Whether you’re a history buff, lover of Westerns or into chicks in period costume, Hell On Wheels is the show for you. Set in the 1800s, the series focuses on the settlement that traveled with the construction of the first Transcontinental Railroad. Dubbed “Hell On Wheels” by the Union Pacific company men, this traveling settlement was mostly comprised of gambling houses, saloons and brothels.
The storyline follows Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount), who comes upon the railroad while hunting down those responsible for his family’s death during the Civil War and he eventually becomes the chief engineer. Thomas “Doc” Durant, played by Colm Meaney (Star Trek Next Generation), is the chief investor looking to make a fortune by any means. Common plays Elam Ferguson, a freed slave who becomes head of security and right hand man to Cullen.
A new addition in Season Three is Louise Ellison (Jennifer Ferrin), a reporter from the New York Tribune who is dispatched to cover the building of the railroad. When she arrives at Hell On Wheels, Cullen gives her a tour as she questions him about the goings on of the railroad business and possible corruption. He urges her to leave on the next train out, but she ignores his advice.
That evening we see why Louise will be just fine. As she walks through the encampment, she is approached by a very large rail worker with improper thoughts. He instantly regrets his plans when Louise pulls a blade and slashes his face. Thats right: She is a bad ass.
Louise eventually comes upon the town’s brothel and meets Eva (Robin McLeavy), a former prostitute with a strange face tattoo. As a girl, Eva was captured by the Yavapi Indians who then traded her to the Mojave for three blankets and a horse, the meaning of her tattoo. She now lives with Elam, who is raising her child as his own since her former husband left Hell On Wheels by putting a bullet in his own brain.
At their first meeting, Eva is tending to a prostitute who is bleeding profusely. Louise asks what is wrong with her and Eva responds “old whore’s disease.” Apparently whoring isn’t the best business to be in during the 1800s. Later Eva and Louise talk over drinks about the woman’s outlook, which isn’t good. As Louise sips her whiskey (even more evidence she is badass), she asks Eva how she survived the whore’s life this long. Eva admits she didn’t do much business due to her freaky face tattoo and Indian past.
Eva learns that Louise has written an article about her that has been published in The New York Tribune. She asks Elam to read it to her and is touched by how Louise views her, as a special woman who overcame a horrible past. Meanwhile, Durant meets with Louise to be interviewed and when confronted with questions he doesn’t want to answer, he asks her why she isn’t further along in her career. She says it was due to one small indiscretion that wouldn’t have mattered if she were a man. But Durant doesn’t ask questions unless he already knows the answers. He informs Louise that he is aware she was a little too fond of her boss’s daughter and was sent to Hell On Wheels as a punishment. That evening at a town dance, Cullen drunkenly kisses Louise. I guess he didn’t get the same memo that Durant was privy too.
Due to a series of events, including giving her baby away to her dead husband’s brother, Elam gives Eva the boot. She tries to return to the whoring business and is told by the town pimp that he will pass. Downtrodden and unsure of her future she decides to board the next train out and leave Hell On Wheels. Louise sees her at the train stop and talks Eva into staying with her. Oh Louise, you sneaky little minx, swooping in when she is at her lowest. Cut to next episode which opens with Louise and Eva in bed. Unfortunately it appears that all they did was share a good nights sleep.
Later when Louise returns to her suite after a long day of looking for good material for the paper, Eva approaches her from behind. She plays with Louise’s hair as they talk and begins to kiss her neck. Louise recoils and a confused Eva backs away. Louise tells Eva that she is worthy of her friendship and kindness without “payment” in return.
The season ends with Eva staring at Louise through a window after she feels Elam’s spirit leave this world. I guess living with the Mojave for a bit gives you special powers. It is unclear if it is a look of longing or if she sees Louise as her meal ticket. The only way to find out will be to tune in to Season Four. The odds are good we will see Louise next season since she survived through this many episodes without being murdered or mauled by wildlife. This show can be rough, but it is damn good.