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Moment of Goodness

Moments of Goodness: Hell on Wheels “One Less Mule” 

Photo Credit: AMC/Chris Large
Photo Credit: AMC/Chris Large

Bohannon gets called on the carpet (repeatedly) in “One Less Mule” and thanks to a surprising alliance with Ulysses S. Grant, he safely retains his job by the end of the hour. There are several Bohannon-themed Moments of Goodness along the way that confirm our favorite railroad boss isn’t quite sure of his identity when it’s separated from the Union Pacific, so it’s a very good thing that he stays the course. In no particular order, here are the moments that stood out.

Bohannon is still a killer

Elam sidetracks a young man who’s acting shifty and discovers that he’s the surviving brother of one of the victims of Bohannon’s revenge rampage, in town to exact his own revenge. Elam puts him on a train and watches it leave the station, and later that night, it’s Bohannon, three sheets gone and reliving himself on the adjacent rack who sees the kid slide off the parked train and creep back into town.

Despite being ridiculously drunk, Bohannon, sitting on the stairs of the train parked opposite the one the kid just hopped off, with one hand on his chin, levels a gun at him with the other and asks him who he is. The kid tells him, and Bohannon asks if he’s there to kill him. The kid says yes and Bohannon asks if there’s anything he can do to change his mind. The kid says no, and Bohannon puts a bullet in his forehead. When he stands up, he tells him he’s sorry for his loss. Murder, in and of itself isn’t a MOG, but the way Bohannon just matter-of-factly shoots the kid almost as a reflex, as easily as he mercy kills the mule in the opener, is something to behold.

Bohannon celebrates his unemployment

After Bohannon’s been kangaroo-courted out of his job, he takes over Mickey’s tent, tying one on and even dancing with and kissing Louise (to a new tune by Charlie Daniels that you can hear here). At the end of the night, he shuts the place down by sharing a bottle of the good stuff with Grant, who confides that he’s dreading the Presidential run because he’s an alcoholic. Bohannon asks him if that means he couldn’t drink in public and tells Grant that maybe he shouldn’t run, then.

Photo Credit: AMC/Chris Large
Photo Credit: AMC/Chris Large

Bohannon gets the last laugh on Durant

The morning after, Bohannon and Grant ride out and look over the land. Grant acknowledges that he is responsible for the deaths of over 300,000 during the war–many from the same family. They talk about killing, and Bohannon laughs that if he’d been that close to Grant three years earlier, he’d have easily killed him. Grant’s amused but knows it’s true.

Then he makes Bohannon an unexpected offer–if he can reach Cheyenne on time and under budget, he’ll go to bat with Congress for Bohannon to keep his job. Bohannon mulls that, and the reversal of fortune that will both free him and bind him. Grant tells him it’s picture-perfect for the country–a former Northern general and former Southern soldier uniting to build the railroad. Bohannon takes a swig of the whiskey they’re finishing and asks him where the hell Cheyenne is, anyway.

Grant says he went to the Bureau of Land Management and had the town of Durant renamed. Bohannon laughs long and loud about this and it’s a beautifully light moment we’ve never seen, where everything in Bohannon’s features relaxes, for just a moment, and he’s genuinely happy. He asks Grant if Durant knows. When Grant says no, Bohannon asks if he can tell him.

Bohannon leaves Sean in Hell on Wheels

His deal made, Bohannon loads the town onto the train and nods conspiratorially to Grant, who’s letting Durant and his sidekick down easy. The newly engaged Elam and Eva board, and then Mickey and his girls. As Sean starts to board, Bohannon stops him and tells him simply that the train is for employes only and he’s fired. He doesn’t say anymore but Sean knows why. In a bookend to the scene in the premiere, Bohannon stands at the back of the train as they pull away, watching a lost Sean alone on the platform with his suitcase.

I loved that Bohannon was pissed off enough to fight for his job and then resolute when he wouldn’t submit a sham resignation, and joyful that maybe he was released. When Grant reels him back in, he can’t help but oblige because the railroad is what defines him now. He’s put his own blood, and the blood of others, into it. Only four episodes left this season. Too fast!

Hell on Wheels airs Saturdays on AMC at 9/8c.

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  1. Jeff

    The Bureau of Land Management was created in 1946 by President Truman by combining the Government Land Office and the Bureau of grazing. Oops

    1. Heather M

      It’s been so long since I watched it — was the error mine in understanding, or theirs?

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