‘Hell On Wheels’ Season 2, Episode 2: ‘Durant, Nebraska’ Recap

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Anson Mount Hell on Wheels Durant Nebraska Hell On Wheels Season 2, Episode 2: Durant, Nebraska Recap

Even though not doing it may have been a bolder choice, it didn’t take long for Hell on Wheels to get things back to a more even keel. And an even keel for Hell on Wheels means an episode featuring men drunkenly spouting biblical verses around a campfire, while one manages to up the ante by producing a saber-toothed cat skull that (in the Swede’s increasingly distant mind, anyway) really brought home the essence of what he was talking about.

All in all, though, ‘Durant, Nebraska’ was really a homecoming; it smacks of the last time Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) was incarcerated, and facing execution – back when the Swede (Christopher Heyerdahl) had the whole of Hell on Wheels under his jurisdiction and just about everyone but Bohannon seemed to fear him. Now, though, times are a little tougher for Bohannon, as he’s scheduled to face a firing squad any day. After his captors attempt to bring out his cooperative side with a little simulated drowning exercise, Bohannon proves just how stubborn he can be by naming Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson as his allies in the train robbings. Sadly, the soldiers don’t quite go for that idea and toss him back into the quaint little cell he’s been calling home for the last few days.

Bohannon receives a visit from his actual train-robbing partner, Doc Whitehead (Grainger Hines), and spends most of his time talking about how he feels nothing for the men he’s murdered – especially the innocent one at the end of last season, and how the only thing he’s got left is to die in such a way that allows him to be defiant right up until the bitter end. This seems to be the way things are headed, but instead Bohannon is tossed in a horse barn, and not in front of a firing squad. Inside, Durant (Colm Meaney) pops his head out and, after likening himself to God, reveals he literally holds Bohannon’s fate in his hands. Somehow, Durant has used his incredible influence and various friendships to secure a pardon for Mr. Bohannon – with a caveat, of course.

Initially reluctant to heed the call of Hell on Wheels once more – seeing as how he had resigned himself to death – Bohannon kicks the idea around a bit and remains as petulant as ever while he and Durant ride the train back to their destination. Sharing a car with a shackled Bohannon while enjoying an evening’s libation is apparently not a great idea, as the railroad tycoon ends up nearly strangled by Bohannon’s chains. In typical Durant fashion, he essentially laughs it off, passes his drink to Bohannon and excuses himself for the remainder of the ride back to Hell on Wheels.

But the episode wasn’t merely to get Cullen Bohannon back into the fray. It also brought Eva (Robin McLeavy) and Mr. Toole (Duncan Ollerenshaw) back to the titular town, after a band of raiding Sioux burn Durant, Nebraska to the ground. While it’s merely another attempt at settling back into the status quo, it is admittedly easier than constantly making up reasons for Elam Ferguson (Common) to travel to Durant and see the lady he gave up in the hands of what amounts to be the walking dead. Still, as far as petty battles over women go, the Elam/Eva/Toole issue is just as ridiculously implausible as the one involving Lily Bell (Dominique McElligott), Bohannon and Durant.

Robin McLeavy Breaking Bad Durant Nebraska Hell On Wheels Season 2, Episode 2: Durant, Nebraska Recap

The destruction of Durant also provides a chance to get Lily involved in the proceedings, after Eva demands justice for the slain prostitute from the season premiere. Naturally, she goes to Elam, but he’s initially as uninterested in finding and punishing the killer of a prostitute as the rest of Hell on Wheel’s denizens. It’s only after Lily mentions the request came from Eva that Elam gets to business. In the most outlandishly swift manor possible, Elam manages to track the culprit down, squeeze a confession out of him, stab him repeatedly and not face any kind of punishment or retribution. Only time will tell if this romantic gesture will be enough to win Elam Eva’s heart once again.

In the long run, though, the destruction of Durant, Nebraska stands as another turning point in the railroad’s destiny by pitting its future against the Sioux, who according to Joseph Black Moon (Eddie Spears) have just declared war on Durant’s expansion – no doubt a decision to move into the sacred land, which was discussed in the season opener will serve to help this cause.

The episode ends with a fantastic slow-motion tracking shot through Hell on Wheels where Bohannon sees exactly just how things have changed in his absence. The highlight of which is the look on Bohannon’s face as Reverend Cole (Tom Noonan) walks by, oblivious to his presence, or of the world for that matter. Sadly, any artistry in the episode’s closing is lost when Bohannon, looking out from the back door of his new digs, makes eye-contact with the delirious Swede who had apparently been waiting in that exact spot for that sole purpose.

It’s taken two episodes to get things back to where they were last season, but with little mention of his plot for revenge, what kind of changed Bohannon are we looking at?

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Hell on Wheels continues next Sunday with ‘Slaughterhouse’ @9pm on AMC. Check out a preview of the episode below:

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  1. I think I may give up on this show. It just doesn’t grab me and feels more like a chore to watch. It never really lived up to its promise.

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed the episode and the show. It didn’t move as slowly as last season did and I was hoping that Eva would meet her death in the raid but alas.

    I like where the Bohannon character is going too. I think we might see a little more villain than antihero in the next episode.

  3. I caught the first season on AMC’s rerun marathon and now I’m totally hooked. Hell On Wheels is by far one of the best shows on tv. The script is brilliant, subtle yet powerful. It’s not what they say, it’s what they don’t say that raises your heartbeat. They don’t baby you on HOW. They make you think. They make you wait for it, which is what storytelling is all about. I find that refreshing. Frankly I’m bored with most of what’s out there lately (zombies & vampires, and lions 7 bears, oh my!). Silly cartoons where they feed you everything with a spoon, tell you what to think/what to feel/& what not to. I guess that’s why some people don’t get HOW. Stick around… enjoy the action… sooner or later, they’ll get you, too! I guarantee ;-)

    • i feel you to i love hell on wheels those people go cazy on these t.v. show if they cant cook

    • I agree! I love all the characters and am totally hooked!!!

  4. Stream-of-Consciousness TV Review

    Random thoughts as I watch. Ready, go!

    [Note - the formatting is better on the tumblr site posted with my ID.]

    The recap from Episode 1 raised a question. At the end of that episode, Bohannon was robbing a train. He confronted a compadre who was threatening a woman and son. As he pointed his gun and told the other robber to stand down, another compadre got the drop on Bohannon. It looked like Bohannon was knocked unconscious. Next we know, he’s in a cart being hauled off to jail. How the hell did he go from mid-robbery to cart? Did the other robbers drop him off at the local sheriff’s office? Leave him unconscious on the train for the passengers to handle? Push him off the train? Take his unconscious body with them and leave it somewhere? None of these rings true, and it’s annoying.
    Really? We start the episode with Circus Girl Eva? Any story involving her, Toole, and Elam cannot end well. Nope, it cannot.
    I’ve gotten through the laundry hanging, walking across the tracks, greeting Samuel, and pumping water, and DAMN, have morning chores ever had so much foreshadowing?! Something is going down here. Someone’s getting a morning bullet. Or arrow. (Note these thoughts were all pre-music, pre-Indian hoots, and pre-Eva looking around worriedly.)
    Indian attack. They’re not shying away from darkness here. And it’s also a convenient tool to get Eva near Elam again. And to make Bohannon’s bad-assedness be even more sorely needed.
    Anson Mount’s coughing and gasping during his head-dunking seem pretty real.
    Armed robbery and sedition. Still not clear how they caught him or connected him to that train.
    It’s amazing how little our coercion tactics have changed. Especially if by “coercion tactics” I mean “torture.”
    ICK, ICK, ICK. So apparently Lily is earning her keep by not only providing a pretty face to the public and listing the ways the railroad construction is failing, but she’s sharing a bed with The Smug Ogre, too. I didn’t really want that question answered.
    Isn’t it a bummer when you declare war on the Sioux Nation without knowing it?!
    I can’t tell if I like the tension between Evangelizing Indian Joseph and the white folks who’ve been attacked by Indians (or those who are going to help them). It’s an interesting dynamic, fraught with conflict and divided loyalties. Joseph has steadfastly maintained his loyalty to his new tribe. The ignorance, suspicions, and emotions of the other people are realistic for the time, I think. I’m just wary of racial tension as a plot device, I guess.
    Elam’s hungry eyes and quarter-smile upon seeing Eva alive were touching. His loyalty to her has been surprising.
    Bohannon’s obstinacy and refusal to address anything emotional or psychological are so infuriating. Doc comes to visit and apologize for bring him into this mess. Bohannon puts his fingers in his ears, starts shouting The Devil Went Down to Georgia, and refuses to listen to a word the Doc says.
    “What do you suppose the Lord’s going to make of a man like me?” Bohannon’s shaking confession is riveting. His inability to feel is heartbreaking and delusional.
    Bohannon’s fit after he was dropped in the barn was astonishingly good. “I WAS READY!” Anson Mount nailed it. I watched wide-eyed and still.
    “What’s the rush, Mr. Bohannon?” Durant’s smile after he emerges in the barn was priceless.
    Bohannon chose life. That’s something.
    Durant b****-slapped Bohannon. That was awesome.
    The Reverend is certifiable. Joseph the Indian was right in his face, though, protecting Ruth and church. Quiet strength.
    Circus Girl Eva has got some real issues. She’s broke and lost her home, yet stubbornly won’t take money offered by a former beau because…why? I’ve never really understood why she was so angry about Elam’s desire to make something of himself. He explicitly told her his plans didn’t exclude her, but, rather, included her. She always returns to some nonsense about his fancy clothes and working for Mr. Durant, like those things in and of themselves are evil and evince contempt for her. It’s silly. Just because he didn’t want to get married right-that-second in S1 didn’t mean he didn’t want to be with her. Now she’s just being stupid. I could understand not taking the money b/c of her hubby, but not because SHE has a problem with it or him. It’s not his fault laser tattoo removal hasn’t been invented yet.
    The Swede needs to go on the Inspirational Speaker circuit. Seriously, garbage collecting doesn’t allow him to use his naturally psychotic tendencies to any delightful degree. The scene around the fire with the Reverend was confusing lunacy, and must’ve been so much fun to watch being filmed.
    Smilodon? Really?
    Lily’s discomfort in the saloon is hilarious, but also somewhat unrealistic. She’s supposedly grown as a person, emerged from her shell, become quite confident and tough, and moved beyond her previous boundaries. Her skittishness here doesn’t seem right or real.
    Elam is having some delightfully cruel fun with Lily. “Deal with? You mean you want me to have a good talking-to with him?”
    0:46 – It’s ON. YES. The interactions between Durant and Bohannon are electric, starting on the train with a drunk Durant pointing a gun at a groggy and seemingly broken Bohannon. (And the music scoring this scene is fantastic.) We need more of these two diametrically opposite alpha males. They’re wary. They’re resigned. They’re each dealing with their doppelganger devil, and neither is pleased about it. It’s delicious fun.
    “You don’t know a thing about me, Bohannon.” I laughed at this. I hope we were supposed to see the contrast between the almost clownish Durant (with his seemingly empty bravado, thinking he has the upper hand because he freed Bohannon and has a gun trained on him), and Bohannon, who is physically unkempt and injured, yet still radiates power and control, still and calm, all while handcuffed and sans weapon.
    Anson Mount’s acting in this scene is great and detailed when Durant is down on his knees with the gun in Bohannon’s face. Mount has a terse colloquy with Durant with a gun barrel inches from his face, and you see his eyes shifting repeatedly between Durant’s face and the barrel. But it doesn’t look like nervousness or fear; rather, he looks like a calm predator keeping himself apprised of the facts of the situation so he can act with as much advantage as possible when an opening presents itself.
    Bohannon took the choking of Durant pretty far. Meany’s voice post-choking sounded like he was really choked, especially with his breathing, too. Whatever he did to come up with that voice was quite effective.
    Durant off-handedly throws Bohannon the keys to his cuffs as he walks out. Bohannon picks them up, and we can immediately see the wheels in his head spinning. Wonder what he’s thinking about. Escaping to Mexico? That he has a second chance at life? That he’s regretting his choice to live, and may not like the virtual shackles Durant imposes on him? About the “friends” he’ll see soon in HoW? Redemption? Revenge? And thus ensues the season…
    It doesn’t get much hotter than Anson Mount. But I appreciate that the show doesn’t glorify his appearance. He has gray in his hair. It’s often stringy and greasy. He has a sun-wattage smile, but he rarely flashes it. He’s not 25 years old, and his face shows it. His grief and obstinacy and single-mindedness are based on experiences, misfortune, and tragedy, all reflected in a face with some beautiful lines.
    0:52 – Guffaw. Elam’s smirky face and tone when he walks up to Peeing Dude and says “Mor…nin’…” are priceless.
    Wow, Elam really stepped up in prosecuting his role as HoW’s security. I don’t know that I expected him to investigate and conduct interviews, which he obviously did to discover that Peeing Dude was the last customer the whore saw before she died. Then he had a pretty finessed conversation with Peeing Dude in which his low-key questioning combined with overt threats got PD to admit the crime. And then he carried his cop-prosecutor-judge role to its conclusion as executioner by quietly, yet ruthlessly, suffocating and stabbing PD a zillion times and leaving him next to a pile of refuse. Job done. Wonder if this sets up a conflict between Elam and Bohannon, with Elam asking whether Bohannon’s return is truly necessary since Elam seems to be fulfilling his new role quite nicely, thank you very much.
    0:55 – Durant tells Bohannon that “for a man like you, his word is stronger than any set of shackles.” Bohannon gave us an interesting look in response to that. My initial thought was that Bohannon’s look meant that Durant was woefully wrong. Maybe 100% wrong, such that Bohannon’s word never meant anything. Or maybe partially wrong because while Bohannon’s word might’ve been strong pre-war, things had fundamentally changed, and the old Bohannon’s word meant nothing in the new Bohannon’s world. A man in Bohannon’s current circumstances mightn’t have the luxury of something as confining and quaint as his “word.” Then I thought my read could be wrong, and maybe his look was resigned, probably because he agreed with Durant and realized he was trapped, at least for now, at least until there is a superseding event that allows him to negate his word. Don’t know which one, if either, is the right read.
    I laughed at Durant’s threat to have Elam shoot Bohannon if Bohannon tries to leave.
    Don’t know what to make of Elam and Bohannon’s initial interaction. Was it friendly, two people with a past acknowledging each other with mutual respect, tacitly agreeing to work together, Elam urging Bohannon to get a gun b/c of his concern for Bohannon’s safety in crazytown? Or was it confrontational, acknowledging that their most recent history had them on opposite sides, with Elam being the top dog for security now in HoW, unappreciative of a challenger, urging Bohannon to get a gun to protect himself from Elam? Or some combination of these?
    Great music scoring Bohannon’s return and slow walk through HoW. Loved seeing each character’s reaction to his return. It also gave us a good sense of the sprawling, unorganized nature of HoW.
    Elam’s role as enforcer is underscored by Peeing Dude’s body being displayed for all to see, with the townsfolk surrounding it jeering, yet happy that the killer was caught.
    I don’t know what to make of The Swede’s reaction to seeing Bohannon. At all. Earlier in the episode, The Swede found an old flyer offering a reward for Bohannon’s capture, and he seemed distraught not only by a reminder of how far he’d fallen, but also by the fact that Bohannon was still on the loose. Upon seeing Bohannon, The Swede smiled, looked skyward, and nodded. Was he thanking God for Bohannon’s return, seeing divine intervention in the return of his nemesis to him for final resolution? Or was he laughing and looking skyward in simple disbelief?
    Very inspired music in the second half of the episode. The variety is a nice change from the usual more homogenous music (which I also like).
    Really looking forward to the next episode to see Bohannon’s reintegration to HoW (rocky though it will be), especially his truculence and ass-kicking.

  5. hi

    • hi people my name is shantellis brown i sometimes watch hell on wheels, but meanly i watch is cupcake wars, chopped, chopped grill master love those show i would love to o on chopped because i love to cook in all so bake different types food

  6. Love you stream of consciousness! That was a great read! Love this show and very much looking forward to next week. I agree the music was stunning in this episode and spot on with the action. I think my favorite scene was Cullen and Durante on the train. Very hard to tell who wears the white hat?

  7. The Durant/Lily relationship is an odd one. She tells Bohannon she’s worried what people may be thinking about her relationship with Durant – that it’s not strictly business – but yet she really is sleeping with the4 scumbag, and with no regard for Durant being married. So the perception prople have about her and Durant is totally correct. Alrthough, given the situation I understand anyone doing whatever they have to do to survive. It’s kind of strange they never show them having any affection for each other. No kissing, embracing, endearing words…nothing, even when they are alone. I guess it’s more of a business arrangement or how Lily has chosen to repay Durant’s “kindness.” And does Bohannon assume they are sleeping together? I’m not sure. With Lily acting so concerned just about what people might think about how she got her job with the railroad/Durant, he may think she wouldn’t stoop to prostituting herself to Durant like that. I have heard that Mrs. Durant is coming to HOW. That should be interesting. Unless she is incredibly naive, she will take one look at Lilly and the fur will fly!

    • @ Bill – It’s because Durant does not want anyone to know about his little deal with Lily… He does not want anyone to think he has a mistress or is have sex with Lily.. because Durant is married.

      a perfect example: In the last episode when the Sweded came in the morning to deliver the message to Durant about the outpost being attacked by Indians – He told the Swede to come back at a better time to empty his pot in the coach because lilly was in there with him.

      Lily does not live in the same coach as Durant.. she has her own I believe and just sneaks over at night to fulfill her “obligations” in exchange for Durant paying her , watching out for her etc……

      She doesn’t want Bohannon to think she is sleeping with him because she’s ashamed and because she still likes him……she already thinks of herself now as a prostitute when she compared herself to the dead prostitute and paid the swede to give her a proper burial………

      in the first season Bohannon thought she was a “kept woman” when she was staying in Durants coach after she was found… Then because of that she moved into the tent to show him that she wasn’t Durants personal slut and just because she liked Bohannon….

      So now…. she actually became what she did not want to appear to be in the first season.

      To me they completely ruined her character after doing this… she’s just a whore now… she’s not doing it because she likes Durant, she’s doing it for survival… but still….

  8. WE just loved Hell on ‘wheeles, but dish had contract problems with amc and we have missed season 2. Not happy at all. Where can I watch season 2.