Season 2, Episode 3
Mickey and Sean’s lives hang in the balance as Cullen tries to keep order. Lily and Elam must work together and race to clean up a mess of their own.
Hell on Wheels is currently not in season.
The Swede watches the German butcher slaughter pigs and goads him about Schmidt’s murder. The butcher seethes that his friend was killed over “some filthy whore.” The Swede leaves to load Schmidt’s body into his wagon.
Lily approaches Cullen’s caboose to alert him the foreman has been killed and the railroad crew await his orders. She downplays rumors of her romance with Durant, but Cullen cuts her off, saying, “I’m glad for you.”
At the saloon, Durant wakes a hungover Elam and asks him to monitor Cullen. Elam agrees, but as Durant leaves, mutters under his breath that he could have done Cullen’s job.
At the brothel, Mickey promises a prostitute that anyone who threatens her will be “done” like Schmidt. When she asks if he killed Schmidt, Mickey doesn’t deny it.
In the cut, Psalms confronts Cullen, upset about working under the man who stole their payroll. Cullen insists it wasn’t personal, but when Psalms presses, Cullen announces, “Mr. Durant saved my hide from hanging so I could ride out here and whip your sorry asses into shape,” and appoints Toole the new foreman.
In private, Eva thanks Elam for killing Schmidt. They kiss, but she chides him for wanting money more than a good woman. She pulls away and leaves.
Reverend Cole builds a coffin and rants to The Swede about Ruth, who he believes has usurped him and corrupted Joseph. The Swede encourages Cole with bible references, saying, “We must cast them out.”
Looking over the gorge, Durant explains to Cullen that they must cross the river in order to beat the Central Pacific railroad. Durant stresses the sooner Cullen helps him reach the Rockies, the sooner he’ll be free.
Ruth delivers Schmidt’s eulogy at church but is interrupted when Cole accuses her of sleeping with Joseph. “Fornicator!” he yells. Enraged by the interruption, the butcher lunges at Cole, but The Swede redirects his anger by declaring “your friend is dead and the Irish brothers who butchered him are allowed to walk free.”
The butcher and his German cohorts, along with The Swede, hunt down Sean and Mickey and haul them to the slaughterhouse.
At the railway office, Lily advises against building a bridge across the river because of the Sioux. Elam bursts in to alert Durant about the Germans and the McGinnes brothers. Durant orders Elam to assist Cullen in diffusing the situation.
The Germans hang Sean and Mickey from meat hooks as the butcher sharpens his knife. Elam and Cullen storm the slaughterhouse and free the brothers, but Cullen then leads them to the jail car. Mickey protests that he didn’t kill Schmidt, but acknowledges that he let everyone think so. “Congratulations, dumbass,” Cullen says, ushering him into the car. The butcher warns Cullen, “Either you kill these boys or I do.”
While walking through town, Joseph proposes marriage to Ruth. She dismisses the idea, saying they’ll never be accepted as man and wife because he’s an Indian.
In the jail car, Mickey admits to Sean that he liked people thinking he was Schmidt’s killer, and wanted Sean “to think that I could do something on me own for once.” Sean predicts that “even if, somehow, we slip the noose, that Kraut bastard will butcher us.”
Cullen tells Durant he believes the McGinnes brothers are innocent. Durant agrees to spare Sean but insists Mickey die, since he confessed. Lily suggests they investigate further.
Lily asks Elam to confess, but he refuses: “They hang, we scot free.” She decides to speak to Durant without mentioning Elam’s involvement.
As Joseph delivers a sermon at church, a group attacks him for “fornicating with a white woman.” Cole chases them off with the Confederate saber.
Ruth brings Sean and Mickey food, and asks Sean if he’s made his peace. He declines her bible reading but begs her to stay: “Your face, your voice, they bring me peace.”
In Durant’s quarters, Lily confesses that she paid a man to kill Schmidt in the name of justice. Durant erupts in anger. He asks if Lily would like to take Mickey’s place on the gallows “in the interests of justice.”
Cullen corners The Swede during a bath and suggests he’s taking revenge on the McGinnes boys for tarring-and-feathering him. “I got this idea you hate pretty much everybody, especially yourself,” says Cullen. “That is where we are similar,” The Swede replies, “But I hate you more than you hate yourself.”
Reverend Cole urges Joseph to leave town and return to his tribe, but Joseph says he no longer belongs there either -- thanks to Cole. Joseph tells Cole he loves Ruth and will not abandon her, adding, “I’m not like you.”
After flinging his teacup in frustration, Durant tells Lily, “Go ahead.”
Lily informs Cullen that Durant has authorized the brothers’ release. Cullen says the butcher may inflict a worse fate on Sean and Mickey once they’re free -- and he won’t protect them.
Cullen confronts Elam about killing Schmidt and cautions him: “Next time a noose goes round your neck, might not slip off so easy.”
Cullen tells the butcher that Durant has pardoned the McGinnes brothers, then orders him to leave town immediately. When the butcher resists, Cullen punches him.
Cullen lets the brothers out of jail while Elam and Lily watch from afar.
As the butcher packs his knives, Sean and Mickey attack and kill him. They feed his body parts to the pigs.