Indeed, the opener, in which Snow barely escapes with his life from a hanging, could have come right out of a classic Clint Eastwood spaghetti Western, or at least a Robert Rodriguez movie. Snow represents everything that Cullen was. We learn later that two two shot up and killed everyone on a Yankee medical train, including badly wounded soldiers and doctors.
But whereas Cullen has mostly put the past behind him, including the murder of his family - a soul-rending event that presumably Snow never went through - Snow is still very much living his wild and free Confederate days with abandon. Not that Snow's shooting Yankees on sight any more, but he's ready to kill anyone who gets in his way.
Cullen likes Snow and his style and sense of humor, but not when Snow tells Cullen's wife about the Yankee train massacre, and even less when Snow may be on the verge of killing Cullen's wife, after Snow indeed sort of accidentally killed an innocent boy (Snow probably didn't know he was a boy) - a bystander to another great Western shoot-out - and then deliberately kills the store-owner who saw Snow kill the boy and calls him on it. Cullen coming upon all of this as Snow has a gun pointed in Naomi's direction is the final straw.
Significantly, Naomi would have preferred Cullen kill Snow right there, rather than turn him over to the law, and this shows the crucial role Naomi plays now in Cullen's life and thus the series. She wants that part of Cullen's life - the part that Snow epitomizes - not only locked up inside him, but gone, completely - blown clean out of his life.
It's great to see Hell on Wheels travel so deeply into its Western roots. And along those lines, the episode had other memorable story lines, including Mickey satisfying killing one of the provisional Governor's goons, and Gregg Henry (The Killing!) putting in a fine performance as Brigham Young.
Hell on Wheels has fine head of steam now - and next week, Elam returns to the story.
See also Hell on Wheels 4.1-2: Rolling Again
And see also Hell on Wheels 3.1-2: Bohannan in Command ... Hell on Wheels 3.3: Talking and Walking ... Hell on Wheels 3.4: Extreme Lacrosse ... Hell on Wheels 3.5: The Glove ... Hell on Wheels 3.6: The Man in Charge ...Hell on Wheels 3.7: Water, Water ... Hell on Wheels 3.8: Canterbury Tales ...Hell on Wheels 3.9: Shoot-Out and Truths ... Hell on Wheels Season 3 finale: Train Calling in the Distance
And see also Hell on Wheels: Blood, Sweat, and Tears on the Track, and the Telegraph ... Hell on Wheels 1.6: Horse vs. Rail ... Hell on Wheels 1.8: Multiple Tracks ... Hell on Wheels 1.9: Historical Inevitable and Unknown ... Hell on Wheels Season One Finale: Greek Tragedy, Western Style