Last week Hell on Wheels saw the death of Maggie Palmer and the ultimate fate of Doc Durant. In “Any Sum Within Reason” there is more death, betrayal and heartbreak. Chang (Byron Mann) has finally worked out who Fong (Angela Zhou) is. This sets the ball rolling for the episode.
We also learn that Collis Huntington (Tim Guinee) might do business with the devil himself but still deny him ad space in the newspaper.
Mei is betrayed by not one but two people in this episode. Wei Ling (Jennifer Lim) is the first to sell Fong out. Bohannon works this out when he sees the prostitute wearing Mei’s mother’s dress. The second to betray Mei is the stagecoach driver (based on a real character) Stagecoach Mary, played by Amber Chardae Robinson.
Before Mary allows Chang’s thugs access to the stage, Cullen first decides to send her to Maggie Palmer for safe keeping. He arranges the stage journey and does not admit to loving Mei before she departs.
Later, after the stage is stopped by Chang’s men, Mei escapes and sends a telegraph to Cullen telling him that Chang attacked the stage. Bohannon takes off and arrives shortly after Chang starts his search of the mining town.
The climax takes place in the town’s deserted saloon and the first thing Cullen does is shoot Chang. He then goes after five of the dead man’s men. It is cold, brutal and efficient.
Back at Truckee, Mei offers her betrayer a chance to leave the town and Ling refuses. Bohannon and she return to his room.
Mei confesses her feelings for Cullen and the two make love. Afterward she goes out on the balcony and sees the General that Chang worked for arriving. Bohannon meets with Chang’s boss and when the delegation leave, Collis asks if Cullen killed Chang. He does not reply.
Returning to his room, he finds Mei gone. The episode ends with Mei Fong on the ship to the Convent.
Any Sum Within Reason is almost a “part two” to the “I am Thor Gundersen” episode. Chang, like “The Swede” has been an obstacle to Bohannon for quite some time. Both men refusing to give into the other while Chang worked to find a weakness in Cullen. Ultimately it was the Chinese opium dealer and pimp who underestimated Bohannon and he pays the price.
Bohannon is nearing breaking point. His appearance has gotten shabby and he looks tired. This episode revealed much about Chang and Wei Ling before the railroad and Truckee. It also provided more insight into Cullen.
The man is good at dispensing death. A fact that he is not proud of, but he owns it. He is confident in this deadly skill and after he efficiently takes out the five Chang thugs he tells Mei, “Now you know that side of me.”
His tone is quiet and sad. This is not too dissimilar to his reaction to Thor Gundersen’s death. Another thing that he tells Mei is that he let everything he loved go. Ironically, the one person that he struggles to keep leaves.
Cullen Bohannon is a man full of regrets and is ashamed of some things he as done. He proves this when admitting to Mei that he kept slaves.
The relationship with Fong, a lot like Bohannon, was doomed from the start. Cullen Bohannan is a man caught up in the time of the railroad. The epic journey of connecting both coasts in the US has brought out the best and the worst in the man.
It is all too likely that when this mammoth task is complete Bohannon may just slide back into some sour and sad obscurity. In some ways Cullen is a spiritual twin to the Tom Doniphon character in John Ford’s classic film “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.”
In that film Doniphon (John Wayne) has a specific purpose. Once he has fulfilled his task, and in the process loses everything, he dies a lonely old man. Penniless and friendless and forgotten.
One gets the feeling that Cullen Bohannon faces the same end.
Anson Mount will be back as Bohannon for two more episodes in this final season. Hell on Wheels airs Saturdays on AMC. Check out this excellent western offering if you have not already.