On the series premiere of Hell On Wheels…
Cullen Bohannon, a former confederate soldier, sets upon his quest for vengeance for his murdered wife. It leads him to the tent city of Hell on Wheels and work on the Union Pacific Railroad.
There, he meets former slave, Elam Ferguson, upset that the war's end really hasn't brought changes and he is still treated like a slave.
Thomas "Doc" Durant is the businessman in charge of the large railroad endeavor, and he proves to be corrupt enough to get the job done.
Meanwhile, Lily Bell and her husband, Robert, are mapping out the land for the railroad when they are set upon by angry Cheyenne warriors. Robert is killed but she escapes with the maps eager to continue his work.
Cullen confronts Daniel Johnson, another man connected to his wife's murder. Daniel prepares to kill Cullen, but Elam saves him. Unfortunately, Elam kills Daniel before Cullen can learn the name of the sergeant in charge of killing his wife.