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Monday, January 9, 2012

Hell on Wheels 1.9: History Inevitable and Unknown

The thing about Hell on Wheels is that we know that Durant succeeded with the Union Pacific railroad.  That's our unchangeable history, and the unchangeable foundation of the series, because it's historical drama not time travel.  So it's a measure of how good a job the series has been doing of keeping us on the edge of our seats that it comes as a refreshing surprise when Durant pounds in the spike that completes his forty miles - winning him the right to continue building his east-west half of the first transcontinental railroad.

But, of course, there's no guarantee at all of happy endings for the other characters.   Elam's finally doing fine, getting money (for the Indian scalps that he took), a better position from Durant, and the exclusive relationship he wants with Eva.   Lily's doing fine, free from Durant and proving her surveyor acumen.

Well, not totally free, because as we see near the end of the episode, Durant still wants to keep her clear of Bohannan. Durant see Lily and Bohannan talking cosily in the bar, we see the flash of passion in their eyes which we knew was there all along, and this spurs Durant to speak to Bohannan privately and give him a "bonus" for his great work in getting the crew to complete the 40 miles.   The bonus isn't money, which Bohannan doesn't want.  It's the information that Federal marshals are coming to get Bohannan for the serial murders of his wife's killers he's been committing.

Bohannan realizes that Durant is doing this not really to help Bohannan, but to get get him out town (whether he realizes that this is to get him away from Lily is not yet completely clear).   Durant says the Swede alerted the marshals.  Whether the Swede did this on his own or with Durant's knowledge - or even on Durant's orders - is also not completely clear.   Durant, as far as we've seen, values his railroad above all else.  But the love of a woman - smart, strong, and beautiful - can be a pretty strong motivator to man like Durant, who would go far to have someone like Lily beside him.

We'll find out next week in the finale of this too-short season what becomes of this.   I'll be back here with a review of that after the train finishes whistling.

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

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