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Relationship Recap: Bohannon and Lily, Hell on Wheels 

Photo by Frank Ockenfels/AMC

Sex scenes are tricky business. Sometimes when a show finally pulls the trigger on a couple’s UST, the scene isn’t at all what you wanted or expected it to be and then you’re sort of on the fence about whether they should’ve gone there.

One of the perks of watching Hell on Wheels separate from AMC is that I don’t see the previews, so I genuinely had no idea we were going to get what we got last night. And I have to say, Hell on Wheels got it right. Bohannon and Lily had more of a relationship–of any kind–last season than this one, and when he left her hanging at the dance in the finale and then she picked up with Durant, that seemed to put a fork in things.

This season, after one initial, short conversation, it took a while to even start putting them in the same room together. At the heart of their relationship with each other has always been a sort of a wounded warrior vibe–they’ve both been through their own hell, lost a spouse, and come out the other side of it hardened but in very different ways.

When Bohannon came back this season, at Durant’s behest, Lily was a bit ashamed of her situation with Durant and Bohannon put her at ease that there were no judgements. She did what she had to. And then he seemed to move on. Contrast this with the way Elam has pined and pined for Eva, and that she went back to him immediately upon returning to Hell on Wheels.

Bohannon genuinely seemed to never give Lily a second thought. He saw her as a boss aligned to Durant and that was that. Whatever thought he might have entertained last season had passed.  Then, with Durant out of town and potentially on his deathbed, and if not, on the road to his wife, Lily is suddenly adrift, and she turns her attention back to Bohannon. I really don’t think he’d thought about her day in and day out the way she likely did him.

From what we’ve seen, he’s just turned that part of himself off since his wife died. Understandably so. The one attempt of one of the working girls to thank him for some extra money last season was turned down immediately. It would seem that the only way he functions as he does is to shut his emotions down.

When Bohannon finally has his confrontation with the Swede and realizes he can’t argue with crazy, he readies to leave town in a drunken haze but Lily stops him, and berates him for always running away. The next day, sobered up and still in town, he thanks her for the head check. There’s a touch of embarrassment for being called out and maybe a spark of something else–but again, it’s not all that recognizable because Bohannon doesn’t tap into that part of himself anymore.

Later that night, Lily comes to him as he’s ending his day, and in a scene with no dialogue but perfect music (“Annabel” by The Duhks), she takes him to bed. What’s so intriguing about the dynamic of the scene is that at the outset, it’s all her. It takes him a while to kiss her back, and then when he does, it’s more about being touched and holding onto her than it is about the sex itself. It becomes fairly clear that she really is likely the first woman he’s been with since his wife died.

The next morning is also nearly wordless as he dresses to leave and she wakes before he’s out the door. There’s a simple, peaceful look between them after she calls him Cullen instead of Mr. Bohannon, and for a moment, they are happy.

It may all go to hell when the Durants slam back into town this Sunday, but I’m glad the door’s been opened on what these two characters might be together.

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  1. Barbara

    I could only dream to write as beautiful as Mr. Frank Olkensfels, about what I saw on the screen with Lily & Bohannon, . . .the scenes & music were perfect. I adamantly requested my husband to save this episode on DVR forever 🙂

    1. Heather M

      No worries! Thanks so much for reading, Barbara!

    2. Darlene

      What did Cullen reply to Lily before he left at there end of the episode?

      1. GJ

        \”Guess I better get out to the bridge site.\”

  2. Barbara

    Ooops, . . .the photo was by Frank Ockenfels, not the article, my apologies Ms Heather M.

  3. Laura

    Did everyone forget about the beautiful girl he seemed to be in love with that the Swede killed? He was happy with her.

    1. Heather M

      Hi Laura. Thank you for reading. I don’t think they forgot her — loss is pervasive throughout the show, and this time period, and they all just find ways to grieve and move forward in order to survive.

  4. Darlene Manchester

    Just found this poignant article written 3 years ago. Episode 7 Season 2, was in my opinion the best of this series. Sadly this romantic love story was extinguished all too soon. Many viewers felt the pairing of Lily and Cullen provided hope to a desperate setting. We’ll never know what could have been.

    1. Heather M

      Hi Darlene,

      Thanks for reading! I loved them together, too.


  5. Susan

    I loved them together too.To bad there love ended to soon. Does Lilly have a twin maybe the end series Cullen and Lily’s twin could be together.

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