Season 2, Episode 5
The Railroad Job
Cullen's past haunts Hell on Wheels, leaving the fate of the railroad hanging in the balance.
In the woods, Hawkins outlines his plan to rob $50,000 in payroll from the railway office. When Hawkins reveals that Cullen now works for the railroad, Doc is surprised to hear his friend is alive.
At the bridge construction site, Cullen jumps in to help Toole and his crew erect a trestle.
As the bandits prepare for the robbery, Hawkins orders Doc to stay behind in case anyone gets wounded and warns Doc against alerting Cullen.
Chained to an anvil, Reverend Cole reaches for a liquor bottle, which The Swede tosses away. “You made me promise to keep you locked up,” The Swede insists, suggesting Rev. Cole finish his manifesto. Hawkins and his gang ride into town behind them.
At the saloon, a bandit nods at Elam and notes, “You let niggers drink in here.” Elam brandishes his gun, but Hawkins appears and apologizes before things escalate further. The men buy Elam a drink and leave.
Elam, who recognized the bandit’s Griswold, tells Durant something’s up: “Payroll comes same day they show up, two white Rebels buying a black man a drink? That ain’t right.” Durant tells Elam to arm every man in town and send for Cullen.
Elam takes the men to the armory, but it’s empty. He sends them after other guns and then recruits Psalms, who’s coughing up blood in his tent, to cover the road.
At the railway office, Hawkins and his cohorts order Lily to open the safe. Durant shoots a bandit, and Hawkins shoots Durant in the gut.
Cullen arrives to find the town under siege, while Hawkins holds Lily at gunpoint as she tries to open the safe. “I can’t think with that!” she screams, pushing the gun out of her face. She finally unlocks the safe and the bandits shove the money into a bag.
Cullen spots Elam and they team up. The Swede hears the gunfire and proclaims it to be trumpets announcing Cole’s prophecy.
Psalms kills the bandit carrying the payroll, then falls to the ground in pain. One of the prostitutes darts out to grab money as it flutters through the air, and Nell is shot pulling her back. The McGinnes brothers gun down Nell’s killer.
Inside the railway office, Lily shoots Hawkins and he staggers into the street. Cullen is about to kill him when Lily cries out that Durant is dying. Cullen tortures Hawkins into revealing Doc’s location, and then has Elam lock Hawkins up.
Eva helps Lily tend to Durant’s wound, while Elam throws Hawkins into the prison car. When Hawkins begs for water, Elam consents, but spits in it first.
Cullen finds Doc and informs him that people are hurt and the bandits are dead, then orders Doc to follow him back to town.
A photographer arranges a group of prostitutes praying over Nell’s body. He adjusts Nell’s dress to reveal more cleavage and asks Mickey to join the photo. Mickey shoves the photographer away and orders the prostitutes back to work.
Doc and Cullen arrive at the railway office, where Doc tries to extract the bullet as Durant screams in pain.
Cullen joins Lily outside. “For a moment I felt relief that he might not live,” she says, ashamed. Doc tells them Durant needs a more qualified surgeon, but believes a train ride to Chicago would kill him. Cullen angrily pulls Doc aside. “There never was a New Mexico, was there?” he asks. Doc doesn’t answer.
Elam and Cullen parade Hawkins through town to the cemetery and kneel him in front of an open grave to say his last words. “Why are you here?” Hawkins asks, and then lectures Cullen on betrayal. Hawkins tells Cullen he “never figured you for no nigger-lover,” but Elam shoots him in the head before Hawkins finishes laughing. Cullen kicks his body into the grave.
Doc tells a semi-conscious Durant that the bullet is lodged in his spine, and then tells Lily he thinks Durant might be strong enough to risk a train ride.
The Swede shaves off Cole’s beard. “Why did you save me?” Cole asks. The Swede leads him to a coffin, opens it to reveal the rifles from the armory, and quotes the Bible: “A great sword is given unto you.”
At the saloon, the townsfolk lovingly drink to Nell and Cullen. Elam tries to join, but he’s turned away because, “You were seen hidin’ around the boxcar during the robbery.”
Elam approaches the freedmen and offers them two bottles of good liquor to join their drinking. Psalms accepts, and Elam asks him what would happen to the freedmen if Durant died. Psalms turns the question on Elam, asking, “How long you think you gonna last in this town without him to protect you?” Psalms laughs and Elam joins in.
As Cullen drinks alone, Lily hands him a telegram calling for Doc’s execution. “Doc just held the horses,” Cullen protests. “I’m sorry, Cullen,” says Lily.