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Hell on Wheels S04E01: "The Elusive Eden"

I mean, the best part of Hell on Wheels' Season 4 premiere was obviously when Cullen helped his Mormon wife Naomi have a baby while his midwife mother-in-law sang all creepy like, and then the Bishop burst in and shouted in tongues. Bringing a life into this world is already very chaotic, what with the lamaze and various fluids spilling hither and thither, not to mention the high-level feels involved between the parties who created the child. Imagine your dear wife is giving birth, and the two of you are clutching hands all meaningful like, and then your religious leader is in there babbling away about literally God knows what. But “The Elusive Eden” wasn’t all about baby-making, so let’s check in with the various inhabitants of Hell on Wheels and see what they’re up to as we steam ahead into Season 4.


“Whoever you are, you better shoot to kill.”

Cullen’s been biding his time at the Mormon Fort Smith, kind of being held captive but also kind of doing the honorable thing as a man and sticking around for his baby. Life’s not so great for him at the moment; the former farmer/soldier/railman spends his days doing manual labor and receiving the cold shoulder from most everyone. Turns out Mormon dads hate it when you hang their sons AND knock up their daughters. No wonder he was seeking out information on the comings and goings of Cheyenne! However, his instinct to hightail it is tempered by a concern for Naomi and his child. Should Cullen leave, his seasoned nemesis Bishop "The Swede" Dutson would be free to influence Cullen’s own flesh and blood however the psychopath sees fit. On top of that, the child would be raised as a secret—presented as Naomi's brother—and Cullen's legacy would be swept under the table. It’s all in keeping Cullen's character struggle between chasing that elusive railroad and settling down with the consequences of his choices. And in the meantime, he’s game to toy with the Swede’s head, showing us he's still got a mischievous streak.


"[indecipherable babbling]"

Assuming the identity of the real Bishop Dutson last season, the Swede is living pretty high on the Mormon hog over at Fort Smith. He’s dramatic enough that he's been able to convince his whole congregation that he speaks to God, and the whole congregation is faithful enough to do his bidding. Also he’s very good about walking around with his hands clasped behind his back, like a thoughtful man of the cloth. Only Cullen knows his secret, but admitting that would make the Swede's whole identity assumption fall apart. These Mormons aren't the forgiving kind, either. 

The Swede is quite obsessed with keeping Cullen captive under the pretense of salvation, while also insinuating himself into Cullen’s newly formed family. He’s kind of like one of those annoying types who picks up on something you may want and then gets it for himself as a way of mental one-upsmanship. Something about this guy just loves getting inside Cullen’s head and ruining his happiness. I think he’s just a lonely hater.  


“The eyes of the world are upon me as I stand on the verge of ruin.”

After reclaiming a power position on the Union Pacific, Durant’s right back to equal parts scheming and screwing up. He started things off by sinking a train and his ambition into the Crow River then held a sham auction in cahoots with Mayor Mickey McGinnes in order to drum up some cash. Proud as ever, he’s not willing to give up his control of the railroad, even as the federal government prepares to send over some new bosses. He also lost an ally in Maggie Palmer, the richest woman in Cheyenne, who saw right through Durant’s schemes and booted him out of her hotel. Thomas Durant is nothing if not a conniver who routinely surprises with a cockroach-esque will to thrive. But he also needs to watch out for his chief railroad engineer’s wife, who suspects him of killing her father.  


“All women are whores by nature, supposing except for me mum.”

As a mayor, this guy makes Rob Ford look like a girl scout. After killing his own brother to cover up a gainful murder for Durant, Mickey’s now got his American dream of power and wealth, part of which he’s using to take pity on Eva. Mostly he wants Eva to turn tricks again, and he seemed genuinely affected when Durant’s ex-business partner called him a “flunky.” He may have legitimacy on the outside, but Mickey’s got a ways to go if he wants to shake off the shady tendencies that got him where he is today. Much like Cullen had to step up his gentlemanliness at one point, Mickey can start by keeping his wandering Irish hands out of Eva’s bathwater.    


“It’s either this or go back to whoring.”

The former prostitute and ex-wife of Elam spent her time in the muck still reeling from giving away Elam’s baby and his love. Now working as a sort of whorehouse maid to Mayor Mickey’s brothel, she suffered what I think we can assume was a sexual assault among the whore-linens from a large town brute, reminding us all of how unsettled this settlement still is. So mainly she’s having a terrible time on her own, heartbroken in the absence of Elam—who we last saw left for dead following a real bear of a bear attack.   


"I know how much that railroad means to you."

No, your eyes aren't going bad, the part of Naomi has been taken over by Mackenzie Porter, following schedule conflicts with former Naomi portrayer Siobhan Williams. A pawn in a game of Mormon Power Chess, Naomi seems curious as to the life Cullen could give her outside of the compound walls. She's still aware, of course, that her husband married her to save his own skin—but she has yet to see the side of Cullen we know, the one that's sacrificing and heroic. Either way, stepping into Cullen's family puts her at risk with the Swede, who is always dead-set on messing up any kind of happiness his nemesis Cullen might find, and with a Snidely Whiplash level of dedication. 


“Mistakes were made, but order was restored.”

Speaking of mustachioed characters, carpetbagger John Campbell (Jake Weber, Medium) comes highly recommended from Ulysses S. Grant. He's been appointed as provisional governor to Cheyenne along with his shifty cronies, and following some sort of mess in Atlanta—where it was implied he got a tad too ruthless—this firm-spoken gentleman seems pretty confident that his ominous methods will establish a line of power directly to the federal government. Will he team up with Durant? Will he be stabbed in the train yards? Only time will tell!


And that about does it for the good kindly folks of Hell on Wheels as we embark on another season. What were your favorite parts of "The Elusive Eden"? What plots are you most excited to see take shape? Who will win in this Game of Railroads?


Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 2/2/2017

Season 16 : Episode 16

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Anson Mount, what a hunk, a sensitive hunk. Eve needs more spunk, should have with all she's been through. Anson's new wife is spineless, albeit she's young and the newspaper woman should have more of a presence. I'm all hopin;' for Snidely Whiplash to meet his end; truly he's the Devil incarnate.
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Liked the premiere. I love this show and want it to stay! Elam has to come back. There are creative ways to bring back Lilly. Technically we saw him carry her. Then we saw him having flashbacks/ nightmares in the train while he was alone, hallucinating, and freezing. Good creative writers could find a way. She was incredible on the show and no one will ever fill that void but her. Love Eva and Mickey as well. So will Declan be riding back with that baby before before Elam is done getting nursed back to his hot self? Or Will Eva snap out of it and go get her?
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I want to punch The Swede in his face! Either that or rip off his beard hair by hair. I absolutely love to hate him and I think his demise has to be this season. However not by Cullen I want the Mormons to find out he is a fraud and hang him! Oh and please have Elam come back!
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Common misses his calling and I think being mauled to death by a bear is a noble end.
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I am very hesitant to continue with season four. I have not watched this episode yet. Perhaps I will slowly forget about this series after investing three seasons of my time.

It had a good season one and it was all downhill from there.They made a lot of stupid decision like killing Lily. The Swede is alive and still the villain till now. He should had been dead two seasons ago. He is like the governor from TWD but at least TWD finally killed him off.

I still cannot get over the fact it seems Cullen had forgotten about avenging his wife and son's death since killing the wrong man at the end of season one. They made such a big deal of it in season one.

I was looking forward and waiting for some progress on the story in season two and three but I think the writers already forgotten about it.
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"I still cannot get over the fact it seems Cullen had forgotten about avenging his wife and son's death since killing the wrong man at the end of season one. They made such a big deal of it in season one."

I suggest that before condemning the show after the 1st season, you actually WATCH the other seasons to get a clue on why Cullen has buried his families death..... oh, its till there... just under the surface waiting to explode. Just wait until Campbell threatens Cullen & his new family... oh and YES, that is going to eventually happen, mark my words...

and I strongly disagree with you. This show has gotten nothing but BETTER AND BETTER with every Season, and Season 4 looks like its going to be the best one yet...
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Mickey's bidding skills were off the charts!! and hope they find Elam.
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I thought it was a great episode. Love this show and the historic tie ins.
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I love the show :-))
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It seems like a prevailing opinion that this episode was boring and I have to say, I don't agree. Now I will say that it was a bit understated as a season premiere but I have to disagree that it was boring. I think that they might purposely have layered this episode between old and new characters but it seems like they did that so that when we do have a few returning familiar faces (Elam, Louise, Ruth, Ezra) then they will have a greater impact with their return. Campbell has an entire set of "flunkies" at his side when he comes into HoW and I think there are a lot of story opportunities with that. The only problem I have with the Swede is that he seems far too willing to respond to Cullen's goading when people could show up at any time and catch him revealing himself. I halfway expected that when Cullen and Thor were talking at the wagon, just before the Bishop had them close the gates.

I guess time will tell if they writers have this on track.
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I've always had mixed feelings about HoW. It's like a bipolar TV show.

On one hand it clearly is a cable show with everything that goes with it. The sets, costumes, and landscapes look great. The actors perform well and the show doesn't shy away from difficult topics and visuals.

But on the other hand the plot is somehow aimless. It difficult to describe, but I feel like it's very hard to form a connection to the characters. Each week an episode passes by, things happen, small things and bigger things, but in the end they are just small interactions between people seemingly not connected to a bigger plan. The whole show is a description of how the railroad was built, which in itself is fine, but somehow the individual episodes just lack depth.

It's like the writers are struggling to come up with truly clever ideas for how to move the story forward, so they come up with different random events for each weeks, like missions for Cullen to complete, just to add content to the show. And now one of these storylines has gotten him stuck in a Mormon fort because he happened to knock up a minor. Is that really the one to be chosen out of all options for stories? I assume that the show is supposed to end when the railroad is finished, that's what the show is aiming for, but the plan for how to get there is unclear. The premise of the show is good, but the execution rings hollow.
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Indian raids are always exciting if not bloody. The diminishing tribes are facing an ever-more menacing onslaught of men and metal armed with rifles and dynamite. Big explosions and watching train crews plant ties to hold the snaking rails through desert and mountains. The sound of a lonesome train whistle. That turns me on!
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I totally agree. It had a good season one and it was all downhill from there.They made a lot of stupid decision like killing Lily and The Swede is still the villain till now. He should had been dead two season ago. I am very hesitant to continue with season four.

I still cannot get over the fact it seems Cullen had forgotten about avenging his wife and son's death since killing the wrong man at the end of season one. They made such a big deal of it in season one.

I was looking forward and waiting for some progress on the story in season two and three but I think the writers already forgotten about it.
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"I still cannot get over the fact it seems Cullen had forgotten about avenging his wife and son's death since killing the wrong man at the end of season one. They made such a big deal of it in season one."

You do not have to post your drivel twice.

I suggest that before condemning the show after the 1st season, you actually WATCH the other seasons to get a clue on why Cullen has buried his families death..... oh, its till there... just under the surface waiting to explode. Just wait until Campbell threatens Cullen & his new family... oh and YES, that is going to eventually happen, mark my words...

and I strongly disagree with you. This show has gotten nothing but BETTER AND BETTER with every Season, and Season 4 looks like its going to be the best one yet...
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I actually watched all three seasons. I just have not started on the fourth. Unless we are not watching the same show, I have not seen what you mentioned.
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With Bohannon leaving the mormon fort, now the show at least has a chance to become good again. They've never been shy about giving us filler episodes so I hope that changes too.
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If HOW gets another season I'll eat my cat.
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I fear for your feline.
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agreed 100%. especially with the thing about how this mormon fort arc got chosen out of other options that may have proven infinitely more interesting. we're stuck on stupid now, and if the writers have to spend the rest of the season writing their way out, i'll wait for the movie. even if there never is one.
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Why are you watching, if you don't like the show? Please don't eat your cat, because this show is staying on or I'm a gonna raise some Hell.
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if I didnt like the show I wouldnt have watched every episode since the series premiere. I also would never have called it a great show. You should take the time to try to understand what youre reading. Last season was mediocre. The season finale was lame, and this season's premiere was lame. A great show can become lame or have a few lame episodes. Thats why shows get cancelled, but every cancelled show is liked by some people. I said specifcally that the show has taken a turn for the stupid, with this "mormon" arc that they already wasted enough time on. If they continue on the path theyre on, this seaon will be just like the last. If I need advice on what to watch, I'll let you know.
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I agree. I loved the first season. I still continue with season two and three hoping it will get better but it did not. Season three was the final straw. I was considering to watch season four but till now had no motivation to do it yet.
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Gotta disagree with everything you have posted so far.

Last season was good, not mediocre..

The Old West cant be played out like some new fangled video game...... Get into the characters and the setting..... and try to forget Star Wars for a bit
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"Imagine your dear wife is giving birth, and the two of you are clutching hands all meaningful like, and then your religious leader is in there babbling away about literally God knows what." - you just described MY birth...and I turned out fine....just fine


"[indecipherable babbling]" - I understood every word!. He was giving sound medical advice. He saved Cullens child! ALL HAIL THE SWEDE! THE SWEDE IS GOOD!

Durant - I can't see the profits from that auction covering the loss of a train, materials or the extra cost of the obvious rerouting of track/building a bridge

Eva - her plot just made me think Elam will be coming back


Naomi - I think she will leave with Cullen....and the Swede will kill her by the end of the season


John Campbell - finally a villain with a proper mustache ( I wonder if he will twiddle it when he is plotting? )
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Oh I do hope there is twiddling! Do you miss John Campbell as Micah from The Following? ;)
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No, I don't miss the hippie ;-)

However, we know where he got the inspiration for the facial hair
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Aaaahhhh The Beard #neverforget!
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Re: Naomi -- This show really misses Dominique McElligott too much. Her absence has been felt since her departure. They can't do the same story twice can they?


As far as I know, Common is still in the cast on this show so Elam has to be coming back at some point. Maybe Psalms will find him.

More Eva please - Robin McLeavy is so good in that role. Writers are so mean to her and she just crushes every story they send her way.


'The Swede' does rule doesn't he? If I was on TV I would want my character to be named 'Thor Gundersen'. Chris Heyerdahl plays a lot of good characters on TV but this one is my favorite.

Love 'Maggie Palmer' being a pain in Durant's ass. - she may be my 2nd favorite character behind Eva.

This show has a damn good cast and has done something most period dramas never do - made it to a fourth season. How can this show bore people?

GET CULLEN OUT OF THE FORT!

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Elam will come back to town WITH the bear!
They will have bonded and formed a partnership, the likes of which the world has never seen!

Oh, and..

KEEP CULLEN IN THE FORT!
It means more Swede time :-)
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'Elam and The Bear', except instead of a chimpanzee, its an actual bear... yeah that would be kind of AWESOME..... but completely out of place for this show. Please show, Please let him have tamed the bear and bring it back to camp.


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How about Elam wearing the bear and saying he has become his spirit animal?!
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I didnt enjoy this episode it was boring , and the last season wasnt that good , it seems this season is going to be the same
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I'm afraid you hit the nail on the head.
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I have a feeling Elam will be returning. After spending the off season healing with native Americans that respect him for his one on one encounter with the bear. The final standoff between Cullen and the Swede will take place this season, but not until the end. First Cullen will have to be brazen and ride out the front gates with his family, getting them to safety. Not that Cheyenne is an appropriate place to raise a family...
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Bring back Elam!!!
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Elam's name came up last episode so I'm keeping hope that Elam will be back! And the damn Swede isn't dead? I'm sick of the Swede. Maybe the 'boy' will somehow recognize the Swede and call him out for everything he (the boy) witnessed. THE SWEDE NEEDS TO DIE. Will it be by the Mormon's hand or someone else?
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I hope Elam isn't dead; Eva said he was. I agree, this was a boring premier. It has got to get better.
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They need to do more than that. The lack of Elam is only part of the problem.
Hell on Wheels was a great show, but its clearly taken a turn for the stupid and awfully boring. All that bishop Swede crap is totally uninteresting and not at all credible. Its so stupid its impossible to play along with.
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I liked the tension between Cullen and the Swede. Looks like Cullen is setting up to blast his way out of hell. Durant as usual incurs the hate of everyone, but John Campbell may just give him a run for his money. Eva is living in her own personal hell and who knows what has happened to Elam.
Ms. Porter brings a maturity to the role of Naomi. Mickey seems to be a shady guy with a nagging conscience, and a little bit of lust for Eva. Many of the characters are starting off this season in their own personal hell, it should be interesting when all hell breaks loose.
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Thanks or the review! I did not see the whole episode--about half--but honestly was a bit bored. Hopefully Cullen will give the Swede what he deserves next week and get the heck out of there. It will be interesting to see if wife and baby actually go with him when he leaves. Where is Elam? I hope he comes back!
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