‘Hell on Wheels’ season 5, episode 11 review: Thomas Durant’s past, present, and future

Gambit -Was it worth it? For many of the characters on AMC’s “Hell on Wheels,” we definitely understanding wondering over this question. There are so many characters who gave their everything to this railroad, whether it be Cullen (who finds it the one thing of consistent value to him), Mickey, Psalms, or many others who have worked on it over time.

For much of Saturday’s “Gambit,” though, the focus was all about Thomas Durant, a man who was ambitious enough to try to own the world. In the end, though, we realized he owned almost nothing at all. He was a financial pretender in the Old West, a man who crafted his own capture scheme to get ahead, and even a decade and a half into the future, he was still finding other ways to pretend, sitting down for nice meals at one moment while selling a memento from the golden spike the next.

Flash-forwards are not something utilized often on this show, but at the start of this episode it was effective in knowing that despite whatever dreams he may have had, Durant’s life ended much in the way that we knew it: With a facade. The one difference was that he was now in New York. Watching this episode through the lens of what happened to him did not lower the suspense, mostly because the fate of so many other characters was still in the air … and we lost two of them in Maggie and Dandy Johnny Shea, two deaths that Mickey and Durant are going to have to live with as a result of their schemes.

For Mickey, the pain that he felt in the moment led to him trying to have sex with Eva, and her eventually deciding to allow him to do so. This certainly was one of the more uncomfortable moments of the series, and in some ways, it may reinforce the degree of difficulty she may have in her quest to find happiness. (We wish we had a little more of a take of the events tonight from her point of view.) For Mickey, he started to feel that his journey west was never worth it at all, since all he had to show for it were dead bodies and a small stake in the railroad. These are two people clearly broken down, and we don’t know if there is another side of the horizon.

It was nice to see the return of John Campbell to the story to help oversee the ransom storyline, and he proved himself to be smart enough to figure out the nature of Durant’s plan. He just couldn’t prove it, and we know John to be a man who practices in black and white. He also shared a moment with Louise, one in which he showed some remorse for the way matters ended with the two of them. (Granted, it doesn’t even remotely make up for his actions back in season 4.)

It was odd in general to have an episode so close to the end of the road without Cullen, but at the same time this has been an ensemble show from the start. Specifically, the purpose of “Gambit” to us was offering closure to Durant, a dealer who never quite emerged from the rubble he created. He was never completely willing to dust himself off, and as a result into the dirt he went. Episode Grade: B+.

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