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Getting to Know Lily Bell, Hell on Wheels 

Photo Credit: AMC

I knew I was going to like Dominique McElligott‘s Lily Bell the second we met her. There aren’t a lot of women willing to uproot themselves and head west with their husbands. But Lily has a connection to the wide open and unspoiled land, even though her Robert’s work will help a railroad cut across it. She’s one of the few ladies in the camp but she won’t let herself but pushed out after her husband’s death by any man’s opinions or actions. She defied her father to marry the man she loved, she defied expectations when she went west with him, and she defies conventions to stay true to herself and what she wants. She’s a modern woman in so many ways.

I’m sure I’d be much less of a fan if she was a shy, retiring type. But I knew she had some fire in her during those early scenes with her husband. It was nice to see how much they loved each other. That was tragically cut short when their surveying party is attacked by Indians, Robert killed and Lily injured. She manages to kill Robert’s murderer before all is said and done and stay away from the Indian hunting party who is looking for her. She sews together her own wound before being found by Joseph, a “saved” Indian. Bohannan stumbles upon them and fixes her shoulder wound before taking her back to camp.

Photo Credit: AMC

Lily becomes the guest of Durant but doesn’t tell him – at first – she has her husband’s maps, which Durant desperately wants. When Lily does reveal that she has the maps, she will only part with them if Durant pays her what he owed her husband. Durant then comes on hard times and Lily gives him the maps willingly, urging him to finish what he’d started – using some choice name-calling in the process. When Lily has to go back East to visit her in-laws, she’s ambushed by a funeral/wake. There, her dead husband’s sister makes some very disparaging remarks seemingly behind Lily’s back. Lily hears her and confronts her, telling everyone gathered there the real story of how Robert died. Durant learns the real story too and makes a proposal – of sorts – to her on the train back to Hell on Wheels.

Lily is hard to dislike. She’s a woman who knows her own mind and isn’t afraid to inspire men to action. I love her prickly relationship with Bohannan and her surprising friendship with Durant. I was a bit shocked when Durant talked about furthering their relationship – and (I have to admit) not completely against it. He’s already married, so just what is he offering her? To be his mistress? I’m not opposed to the idea because I really like these two together. Durant can be a total blowhard who says exactly what’s on his mind (I’d actually like him to be subtle every now and then) and Lily’s a pragmatist. I thought there might be something between her and Bohannon (and there still might be), but I like that there might also be something between her and Durant.

I’m looking forward to seeing what lies ahead for her. I think she’ll be just fine whether or not she decides to have anything to do with Bohannan or Durant. Mostly, I want to see her forge ahead and continue to create her own identity and opportunities.

Hell on Wheels airs Sundays at 10/9c.

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