The action takes place in Truckee, California - which sure sounds like a fictitious name but isn't - and at this point features Cullen's challenges in building the Central Pacific west-to-east part of the transcontinental railroad. His force of workers consists of Irish and Chinese immigrations, the latter of whom work harder than the Irish, get sick less (as the boss of the Chinese syndicate tells Cullen), but are paid far less. This rankles Cullen - whose democratic instincts would make him a good candidate for President, a sort of Bernie Sanders of his time - who butts heads with the said Chinese boss over this, in what will no doubt be one of the central antagonisms of this season.
The Central Pacific, just to be clear, is in competition with the Union Pacific, Thomas Durant's railroad, which is laying down track from east to west. Durant's current take on Cullen is aptly captured in a short scene near in the end of the episode, in which Durant calls Cullen a "turncoat," and remarks that you can never trust a rebel. We also learn in this scene that Durant has a spy in the Central Pacific office.
But probably the most unexpected feature of this new season is the Swede showing up in Truckee, with plans to wrest the leadership of the Mormons away from Brigham Young, but for now just wants to work for Cullen on the railroad. Why Cullen doesn't just shoot him dead in the night is a question, given all the wrenching horror the Swede has brought to Cullen, including the murder of his beloved Lily. But, for now, we'll just have to accept that Cullen lets the Swede live, because he needs all the help he can get with the railroad, and the Swede is, if nothing else but demented, certainly a hard worker. It's certainly good to see him back at the center of the action, after his near exile from the story last season.
And I'll be back here with more next week.
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 ... Hell on Wheels 4.7: Why? ... Hell on Wheels 4.8: Aftermath and Rebound ... Hell on Wheels 4.9: High Noon ... Hell on Wheels 4.10: A Tale of Two Sicko Killers ... Hell on Wheels 4.11: The Redemption of Ruth ... Hell on Wheels 4.12: Infuriating and Worthwhile ... Hell on Wheels Season 4 Finale: The Buffalo
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