After the excitement of last week's episode, things slow down this week. To celebrate their milestone achievement, Doc decides to throw a big party. Lots of senators will be in town for the event, so he tells the hookers to make themselves presentable. Everyone's buzzing with excitement, except Cullen, of course, who doesn't trust things that are fun. When he finds out that the Swede is bringing Harper to town to testify against him, Cullen decides to stick around instead of hightailing it. It seems like he spends most of the time scowling into the darkness, sniffing out Harper. It's kind of not as exciting as it should be.
In other plots, the McGinnes brothers and other town merchants literally tar and feather the Swede, so fed up are they with his extorting ways. Eva is angry to learn that Elam's desire to have her all to himself doesn't mean he wants to marry her. At the party, she accepts an invitation to dance from (a very polite) Mr. Toole. Elam is instantly jealous, even though he has no claim on her. An emboldened Ruth asks Joseph to dance with her and it's pretty adorable and goes by much too quickly. The Reverend doesn't go to the party, because he's too busy trying to bury the various parts of the cavalryman he killed last week. He does find time, though, to advise Cullen to "choose hate" and depress him with a story about how useless God is.
In the end, Cullen finally catches up to Harper, who insists he wasn't involved in the death of Cullen's wife. He says he can prove it, but Cullen chokes the life out of him before he can get the words out. Afterwards, Cullen finds Harper's military discharge, showing he was out of the service before that fateful day in Meridian. Realizing he killed the wrong man, Cullen finally hauls ass out of town. A bounty of $250 is placed on his head and scene of Elam practicing with his new gun hints that he might be the one to go after Cullen. That's for next season. In the meantime, stay tuned for the full recap.
Previously: Cullen Bohannon went after Sergeant Harper, whom he blamed for the death of his wife. Senator Crane tracked down Harper for the Swede, who's been obsessed with destroying Cullen from pretty much the get-go. In an effort to get Cullen out of town ASAP, Doc told him that Federal Marshals would soon be coming to town to arrest him for murdering quite a lot of people. The McGinnes brothers and most of the rest of Hell on Wheels were fed up with the Swede extorting money from their businesses. Doc hired Elam to do some work "off the books;" now equipped with money and a modicum of status, Elam told Eva that he wanted her to be his. Joseph Black Moon led Lieutenant Griggs and other cavalrymen on a hunt after his brother; much death ensued. When Joseph returned home, Ruth had some sweet kisses waiting for him. Lieutenant Griggs returned to town with the intent to kill Joseph, so the Reverend lopped off his head.
Currently: Instead of picking up right after the exciting events of the previous episode, let's chug way back to the beginning, shall we? Cullen rides home after the war, still wearing his gray soldier's coat. From a distance, he sees the smoking remains of the barn. He walks into his house and finds it in disarray. He calls for his wife, although for some artsy-fartsy reason they decided we don't need to actually hear the dialog in this scene so instead we just see him mouthing the words. Seems like he should look far more panicked or disturbed, because he just looks kind of... slightly worried. He straightens a crooked chair and walks through the rest of the house. Through the silence comes the faint creaking of a rope being stretched. He follows the sound to the front porch and finds his wife hanging by her neck. She is pale blue and long dead. Cullen frowns up at her, strangely unsurprised.
The next thing we see is him holding her across his lap, lightly touching her hair. A moment after that, he's already dug the graves for her and his son and buried them both. He's even fashioned very tidy crosses to mark their resting places. He touches one of the crosses and scowls. He gets back on his horse and rides off to commit his first act of vengeance, even though he seemed only very slightly perturbed by the tragedy of his homecoming. It's wasn't necessary to have him break down wailing and crying and rending his garments, but the scene was missing... something. There needed to be a demarcation between the man he was then and the man we've seen over the season. Having him be just as stoic or emotionally shut down then as he is now robs the character of a sense of movement. It's like singing an entire song from beginning to end with the same emotional inflection. You need the rise and fall or it's all a monotone. Oh well. Cue the twangy twang of the opening credits.