Three Moments of Goodness: Hell on Wheels “Searchers”
Neil LaBute put his stamp on Hell on Wheels with a series of small character moments–something for which his films and plays are well-known. Although LaBute didn’t write “Searchers,” I’m guessing he still had an influence in how they came together. The result was an exceptional episode with phenomenal work by all involved. In no certain order, here are the moments we loved.
Ruth and Eva in the River
Eva’s reeling from her baby’s disappearance when Ruth finds her hip deep in the river. In a scene that was shot with the women facing the audience as Ruth stood behind Eva, Eva says her baby is better off away from her, and Ruth makes the case that she’s wrong–Eva deserves her baby, regardless of what she feels she deserves, and that God had an endless reserve of forgiveness for whatever she’s done. She says that free will is there as God allows her to feel whatever it is she’s feeling.
She also confesses to Eva that she’d conceived and lost a child by Joseph–a morsel of insight into that relationship which we’d not previously seen. Eva listens and Ruth tentatively moves closer to her and finally puts her hand on Eva’s shoulder and then Eva collapses in tears in the water. Ruth sits down with her and holds her, and two of the unlikeliest characters of the show find comfort in each other.
Bohannon and Elam and the Baby
Once Elam and Bohannon have rescued the baby, Bohannon kills a deer to procure her milk. While he preps a makeshift bottle out of a glove, Elam raises and lowers his little girl into the sunlight, reading the translucence in her skin. Bohannon asks him what he was doing and Elam confesses what we’ve suspected–the baby is not his by birth.
But he tells Bohannon–prefacing that this will be the only time they speak of it, that it doesn’t matter. He’ll watch her grow up and be smart and pretty and know that he is her daddy. Bohannon tells him he’d do best to unwrap his heart from her because the rest of his life will be painful if she’s in it, and Elam hears him but says it can’t be done. It’s too late. She’s his.
I loved that they had this discussions as friends–Bohannon as someone who’d lost his family, and Elam as someone who’d lost things all of his life but wasn’t losing this.
Psalms and Declan in the Train Car
When Psalms kidnaps Declan and brutalizes him to find the baby, Declan realizes he’s stepped into a long-running racial sociology beyond his comprehension. The men seemingly bond over Scripture, and Declan promises no reprisals if Psalms lets him go, but Psalms doesn’t relent until the baby is safe. Only then, does he release Declan and return his billy club to him and the men exchange a wordless sort of gentleman’s agreement that what transpired was almost sadly necessary for Psalms to claim his family and keep them safe. We’ll see if Declan moves on now.
We’re halfway through the third season, and production just wrapped last week. I hope we hear about a fourth season renewal before we get to the end of this excellent season.
Hell on Wheels airs Saturdays at 9/8c on AMC. You can catch repeats of “Searchers” throughout the week.
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