Hell on Wheels Review: The Stranger

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Starting the hour on a character we've never seen before - or one with seemingly no connection to the Hell on Wheels characters we do know - made me a bit trepidatious.

Yet, there was something engaging about him, his cocky attitude and his quickfire trigger to make a bloody escape. Now, how no one seemed to notice him cutting his rope seemed a bit of a stretch, but the action sequence and directing of the scene (and truthfully, the entire hour) made that more of a nitpick than a problem.

Sid's train trip to Cheyenne evoked memories of Cullen's trip to working on the railroad back in Hell on Wheels Season 1 Episode 1. Another gunslinger was arriving in town, but not one with the same moral tendencies or changes as the hero of the show.

And I liked that there was a past connection between the two, but it wasn't of old buddies. These two were wartime acquaintances and that was a different life, especially for Cullen.

A Stranger Arrives - Hell on Wheels

It's been evident for Hell on Wheels Season 4, and really, over the course of the series, that Cullen has changed. He's stepped away from his revenge focus, and he's trying to make an honest living while caring for his family. But it seems as if his past and his rough, killer ways won't fully let go.

So to have Sid come along, it only made sense that Cullen would do the right thing and try and help him out. Even if he had the suspicion that things weren't quite right. Even if Sid almost got them into a fight after calling the freed men the N-word. Even after telling Cullen's wife horror stories of Cullen, him and the Confederate soldiers killing unarmed Yankee soldiers.

Especially, with that tale from the past comes that wartime darkness that Cullen's been battling to break free from. And to see Anson Mount portray Cullen in that quiet manner while listening to the tale was great, I kept waiting for him to throw down right there. Mount continues to own that character providing subtle gestures and looks that really add to the already badass character.

And yes, it was wartime, but sometimes it easy to forget that Cullen isn't the clean-cut hero. He's crossed the moral line, and he's done bad things. So it was very interesting to hear that particular story.

But Cullen isn't Sid. Cullen has that golden heart underneath, but with Sid? He's just bad news.

Luckily for viewers, that meant a shootout in town with another exciting action sequence. Sure, it didn't involve Cullen, but it was engrossing just the same. The gunfight certainly put Sid on the further side of likability, even if he jokes and charms his way into Eva's card-palying heart. Sure, he went the lawless way taking out his enemies, but to shoot a child? And you could argue he didn't know, but he definitely knew it was the owner when he shot him right on down.

I kept thinking this is it for Naomi and the baby. This is going to send Cullen back into rage and revenge mode.

There was such tension throughout right up to him finding Naomi (thanks again to the pacing of the hour and director David Straiton for making a visually enthralling episode) that I was relieved when Cullen finally popped in. Guess, Naomi isn't going shopping anymore.

I'm glad Sid wasn't killed off, and I really liked his presence in respect to Cullen's journey. It'll be interesting to see how (or if) the law deals with him. He escaped once before...

Thankfully, the hour also focused on Mickey and Durant's dealings with John Campbell and his lawmen. Mickey took the murderous path, in a rather cutthroat struggle, and Durant went with his usual tricks. It was rather funny watching him read the paper as the house came down.

But for Durant to get the beatdown for Mickey's actions? And no one popped in to save him at the last second? That was a surprise.

For all the "law" that has come to Cheyenne, the lawless and brutal actions continue to dominate.

So, as much as I was less than interested in the Swede and Brigham Young's trial, I'm at least glad he saw through the Swede's ruse. And the hatred that the Swede spouted for Durant was intense.

And with Brigham's comments at the end, that can only mean, especially in this battle for railroad dominance, that the Swede will return to Cheyenne to cause his brand of mayhem once again.

It all makes me feel as if everything is going to collide and send Cullen back to his darker ways. I'm not seeing that happy ending on the horizon. But after this exciting Hell on Wheels Season 4 Episode 5, I'm really keyed in to see it all go down. What a great turn of events that hopefully propels this season further towards its best ride yet.

What did you think of Sid?

Life's a Mystery Review

Editor Rating: 4.6 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0 (9 Votes)

Sean McKenna was a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. He retired in May of 2017. Follow him on Twitter.

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