Hell on Wheels
A New Birth of Freedom

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Tippi Blevins: B- | Grade It Now!
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Back at Hell on Wheels, the Reverend is presiding over a funeral service for the dead. He speaks over montages of men carrying the coffins to their graves and of Cullen and Lily riding toward town. "Death's no stranger to this Godforsaken place," he says. He says death comes in many forms, either from hard labor, prairie fire, whiskey or gunshot. "But must we be Death's accomplice?" he asks. "Must we do his bidding?" After the montages, we end up in a tent where the Reverend is speaking to a packed crowd. "I know that your hearts seek vengeance for the deaths of those men," he says, "but haven't we had our fill of war?" Joseph and his new dorky haircut stand off to the side, head bowed and shoulders slumped, trying not to stand out. The Reverend picks up a small Bible and kisses its cover. "And they will hammer their swords into plowshares," he quotes from Isaiah 2:4. Among the crowd are the Swede, the Irish brothers and Elam. The Reverend's call to peace seems to have reached the men. And then there's Doc, who starts quoting from Joel 3:10 in his booming carnival barker's voice, with the exact opposite advice.

Doc gets up and takes the floor. The Reverend has this exasperated look on his face, like, "Ugh, this shit-disturber again?" Doc uses the Reverend's mention of war as a segue to discuss what's worth fighting for. "What is worth laying our lives on the line for?" he asks. The tattooed lady glances over at Elam. "Robert Bell gave his life for this undertaking, this grand idea... for he knew what this railroad would mean to us as a nation! He knew this railroad is a new birth of freedom!" Doc goes on about the freedom to choose one's fate, to make one's fortunes and so on. The Irish brothers give each other knowing smiles. Doc got his money's worth at the Tent of Magic Lamps and Irish Nostalgia, after all. "We cannot let that freedom be threatened by ragtag bands of marauding, Stone Age primitives!" At this, his gaze falls on Joseph, who's probably biting his tongue so hard it's bleeding. Doc says peace can only be had if they "put down their sticks and stones" and convert to Christianity. Spittle shines on his chin, that's how worked up he is. He goes over to Joseph and holds him up as an example. Joseph looks like he wants the muddy, urine-soaked ground to swallow him whole. "If these roaming bands of nomads are willing to do as he has done, then there is very real hope that our mission might be accomplished peacefully." He turns to the Reverend, who gives him a polite but embarrassed smile. If they don't convert, Doc says, "Then they are the authors of their own destruction!" That filthy tent must taste terrible, but he keeps on chewing it anyway.

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Hell on Wheels

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