Things are finishing up as the two lines converge on Ogden, Utah for the win. Hell On Wheels, in this penultimate episode of its final season, sees the railroad men facing a setting sun. The project is over and Cullen has lost Mei. He also has deep scars that will never heal, not just the shattered bullet fragments in his leg, but emotional scarring this strong man will carry to the end of his days.
If nothing else. this episode proved once and for all that Durant (Colm Meaney) is a despicable egoist. His seedy end has been seen already in “Gambit.” The man is, as Collis Huntington (Tim Guinee) points out, mad. Durant has reached the point where winning is all, regardless of whether it is true or not.
The start of the episode sees Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) and Mickey (Phil Burke) losing half their workforce. While the men work for opposing sides, Bohannon for Huntington and McGinnes for Durant, they team up to track down the missing men.
They have been poached by a mine owner called “The Pirate.” The poacher turns out to be Cullen’s old friend James Strobridge (Phil Burke). The man fired by Collis when he refused to use the nitro earlier. His wife has returned to the east and Strobridge is on his own.
Mickey talks his workers into returning to work, but the Chinese workers refuse. Bohannon does not give up and continues to work toward beating Durant to Ogden.
In the morning Mr. Lee brings the Chinese workforce back to finish what they started. The work starts in earnest as Cullen tries to make 10 miles in one day. As usual, he swings a hammer along with his men.
Durant pushes his men to cheat, only putting in half the spikes needed in order to beat Bohannon. As he gives one last final order to his men, urging them to get him there first, half his workers walk off. Lead by Psalms (Dohn Norwood) the men join Bohannon allowing his side to reach the finish line first.
Somewhat tellingly, Thomas Durant only grabs a hammer to use after he loses half his workers and then only works at the back. Cullen Bohannon leads his men, hammering at the front. These actions point out the difference between the two railroad men.
Bohannon leads by example and with his forthright actions. Durant manipulates from the rear, orchestrating what he wants rather than sweating for it. Unsurprisingly he spares no thought for Mary who died in his arms after the failed kidnapping.
At the days end, after Huntington and Bohannon win, Cullen sees the box that Mei left behind. Opening the lid and seeing it empty, breaks something in the big man and he thrashes on the floor sobbing. It could be that the combination of his loss and the sun setting on the huge task he has been on have taken a toll.
Next week looks to be a time of reckoning for Durant and Cullen is apparently called to testify. It seems that Bohannon is back in uniform, this time a blue one, and it will be interesting to see what the railroad man will do next.
Cullen Bohannon has been on a long journey through the four seasons of Hell on Wheels. He began by looking for revenge and this turned into a devotion to finishing the railroad. Later this became a concerted effort to beat Durant. Along the way he fought various foes and had a fairly downbeat love life.
Bohannon is wounded and no doubt exhausted now that his epic task is done. The season finale will, hopefully, lead this character into a life with less strife.
The final episode of Hell on Wheels airs next Sunday (24 July 2016) on AMC. Tune in and see what happens to Cullen next.