Hell on Wheels
A New Birth of Freedom

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Tippi Blevins: B- | Grade It Now!
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In a hurry? Read the recaplet for a nutshell description!

Previously: Daniel Johnson was just about to give up the sergeant who strangled Cullen's wife, but then Elam killed him before he could say the name. A Norwegian called the Swede imprisoned Cullen for Johnson's death. Robert Bell and his railroad survey team were killed by Cheyennes; only his wife Lily survived and escaped with the team's maps. Doc offered a hundred-dollar reward to anyone who finds Lily. Joseph Black Moon found her before his brother (aka the Worst Cheyenne Tracker Ever) could kill her. Cullen escaped from prison and convinced Doc to give him Johnson's foreman job.

Currently: Night has come again to Hell on Wheels. It's the only time the place looks remotely civilized, since the shadows hide most of the grunge. In Johnson's old tent, Cullen roots around the man's belongings. He pauses for a moment, rubs his eyes to let us know how he's been at this for a while now. From a small trunk, he pulls out a wooden box. Inside, there's a newspaper clipping about the Union veteran's shooting death in D.C. Cullen glances at it. Hopefully he thinks to himself, "Maybe I should try to be more subtle about things, so as to not get myself found out before I finish all my avenging." But probably not. Cullen gives a big sigh, then notices something about the lid of the box.

He lifts up a flap and uncovers a secret compartment filled with some of the worst examples of Photoshopping seen outside a preteen girl's Twilight shrine. In one photo, Johnson's giant head sits atop a trim soldier's body, the outline of his beard trimmed as if by gardening shears. Another photo shows the entire cast of Cullen's shit list. As his gaze goes from man to man, we follow along in flashbacks. He comes across Corporal Prescott first; he was the man Cullen killed in the confessional. Then there's Private Wristner; Cullen shoots the man while he's availing himself of an outhouse. A Lieutenant Tanner is shot in bed. Cullen finally stops reminiscing about his past kills and comes to the last man in the photograph -- the murderous Sergeant Harper. Alas, someone went a little overboard with the blur tool and his face looks like an unidentifiable alien mess. Cullen thinks for a long time, and then slowly folds the picture in half. Cue the opening credits.

Bright and early the next morning, a locomotive pulls into Hell on Wheels, belching copious black smoke. Everyone's like, "Pollute the air all you want! It's only 1865!" Workers slog through the filth and the mud, ignoring the Reverend as he tries to drum up some business. "Good morning, sinners!" he greets them. "I can say that, because I'm a sinner, too. I know the dark path of drink and debauchery... but now I'm on the path to God's light!" He invites everyone to come with him, but nobody takes him up on the offer. Mickey steps outside the Tent of Magic Lamps and Irish Nostalgia to dump a bucketful of urine on the ground. The thought occurs to me that perhaps it wasn't rainfall that made all that mud. "All are welcome," says the Reverend. "Black, white, sinner or saint. Even you Papists!" He gestures to the Irish lads. "Thank you, Father," Mickey says, then corrects himself: "I mean, Reverend." Sean is just a bit aghast, but it's not just religious tolerance that has him out of sorts. Their show the previous night wasn't the blockbuster it usually is and he doesn't anticipate the next show being any different. He's upset that Mickey doesn't seem to be as worried as he is. "The Swede will come calling again, sooner rather than later," he reminds his brother.

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Hell on Wheels

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