At one time, those words from you were the only thing on God’s Earth I wanted to hear. But that time has passed.
Anson Mount (Cullen Bohannon) has said that he thinks Hell on Wheels episode 5.09: Return to the Garden is the best acting he’s ever done. He’s dug deep into himself in this one, plumbing feelings all the way to the bottom. He’s also keeping it dialed down, he doesn’t over-emote, he doesn’t reach for the big moment. There’s no clarity, which is what Big Acting Moments have. He’s confused throughout, lost, and that’s what shows so beautifully.
Like last week’s Two Soldiers, Return to the Garden has a utilitarian purpose: It gets Naomi and William out of the way so that the show can move on with the stories it wants to tell. The most important is getting us to that Golden Spike, but apparently, on the way there, there will be sex.
Mrs. Palmer and Durant? I guess. I mean, why can’t people be friends or form alliances without getting all sexy? They seem an obvious pair, and maybe that’s the problem. They’ve been there, both available, both like-minded, adversaries and allies, playful and sharp, for several seasons. Why now?
I’m on record as hoping against all reasonable hope that Cullen Bohannon and Mei would not ‘ship. Alas. Professor Spouse said, “If he sleeps with her after just losing his wife and child, I’ll lose all respect for him.” I don’t have that feeling–I think comforting your own grief in sex and even in infatuation is pretty normal. But this is quite the unlikely pairing. I guess he has to have a woman to ride off into the sunset with once the railroad is complete, but, I mean, REALLY?
This episode of Hell on Wheels did two things; it finished Cullen’s search for his wife and child, and moved them off center-stage. I imagine they’re as over as The Swede, but Brigham Young still has a historic part to play, so perhaps not. We could see them again, either to complicate Cullen’s relationship with Mei, or, more likely, to bring a little tear to the eye. Since I’ve said before I dislike Naomi, that probably won’t happen.
Come on boys, smells like horseshit in here.
With first the Swede, and now Naomi and William, gone, the only thing left for Cullen to hang onto is the railroad. The same, we see, is true for Psalms and the men who work in the cut. All you got is this job, he says to a man who wants to walk off. Durant’s cheating, selling worthless Credit Mobilier stock, and failing to pay his bills is all historically accurate (although the Credit Mobilier scandal had disposed of the historic Doc Durant well before the railroad was complete), but it also serves as motivation to get every character to throw heart and soul into completing the race to finish.
Is this the right thing?
It’s the only thing.
This episode of Hell on Wheels does have something of a theme; inevitability. Cullen and Naomi must break apart, Psalms and the men must work, Mickey must continue a violent life. Everyone and everything is being driven along a track, like a train.
Some additional thoughts:
- After taking a week off, we’re back to a water opening–Hell on Wheels has given us many opening images of rivers, wells, even troughs.
- Isaac thinks that Cullen left Naomi to suffer with smallpox. She admitted to leaving no word for Cullen–how much does she lie to her new husband?
- Eva’s hair is much darker and longer.
- As Cullen leaves his wife and child, he is perfectly framed in the barn door–very Searchers.
- What is the meaning of the white horse Eva sees?