But the question remains:
Why did Cullen kill Elam?
Elam was already wounded by Cullen - who himself would have been stabbed through the head by Elam if he hadn't defended himself - but would Elam have died just of the knife wound? Hard to say, and we'll never know. But if Cullen thought Elam was going to die a slow death anyway, then maybe Cullen shot Elam dead to cut short Elam's misery.
But the death of Elam only brought more misery to Cullen. Possibly he shot Elam himself because he couldn't bear to watch the Governor's lawmen do it. By taking matters in his own hands, Cullen allowed Elam to be killed by someone who loved him, if that made any difference.
Still, why couldn't Cullen give Elam, wounded, a chance to be nursed back to mental as well as physical health? Did Cullen see that as impossible, since every appeal to Elam's rational self, including Cullen's and Eva's, fell on deaf ears?
Hell on Wheels has never flinched when it came to killing major characters - beginning with Lily of the West and now Elam. In that sense, the show has been been true to life, especially life in the violently wild West. And, all in all, the past two episodes are among the best I've ever seen on any television show.
But I'll miss Elam. And Cullen will never be quite the same, if what we saw at the end of the episode is any indication. And I'm looking more forward than ever to next week's installment.
See also Hell on Wheels 4.1-2: Rolling Again ... Hell on Wheels 4.5: New Blood ... Hell on Wheels 4.6: Bear and Sanity
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