Hell on Wheels Review: Shoot 'Em Up

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Hell on Wheels continues to roll along at a steady pace, but I'm sometimes still left wondering: where are we going?

I know the railroad construction is complete when they reach the Pacific, so that's a type of endgame, but what's the season arc beyond each singular episode? I know there's little bits that overlap, but I guess I'm still waiting for that larger story reveal.

In fact, season two has barely touched upon one of the driving forces of the freshman season: finding Bohannon's family's killers. Will we ever get back to that? 

My concerns aside, "The Railroad Job" was a satisfyingly action-packed episode that really captured the gun toting, quick shooting, stick 'em up showdown of any Western. I'm just surprised I didn't see a tumbleweed bounce past all the fighting fray.

If anything, season two has amped up the action week to week from train robberies, impressively filmed giant mob fisticuffs, and now a great gun battle through the streets (can you call mud pathways, streets?). There's something classically cool about watching characters like Bohannon ride his horse and fire his weapon at whatever "bad guy" that wants to cause trouble.

Cullen's Past

Similarly, it was a good call back to the premiere by reintroducing Bohannon's robbery crew while having them easily snagging the money. Granted, their escape plan didn't work out too well, but the lengthy exchange of bullets - whether hiding behind windows, up on the roofs or stepping out onto the porch - was a fantastic visual set up of all the commotion.

The payoff of the gunfight wouldn't have been nearly as exciting without the tense anticipatory lull before the storm. As a viewer, we all knew it was coming up, but never knew when the first gun would be drawn. The confrontation between Ferguson and one of the robbers in the bar looked to be the potential start and I was waiting for Ferguson to draw and blow him away. Even at the very beginning of the episode, those great shots of the robber walking around town and all you can see is the hat being followed by the camera worked to set the stage of what was to come.

I've got to hand it to director Michael Nankin and cinematographer Marvin Rush for a combination of solid pacing and cinematic shots. Whether it was the camera spinning around Bohannon or stationary while capturing the faint orange glow of the sun on the horizon, the picturesque visuals added to the swift action taking place.

Of course, watching Bohannon calmly reload while smoothly walking towards his former partner to shoot him was just another example of his character being a bad ass. Let's be honest, Bohannon is one of the coolest characters on TV.

While the action was top notch, the episode also continued to lay certain seeds of future potential for the characters.

Despite his continued team-ups with Bohannon, Ferguson is slowly recognizing he's a man all on his own. He's not helping Eva, the white people think he's a coward, the freed men who sort of take him back have constantly berated him, and Durant would much rather have Bohannon fix problems than leave it to Ferguson. To top it off, he's got no problem killing people whether it's a prostitute murderer or shooting the robber in the head. He's bound to have it out for Bohannon at some point, right?

I was certainly surprised that Durant got shot and he wasn't magically fixed at episode's end, although I'm still waiting for his miracle recovery in the future. I know he won't die, but it would be interesting if he couldn't walk or wasn't fully recovered when he comes back to Hell on Wheels. It would certainly illustrate that no one, not even people in power, are safe in the so called uncharted lands of railroad building. How will that injury change the man and his outlook on people, on life?

But the ever lying in wait Swede proved to be the most engrossing and intriguing. What is he trying to do? He stole all those weapons, he's been trying to coerce the Reverend into helping him. He's such a crafty character that I can't wait to see him take action instead of hiding out on the outskirts.

Can you believe the Reverend no longer has his crazy wild flowing beard? He looks like a completely different person, but is he? Can he be? Will he actually help the Swede?

On some level it seems hard for the characters to escape who they truly are (the McGinnes brothers looked worried when Ferguson called them killers), and certainly Doc being sentenced to execution because of his association with the robbers could prove to be interesting. After all, we know there's no way Bohannon can just sit by.

I still may have no clue as to where the show is headed, but once again, Hell on Wheels provided a truly entertaining episode. Who doesn't like watching a good old fashioned Western shootout? And did anyone notice that both Bohannon and Ferguson smiled this episode? That's certainly one for the record books.

What did you think of the episode? Are you enjoying this season? What is the Swede up to? Sound off below with your comments, questions and theories!


Editor Rating: 4.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (33 Votes)

Sean McKenna is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.


I love this show I have they given the chance so we can get more into it.. instead of giving up on it two seasons in I think it has such potential as being a really great show ..... can only pray


Confused about the race to the Pacific. Aren't they meeting another train crew building *from* the Pacific? What about Promontory Point? Or is this the little engine that failed? Otherwise, love the show. Love sexy Bohannon and the creepy Swede. Love Common. And Eva. Good characters all. I hope the writers drop a better story arc from their fingers so I can continue to love them.


And once again we got a glimpse into the odd relationship between Lili and Thomas Durant. She's sleeping with him, seems genuinely distraught over his being shot, but confesses to Cullen she felt ashamed for briefly hoping Durant would die. Was it because of Durant's reply to her concern about what would happen to her after the railroad was finished? Was she expecting him to say that he would leave his wife for her? And does she really want that to happen? It's really hard to figure how much of that relationship is Lili feeling she owes Durant a debt of gratitude and how much of it is based on real feelings. And as for her and Cullen, I don't know what the hell is going on there. In the previews, Lili appeared to be furious at him for apparently talking to her in a way she wasn't use to. There seems to be a real love-hate relationship going on between those two.


While many of us are enjoying it, I doubt it gets a third season because frankly the ratings are terrible... So I hope it wraps somehow... I think with Durant on the shelf, Lily will eventually bed Bohannon


What other show has a train robbing, long haired, never smiling, I'll kill anybody and have sex with the rest as he hero of the show? I agree, lost site of his original cause and cinimitography is great.


I have a feeling the Swede is going to have the Reverend arm the Sioux with the guns he stole, he knows the reverend is against the railroad bulldozing through their lands. Lots of trouble ahead for Bohannan and crew.


WOW! A great show last night. I didn't expect Furgeson to shoot the robber at the grave site and loved the quip by Bohannan: "He didn't get to finish his last words." haha Looks like Durant will be in a wheelchair sometime soon. And I didn't know he was bedding the blonde. Interesting. Anson Mount and Common make a good pair. Great acting- and the good ole western shoot out was awesome!

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Hell on Wheels Season 2 Episode 5 Quotes

Let's do it.

Cullen Bohannon

To Mr. Bohannon. He may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch.

Mr. Toole