Brigham Young was not as understanding towards the Blacks, and the church did adopt some "racist" views over time...but no more than the rest of the Country at the time, as you can see in the show everyone, even if they didn't support slavery, saw the Blacks as inferior and that carried on through a lot of the culture at the time.

Third, though many Mormon's did practice polygamy not all did...those that did were chosen through the leadership of the Church. Members did not just up an marry every woman that they could. Also, though the Mormon church is Male oriented in the leadership department...women were not subservient to the Men, they were equal strong partners, and there are many examples of strong pioneer women that were strong contributors to building of the West.

In short, I feel this depiction of Mormonism is a more skewed current view of the off shoot Warren Jeff's cult like Mormonism that is that is called Fundementalist Mormonism. This group is completely different from Mormonism, and completely different than the Mormons from the time period of Hell on Wheels. My only hope is this was just an "outlier" Mormon weirdo family and as they travel West will run into more "Mormons" that fit what was more like reality. I am not saying that there weren't weirdo Mormon's or Mormon's that did bad things back then...but the show really depicted them more like the Cultish, Scary Fundementalist Mormons than what they really were.
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“Had I anything to do with the negro, I would confine them by strict law to their own species...” - Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., January 2, 1845, History of the Church, v. 5, pp. 21-218

Joseph Smith calls blacks "niggers" in the Millennial Star:
"
http://www.mormonhandbook.com/storage/media/ms-v22-n38-p602.png


"Are the Mormons abolitionists?"
"No, unless delivering the people from priestcraft, and the priests from the power of Satan, should be considered abolition. But we do not believe in setting the negroes free." Joseph Smith - Mormonism founder
History of the Church 3:29


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This is so badly taken out of context. You cut off the begining and end on your first quote. Heres what it says: "change their situation with the whites, and they would be like them. They have souls, and are subjects of salvation. Go into Cincinnati or any city and find an educated negro who rides in his carriage and you will see a man who has risen by the powers of his own mind to his exalted state of repectability. Had I anything to do with the negro I would confine them by strict law to their own species and put them on a NATIONAL EQUALIZATION.

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Favorite thing ? So many but I think the Mormonette up against the barn wall with Cullen. How'd she get there? How'd the reporterette get there to peep ? And - poof - it was gone !

No I do not miss Lily. She had become super woman towards the end I tired of it.

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– What did you think of Cullen and Elam’s trip to Copper territory?

Oh how I wish those two shows would do a cross-over episode. I know they're about three years apart in time, but come on, AMC and BBC! Make it happen!

– Would you let a dying man hold your newborn baby?

In this case, yes. If he were having a convulsing seizure death, then no.

– Is Louise being positioned as a new love interest for Bohannon?

Ugh. Yes. I didn't like Lily very much as a character, and yet it's a good idea to give Bohannon a troubled relationship for dramatic purposes. Maybe Louise could fit that bill better than Lily ever did.

But right now she feels like an uncomfortably shoehorned Lily 2.0, like the writers think they made a mistake killing off Lily, or are covering for the actress leaving the show but still having to fill the role of "free-spirited love interest".

I also think this is one of those moments where we're going to wish the show were three episodes longer than what we're going to get.


– What new problems of character will Cullen face?

Louise's closing monologue already told us: the railroad's success takes a sleazy laissez-faire dirtbag who doesn't care about people, only profit and personal drive to leave a mark on history and the nation.

Bohannon is none of those things, but he's going to effectively start looking like he is before the season's over. This isn't the kind of uplifting tale where we see the character find a happy middle way.


– Is Durant more or less dangerous now?

More, because he took a clear heel turn. He's no longer conflicted, and has no mitigating circumstances (meaning Lily) to encourage good behavior. He's now officially "the villain" to replace the Swede.

– Are you excited about the inclusion of Mormons in this season?

Yes and no. This episode adequately addressed their westward expansion due to persecution, and their complicated relationship with accepted American moral norms, as well as their (as Ruth put it) violent tendencies and the historically accurate (and still prevalent) view amongst other Christians that Mormons are not properly "Christians" and thus can't expect community support from those circles.

All that makes a great stew for drama and tension. But while I'm not a Mormon nor, all things taken into consideration, a sympathizer with their historical reality, I'm worried that they aren't going to get a fair shake here as a people. By making the Mormon dad a bad guy, the Mormon son a willing dupe, the Mormon daughter a moral hypocrite, and the other Mormon women essentially cowards who let an innocent man-boy be executed, we're seeing only the worst side of humanity in them.

Of course people really do those things, but will there be a sensible, non-crazy or non-stupid Mormon character at any point? There should be, if the writers plan to carry on with Mormons front and center. Not for PC sensitivity reasons, but because it would be historically inaccurate to portray them all as irrational cultist agitators, all the time.


– What is your favorite thing about Season 3 so far?

Wolf Punch. Also how they worked in Elam and Bohannon getting in another fist fight. Boy do those two love their fist fights.

As far as character, I like that Bohannon has grown into a competent railroad man (and not just a security guard or pit boss), Eva's inevitable job as camp doctor, and the refreshing return of Psalms, whom they better not kill, or else.
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I know people are tired of hearing it, but the show wasn't the same without Lily. She was such a huge part of the storyline, it seemed like it was missing her presence in so may ways. The new woman seemed like she was only there as a "replacement" for Lily, and it didn't work for me. It seemed forced and was too soon to introduce her to the show. I've watched HOW since day one and hope to continue watching. I didn't enjoy the opener as much as the rest of the comments did, but will hope for the best.
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I'm a little upset they brought on the sheriff only to kill him off. He was very likeable in his brief time on screen. He also had an awesome mustache.
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interesting point, I wondered about the new female journalist, back in times like this WAY TO Dangerous, did anyone else think that the set looked too new? not authentic IMO. I love this show and thought it was a great start, loved Cullen and Elam in their Sunday Bests
It will take someone way more interesting than Louise Ellison (Jennifer Ferrin) to replace Lily Belle
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the set was flooded and had to be rebuilt
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First of all, I really like Westerns and have watched the last two of this one. But one this bugs me. A female reporter in 1867??? This is not historically correct. Women did not have positions like that in the post Civil War era. There are such good elements presented in this series. But, it's like an eighteenth century drama with a 21st century twist. If someone has data which counters mine, share it. But be really specific. Thank you!
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I'd read that they're basing her character on Nellie Bly. So, as such, they're about 20 years too early -- Bly's career was in the late 1880s. But at least they've got a basis from the 19th century.
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Staff
Nice detective work. Seems like between this, and a precedent for female "society reporters" around this actual time, I'm willing to believe Louise Ellison could exist, at least fictionally.
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Cullen: "And here I stand and here he (Durant) don't".

Is Durant more or less dangerous now?

MORE! definitely more, because that's how it is with someone who has nothing left to lose (which I'm almost sure is the case with Durant).

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Why is Cullan bleeding anyway? did I miss something?
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Wolf attack at the beginning
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The characters are flawed just like America. Peoples rights keep getting trampled on just like America. At the end of the day we come up against the fundamental contradictions of the human spirit which is why it is such a compelling show - sorry i cant be more specific but I think people will figure it out!
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I liked it, there were a few muddled parts, but overall it was really good. I hope the ratings are good, because its a good thing to have a great show on a saturady night
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I got into this show thnx to Netflix! I can't believe I didn't watch this show from the start! Love it and loved the season 3 premier!
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Oh how I've missed me some HOW! They did kinda spark it up quick ep. 1 but that was fine by me. It was a quick refresher to jump back into the mosh pit of hell type stuff. Just what I needed to butter me up for my Sunday nights leading into fall and football!
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A good TV show on saturday????? WOOOOOOWWWWWW... i love it... now i can go to sleep early on sunday and not stay up till 4am watching all the sunday shows and be late to work the next day....
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bohanon should suffer and not have another love interest unless she also gets killed, i mean thats what hes about aparently
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Pleased to have a third season. Lily Bell is much missed.
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Great return. Lost in all the Breaking Bad/Low Winter Sun hype, I'm really glad this show is back. The "uneven"ness and "lack of character exploration" didn't really bother me here. We know the characters, we just needed to be reintroduced to them as they all came back to Hell on Wheels. The character exploration can happen now that they're all back together again and we can move on with the story. Excited to see where this season goes
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