‘Hell on Wheels’ season 5, episode 5 review: A shocking death rocks Truckee

Hell on Wheels -It has taken us some time this season, but “Hell on Wheels” has really started to paint a fuller picture of what season 5 will be … and we are of course extending the story beyond just Cullen Bohannon and the town of Truckee.

In Laramie, we are seeing many beloved characters show off some of their entrepreneur spirit. Seeing the transformation of Eva in particular is dramatic from her season 4 self, when she was coming to grips with the death of Elam. She is now a woman trying to find a way to survive, and given that she may have ruled out happiness for herself, she is content with trying to run the brothel … even if this means having to deal with Mickey. Her greatest challenge tonight was dealing with the revelation that Louise is pregnant, seemingly with John Campbell’s child.

Also in the town we discovered what Durant’s latest scheme seems to really be: Figuring out a way to squeeze money from both Laramie and Cheyenne, pretending as though the former is going to be the hub for the Union Pacific until “changing his mind” after the fact. We do like to think that there was actually a rare moment of humanity for Durant in that he didn’t want to sell Psalms and the other railroad men property in Laramie, knowing that this would be a trick. After he is accused of racism, however, he has no choice … and apparently his desire to make money still supersedes his desire to come clean. Durant is still Durant at the end of the day.

Now, we turn back to Truckee, where Chang organized a celebration of local culture that is both significant for morale, and probably for his self-interest since it looks like he cares. Even he wanted to act as though he was on Cullen’s side in passing along information to him about The Swede.

Of course, the operating word here is “act.” This was all a ploy to use Cullen’s hatred of The Swede against him to serve as a distraction, while hiring the “snake oil salesman” from earlier in the episode to kill Tao in front of the Chinese residents of the town. What’s his endgame? To us, it seems to be as simple as making sure he gets his terms met, and proving to Cullen that he cannot sidestep any negotiation when he can just further the conflict between the Chinese and white residents of the town. He wants his share at any cost, and Cullen losing one of his few English-speaking connections to many railroad men is crippling to him.

We loved Tao as a character, and we especially loved Tzi Ma’s performance. We’re devastated over this one, and this was another strong entry into season 5’s catalogue. Grade: A-.

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