Hell on Wheels
Pilot

Episode Report Card
Tippi Blevins: C | 2 USERS: A
YOU GRADE IT
I Choo-Choo-Choose Vengeance

Later that night, Cullen goes to Elam's tent. Willie lies dead on a cot, a white sheet draped over his body. Elam draws a blade back and forth over a whetstone with great care. Cullen sits, searches for something to say. He takes a drink from a bucket (hopefully of water), but puts down the ladle when Elam glares at him. Finally: "Now, what are you planning on doing with that Arkansas toothpick?" Elam continues honing the blade without answering. "Don't do it," Cullen says. "We ain't on no plantation no more, walking boss," Elam says. He spits on the whetstone. Cullen tries to talk Elam out of, says nothing good will come out of it. Elam picks up a newspaper clipping with President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. With sadness, Elam says nothing good came from that, either. "I might as well just wipe my ass with it," he says. He goes back to sharpening his blade. Cullen says Elam will hang if he kills Johnson. "You got to let go of the past," Cullen says. Either he's talking about Willie's death which just happened earlier that day or he's talking about the lifetime of slavery Elam endured. Either way: Shut up, Cullen. "Have you let it go?" Elam asks. Cullen doesn't answer. Elam sharpens his knife some more.

The McGinnes brothers (they of the mismatched toes from earlier) have set up a "magic lantern show" in one of the tents. Cullen stops by, pays a coin for admission and goes inside. The small tent is packed with homesick Irish rail workers. Sean works the projector, putting in slides that show painted scenes from Ireland. Mickey stands up by the screen and begins to sing "A Stór Mo Chroí" in a clear, pretty voice. His audience listens rapturously. "Do you not pine for own homeland, Mr. Bohannon?" Sean whispers. He seems oddly nervous to be asking the question. Cullen says he doesn't; his home is gone. His expression as he watches Mickey says otherwise.

Saloon. Cullen and Johnson are drinking. If some act of violence doesn't take them down, then surely cirrhosis will. Johnson asks if Cullen "saw the elephant," but Cullen doesn't like to talk about his days of battle. Johnson, on the other hand, loved the war and loudly proclaims it to everyone in the tent. "Best thing that ever happened to me," he says. "Most men shrink when they see the elephant up close, but I blossomed." Oh, how I wish they'd had this conversation earlier so "Blossom" could have been Johnson's recap nickname. Cullen plies him with shot after shot of whiskey. Drunker by the minute, Johnson finds himself in a revelatory mood. He admits in hushed tones there were "lines of morality" that he crossed. He looks pensive for a moment, then downs another shot and smiles. "That's what men do in war," he says, by means of excusing himself. "Moral men don't," Cullen says. "So you did nothing you were ashamed of?" Johnson asks. "I did plenty I was ashamed of," Cullen says. "You ever been to Meridian, Mississippi, Mr. Johnson?" Johnson, far wilier and more sober than he seems, knew all along where this conversation was going. He has a Remington revolver under the table, aimed at Cullen, and says so.

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Hell on Wheels

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