Season 3, Episode 2

Eminent Domain

An unexpected roadblock forces Cullen to make a difficult choice as a reporter arrives in Hell on Wheels. Elam struggles with his new boss.

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Cullen tours Hell on Wheels in a carriage with Louise Ellison, a reporter for the New York Tribune, who’s writing a story about the transcontinental railroad. Cullen insists he can win the race against Central Pacific without Durant’s help.

Louise asks where the “Fair Haired Maiden of the West” is buried. Cullen says Lily Bell is in a wildflower field she liked, then adds, Hell on Wheels “ain’t no place for a lady.”

Elam enters the Police caboose and meets Dick Barlow, new Chief of Railroad Police. Dick says, Elam works for him now.

After three armed riders enter Hell on Wheels and order Cullen to keep the railroad off their property, Cullen rides to a nearby farm and sees the trio. Cullen approaches and meets Aaron Hatch, a Mormon, and his family. Hatch invites Cullen to dinner, where Hatch insists his family is not moving. Cullen says, he’ll try to find a route around, but “if it can’t be done, you’ll have to move.” Hatch invites Cullen to spend the night.

In the barn, Cullen and Hatch’s eldest daughter, Naomi, kiss passionately. They’re interrupted by Hatch’s son, Henry.

The next day, a surveyor tells Cullen they can route the railroad around the farm, but it would put them five weeks behind schedule.

At Hell on Wheels, Sean (now Cullen’s bookkeeper) tells Cullen that Durant has canceled Cullen’s contracts with livestock companies and cornered the market. Cullen fumes, he should have killed Durant when he had the chance. Louise overhears Cullen.

In the church, Cullen tells Ruth about the situation with the Hatch family. Ruth warns that Mormons “are a violent people.”

In Omaha, Durant dines with three ranchers, including Maggie Palmer. Durant proposes building a “major new commercial hub” railroad terminus on Maggie’s land and, acting as a representative of Credit Mobilier, offers $100 per acre to prevent the Union Pacific from claiming it as eminent domain.

Durant moves to the bar, joining Sean McGinnes. Sean, uneasy, slips Durant an envelope stuffed with money and the Union Pacific telegraph routing code so Durant can eavesdrop on Cullen. Durant assures Sean that he’s not doing anything wrong.

At Hell on Wheels, Louise is cornered by a large, drunk worker. He forces himself on her. She slashes his face with a razor and he strikes her.

The next day, Elam and Dick have breakfast in the Police caboose. Elam confides, Eva is afraid he’ll be killed on the job. Cullen enters and instructs the two men to ride out and order the Mormons off their land.

At the Hatch farm, Dick approaches the boarded-up house. Hatch yells back from inside the house, “I already told the other one we ain’t leaving.” A shot is fired, hitting Dick in the stomach. Elam shoots back, dragging Dick away.

Elam rides back into Hell on Wheels hollering for Eva, with Dick draped over the horse. Elam tells Cullen he doesn’t know who fired the shot. Eva feeds Dick onion broth, then smells his wound and declares him “gutshot” with no chance of surviving. Louise, with a bruised eye, watches. Dick asks to see Elam’s baby and declares, “She’s beautiful, Mr. Ferguson. Just like you said.” Dick dies, and Cullen places Dick’s police badge on Elam’s vest. “You wanted it,” says Cullen. “Not like this,” Elam replies.

Cullen, Elam, Louise and cavalry led by Major Bendix ride out to the Mormon homestead with a writ of execution. Bendix pontificates on the “significant similarities in the phrenological faculties of Mormons and Indians.”

The women and children stand in front of the house as Hatch and his two sons, armed, approach the railroad group. Cullen tells Hatch he must stand accountable for murdering Dick. Hatch insists his family will not survive without him. Cullen assures Hatch that they’ll be taken to a Mormon settlement. Hatch lays down his gun then grabs his eldest son, Jeb, declaring, “He done it.” Cullen asks Jeb to tell him the truth. Jeb reluctantly agrees with his father and is hung as his family watches. Hatch says, Cullen now owes him a life. Cullen rides away and plants a railroad stake on the property.

Later, Louise composes her newspaper story. “Integrity is important to Cullen Bohannon,” she writes. “The railroad has always been the business of robber barons and corrupt government officials. I suspect our new Chief Engineer to be neither. And for that, dear reader, we might all count our blessings.”