Hell on Wheels: Any Sum Within Reason (Review)


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 Mannhas 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.

Angela Zhou as Mei Fong

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.”

Byron Mann as Chang

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.



Hell on Wheels: 61 Degrees – Explosive Consequences (Review)


Hell on Wheels this week sees the day after Cullen’s reuniting  with Mei last week and Durant connecting with Maggie. Bohannon and his lover are closer than ever and Doc proposes to the hotelier.  “61 degrees” is about nitroglycerin and  “safe” temperatures where one can use the unstable explosive without deadly consequences.  Bohannon has to force his old friend Strobridge  to mix the stuff up and Jim warns that many will die as a result.

The ranchers gang up on Durant demanding their money back. Maggie opens the company  safe and Doc gets a smack in the mouth with a gun barrel. The safe is empty and the angry land owners give the magnate a limited amount of time to get the money.

At the tunnel, after a successful first attempt,  some workers die when one of the canisters fails to explode. A man grabs the “dud” and it explodes in his hand killing two Chinese laborers and knocking Cullen and “Fong” to the ground.

Jim Strobridge (Reg Rogersrefuses to continue with the dangerous explosive after Bohannon says that he and Collis can personally check for misfires. It costs Cullen’s friend his job. Eva manages get that white horse she spied earlier.

Durant devises a scheme to get more money. He gets Mickey to set up his kidnapping and the money that the railroad pays will pay the ranchers and Mickey. (So much for going legitimate eh?) The saloon owner and new shares owner gets his psychotic  pal Shea (played by Andrew Howard who specializes in deadly nutters) to do the deed.

Bohannon mixes the next batch of nitro with Mei and he gets caught up in the power of what he is doing. The two have rushed sex on the same table the explosive is on. This was almost as dangerous as the game they are playing where no one, apart from Cullen and one Chinese prostitute, know that Fong is a woman.

If Mr. Chang (Byron Mann) learns of the deception,  Mei could be the thing that finally gets Cullen killed.

Bohannon asks his friend to reconsider and when he refuses is forced to move out of the carriage car with his family and belongings by Huntington (Tim Guinee).  (A sad scene where  Strobridge’s daughter, who clearly worshipped the ground that Bohannon walked on is devastated that her hero can be so cruel. Cullen is also upset at this turn of events.)

Another canister fails to explode and Cullen learns he has to drill and place another charge next to the dud. Mei helps him and the explosion takes Bohannon and his crew through to the team on the other side.

Colm Meany as Thomas ‘Doc’ Durant

Dandy Johnny breaks into Durant’s private car where Louise (Jennifer Ferrin) waits for a quote from Durant. Shea pistol whips the newspaper owner. Martin intervenes and dies for his trouble. The kidnapper starts to shoot Louise and Durant shouts at him to stop. “It’s me you want, take me.” 

Chang almost catches Fong,  as Mei, (she is with Cullen)  and the Chinese businessman is now suspicious.

Looking at next week’s preview it looks to be mostly about Durant’s kidnapping and less about Bohannon’s rush to finish the railroad.  With the introduction of the nitroglycerin and the fact that Mei and Cullen are getting careless, it is all too easy to see Bohannon dead before  the series ends.

What do you think? Will Cullen’s injury combined with his rushing to finish the railroad mean his demise?

Hell on Wheels airs Saturdays on AMC.

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