Despite a week’s absence, Hell on Wheels picks right up where it left off – with Durant (Colm Meany) writing a letter to his wife to presumably ask her for a divorce, or otherwise keep her abreast of the burgeoning romance he believes to be taking place between recently widowed Lily Bell (Dominique McElligott) and himself. Unfortunately, Durant’s notions toward Lily and the note to his wife are disrupted when his train narrowly avoids colliding with a derailed locomotive.
While surveying the carnage, Durant is confronted by the Swede (Christopher Heyerdahl) whose convenient presence goes unquestioned, just as his immediate accusations toward the Cheyenne fail to be scrutinized by Durant or anyone else. Of course the task at hand becomes the quest for justice, which Durant immediately tasks to Bohannan. In the first of several missteps taken by the Swede, he informs his employer that Cullen and Elam are, at the moment, fugitives, and that he’s sent a posse after both men.
No sooner has the Swede been given a tongue lashing by Durant, in regards to his handling of Elam’s near lynching, than Bohannan arrives to continue the Swede’s lashing – at with first his pistol, and then a rather large belt.
After things settle, and the wounded are being tended to back at Hell on Wheels, the episode quickly takes stock of the relationships the series has been cultivating for the past seven episodes.
The bromance between Bohannan and Elam is now in full bloom, after the events of last episode left them defending one another’s life, and has now resulted in the southerner expressing that his one-time boxing opponent is now the only man he can trust.
The boys break briefly to tend to their respective lady-friends with somewhat mixed results. Elam at first fails in his newfound forwardness with Eva (Robin McLeavy), but after she tells him to get out of her ‘crib,’ Elam ultimately wins her over with a little humility and a dollar. Meanwhile, Bohannan’s surprise at Lily’s return to Hell on Wheels sparks a brief argument between the two, which intensifies after a thinly veiled accusation of gold digging is tossed her way. The two part ways as they often do: angry, but undeniably eager for the next encounter.
Even some secondary characters take quick stock of their relationships as one is hinted at between Ruth (Kasha Kropinski) and Joseph Black Moon (Eddie Spears). Meanwhile, Ruth confronts the sins of her father, the Reverend Cole (Tom Noonan), alluding to a past history with alcohol and spousal abuse.
Following the interlude, things get right back on track (pun!) with Durant assembling a small team comprised of some Union soldiers, Bohannan, Elam and Joseph Black Moon to hunt down the renegades responsible for the train’s derailment. Before they get too far, Bohannan and the lieutenant nearly go to blows over the events at the battle of Antietam. Further pugilism is avoided after Black Moon’s brother, Pawnee Killer, picks off one of the soldiers and strings him up Predator style. The men soon come to realize that they are the ones being hunted, and that Black Moon is purposely leading them around in circles.
Back at Hell on Wheels, the Swede continues to obsess over Bohannan – much to the annoyance of Durant, who tells the greasy-haired giant to stow his quest of bringing Bohannan to "justice" for his part in the killing of Daniel Johonson (Ted Levine). The Swede is left mumbling that he’s Norwegian, and looking more unhinged than usual.
‘Derailed’ ends with Bohannan and his crew arriving at the Cheyenne camp, narrowly missing Pawnee Killer. However, after the Lt. shoots a child, the men find themselves in the midst of an ambush, as Black Moon’s brother and his Indian warriors ride in to kill them.
Next week is the penultimate episode, with the first season coming to a close on January 15, so we’ll see what storylines are wrapped up and which are left hanging for the recently announced second season.
Hell on Wheels airs Sunday nights @10pm on AMC.