It had been two weeks since we’d really seen life in the town of Cheyenne on “Hell on Wheels,” and Saturday night’s episode actually felt somewhat like the eighth episode of “The Walking Dead” season 4. Basically, you had the storylines from two separate episodes colliding, and this led to one of the biggest confrontations and moments of the entire season.
We were extremely worried for Elam Ferguson’s life in this episode, and for good reason. Heck, this episode was even entitled “Elam Ferguson,” which could have been a tribute to him in a way. 45 minutes into the hour, and it wasn’t looking good for him. His mind couldn’t shake that he was the “bear killer,” and he refused to accept the possibility of anything otherwise. He shunned Eva, threatened to kill multiple women, and was not at all fazed by the sight of Cullen Bohannon.
The choreography of this fight scene was extraordinary, as the two men went back and forth, trading blows. It was clear that Cullen did not want to kill Elam; he loved the guy like a brother. Unfortunately, he found himself in a position where he had no choice. This will be a controversial stance to some, but what else could the man do? If Cullen didn’t kill him, the men on the rooftops would have.
The one argument that you could make is that this is a battle Cullen did not have to fight at all. In making this decision to take matters into his own hands, despite his good intentions, he did not think of the possibility of his child growing up without a father. This is who this man is, for better or for worse.
Performance-wise, we have to give the utmost credit to Anson Mount for what may even top his episode 2 performance as his greatest yet of the entire season. The site of him sobbing over Elam’s coffin, juxtaposed against the stillness and the silence of the scenery, is a haunting moment that will stick with us.
So where does this leave Cullen in the end? Before the episode started, we had the character looking to find a way to get out of town with Naomi, and this included taking out a loan to make it happen. Smart move, given John Campbell’s presence and Durant willing to kill some of his men for revenge against his own beating. As for whether or not he will really want to considering moving forward with the railroad or Naomi, we have to wait for the dust to settle.
Perhaps for Elam, maybe it is best to remember him not for these two episodes as the bear-killer, but the character who loved Eva, was a passionate friend, and would have done anything to find Cullen at the end of season 3. Tonight, we watched Cullen do just about the same, and he came up with nothing other than tears and nightmares. Grade: A.
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