Cullen Bohannon has been a killer since the jump. We’ve known this. He doesn’t do it lightly, but he’s in a place where it comes easier for him.
Two weeks ago, he calmly knelt in the grass with a long rifle to shoot one of his men held hostage and put him out of his misery. Last week, we saw him load a revolver chamber while on the move, hands steady and sure. Last night, he had to kill one of his own, and it seared him.
Doc Whitehead (Grainger Hines) came into the picture in the second season premiere as a last remnant of Bohannon’s old life and a possible gateway to a new one as the doctor to the gang of robbers Bohannon had fallen in with over the hiatus. They had a history. Doc had known his family. We can assume Doc delivered both him and his son. Doc calls him Cullen.
When Durant was shot, Bohannon brought Doc to Hell on Wheels to try to save him, and with Eva’s help, he did. Then the Union got hold of the news the gang was there and with Doc the only survivor, he’d be enough justice for the crime, but Bohannon wouldn’t have it. He tried to rustle Doc out of town and he wouldn’t go. He insisted on getting on the train to help take Durant to Chicago. Bohannon made him promise to get off before Chicago and he sort of did, trading a handshake for an embrace that Bohannon didn’t quite know what to do with.
Little did they expect Durant’s train to intersect with the Reverend’s crazy, but it did. Bohannon was then rushing again to get Doc off the train. And again, Doc stepped up, keeping Eva and her baby alive and helping her kill one of the Indians holding them hostage. But the Union soldiers came anyway, guided by the Swede.
Bohannon seethes but Doc goes quietly. Later they sit together in the train car, just out of earshot of a Union solider and Doc tells him he’s okay with this. He lost his three sons in the war and never got to bury them. He’s made some questionable, bad choices, and he’s done. He asks Bohannon to be the one to kill him.
The request washes over Bohannon and he tells Doc he doesn’t think he can. Give him the word, though, and Bohannon says he’ll bust him out and they’ll go to Mexico. Doc says no. Bohannon sits with that for a while. Resigned that this is Doc’s wish, the men walk side by side up a hill and then stop.
Doc is ready. Bohannon asks if he wants a few words, and his fingers tremble–the first time we’ve ever seen him unsteady, rattled–as he tries to find a suitable passage in a small, worn Bible. Doc puts his hands over Bohannon’s to still them and tells him no. He tells Cullen to be strong and then he turns away from him and drops to his knees. Cullen steadies the gun at the back of Doc’s head, closes his eyes, and fires as the shot echoes over the field and Doc falls.
There’s been A LOT of bloodshed this season, and it was a Moment of Goodness to see that Bohannon still has a line. He’s coming for Swede now. I have no doubt. Anson Mount keeps unveiling new shades of his character with quiet little moments and movements. Such good work.
Only four episodes left this season. Too soon!
Hell on Wheels airs Sundays at 9 pm/8c on AMC.