Hell on Wheels Episode 5.07: False Prophets

 Posted by on August 30, 2015 at 6:41 pm  Hell on Wheels
Aug 302015
Hell on Wheels, "False Prophets" -- Brigham Young is stabbed


Hell on Wheels  Episode 5.07: False Prophets, sets itself a number of challenges. For those who know the history, things like the eventual terminus of the Transcontinental Railroad, which railroad reached Ogden first, and the life and death of Brigham Young are already known, yet the show must still make the playing out of this history interesting. (Hell on Wheels doesn’t adhere strictly to the true story–Thomas Durant, for one, never came back from his arrest during the Credit Mobilier scandal. Yet the broader strokes of history are represented fairly, and I fully expect the golden spike to be driven more or less as really happened.) On the other hand, people who don’t know the history have to be kept entertained by a bunch of negotiations around a conference table with a bunch of angry bearded men going over the fine points of a part of Americana they may have barely heard of. 

Most fans of Hell on Wheels, I suspect, aren’t watching it with a history professor (I’m blessed). Although the show doesn’t get Emmy or Internet love, its ratings are consistently good, but the viewers are not really skewing demographically toward over-educated history buffs. Westerns have other charms.

So let’s just say it’s a minor miracle that False Prophets was such an excellent and engaging episode. It was smart, it was exciting, it ended on a cliffhanger in the best Western serial tradition (two horses racing towards a single spot! Huzzah!), and as ever, it was visually lush. Seriously, in terms of cinematography, this show is an embarrassment of riches. Gunderson embracing Phineas Young with the sunlight blazing in from behind them? Eva with blood on her cheek? The extraordinary Rocky Mountain view behind Brigham Young? This would be a good show if it was nothing more than a collection of stills.

What happened in Salt Lake City this episode strongly paralleled what happened in Laramie. The “A” Story/”B” Story thing doesn’t always tie together on this show, nor does it have to, I suppose, but this week it did. Cullen Bohannon, as well as the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads, are in roughly the same positions as Eva and Mickey. Eva has a wolf in the fold trying to usurp her power. She can act like she’s in control but it’s the inmates running the asylum until she pulls a gun. Her enemy (Josie) will keep undermining her and robbing her, making the rewards of Eva’s hard work seems to be slipping away at every turn. Mickey, too, has a wolf at his heels–his cousin Johnny. Mickey and Eva are fighting for their livelihoods while acting as if everything’s under control.

This is no different, really, than any of the railroad players, or the Mormons for that matter. Huntington at the Central Pacific is fighting for position in a battle for which geography (topography, technically) favors his opponent. Durant, Huntington, and Bohannon all have reason to fight Brigham Young, and Young is fighting for the survival of his city. Meanwhile, the wolf in the fold, Gunderson, aims to destroy both Bohannon and Brigham Young. It’s a complex set of machinations in which only the sheep with fangs and claws survives. Poor Phineas, he never had a real set of fangs, did he?

It’s a scramble of wolves versus sheep, and people who have tried to do the right thing will be wolves or will not survive, as we’ve seen again and again in this series. Brigham Young, the “Lion” of God, is clearly a wolf, and I think it’s no coincidence that two people scrambling to retain position survived being stabbed this week.

I have no idea (nor does anyone in the media) when in 2016 Hell on Wheels will return to resolve the cliffhanger, bring back Naomi (yaaaaawn), resolve the potential love triangle between Cullen, Mei, and Naomi, and finish building the damn railroad. I do know that when it returns, I’ll be right here, writing about it.

What about you, Basketcases?


  8 Responses to “Hell on Wheels Episode 5.07: False Prophets”

  1. It can’t come back fast enough( HOW). And, alas, so sorry to see it end. Enough of the Walking Dead, the Fear of the WD and all of the rest of the reincarnations. Most fans feel HOW could’ve continued for another year or two. Obviously, one has to realize all good things must come to an end. Another series, worth keeping around, is TURN. It took awhile before AMC made the decision to bring it back for another season. Although we know how both series ultimate ending comes to fruition, it is the characters we associate with, that keep us coming back for more.

  2. There are so many tv shows on that are so far fetched and plan stubid, I do not understand why such a gooooood show like HOW has to end. I come from a long line of railroad family members, grandfather, aunt, father and husband and son. I just wish there was some way amc would reconsider, it has good ratings and everyone can’t wait for the next series.

    • I respect following the arc of history and ending the show next year; it’s an expensive show to boot. But there’s no reason they couldn’t write a spinoff — there are plenty of deserted places out here in the desert where they could film, and contain some of the costs.

  3. This is probably my favorite episode of Hell On Wheels, right up there with 110, God of Chaos and 310 Get Behind the Mule.

    What’s most impressive to me is the evolution of Cullen Bohannon from vengeful killer to mature railroad tycoon, looking for his wife and son, Naomi and William.

    I’m one of those fans that think Naomi and the birth of William have helped change Cullen, making his less reckless and more thoughtful. The old Bohannon could be arrogant. For example the way he took Elam to New York so the Credit Mobilier would be impressed he had a “gentleman’s gentleman.” This was during the time a pregnant Eva was having a baby whom Elam thought was his.

    Last season when Naomi left Cheyenne, she did so because Cullen was growing distant, as well as acting as a addict to building the railroad. Naomi didn’t understand the relationship between Ruth and Cullen, which would make most women wonder if an affair was going on. The fact that Cullen keeps pushing her away makes Na9omi act, especially after seeing the violent Cullen shoot Elam.

    Now that Cullen finally learns the whereabouts of his family from Brigham Young, he’s going to see them again when Season 5 resumes in 2016 with Episode 508, although it will be violent considering the Swede is there to kill Naomi and William.
    I actually think Cullen won’t be successful, at first, in gaining Naomi and William back under his roof. I do think they will reunite at the end of the series in Episodes 513-514. I trust these writers will make it exciting and surprising.

    Anson Mount has done a great job portraying Cullen as a complex and changing character.I’ll be interested in seeing how he shapes up at the end of the series.

  4. So wait, when you say it mainly follows history, does that mean Brigham Young was stabbed by his son Phineas? I can’t find anything about this incident, or anything it might be based on.

    • No, I’m sorry to be unclear about that. I was unable to find anything about this either, and I assume it is fiction. I meant that they won’t kill off Brigham Young when we know, historically, he lived much longer.

  5. I just found this show last month. Marathoned two weekends and was absolutely hooked. Now so sorry to hear it is ending. Love, love love it!!! (As I did Lonesome Dove And do love Outlander)
    Thank you!!

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