Moment of Goodness: Bohannon Sets the Terminus, Hell on Wheels “False Prophets”
[Warning: Spoilers for the finale.]
Bohannon’s never been one for dialogue, but “False Prophets” was a super talky episode, and it was driven in large part by the decision of where to end each railroad, and what was at stake for a group of men with varied interests sitting around a dining table.
When Bohannon arrives, the meetings have begun, and he finds himself in a curious position, beside Huntington and across from Durant, who got him into this whole thing way back there. On his right is the Godhead of his wife’s religion, from which she has been excommunicated, and on his left is the POTUS, Grant, who has a soft spot for him.
As each man throws out ideas that may or may not bring the railroad to a meeting point at Salt Lake City, they dismiss for the day, and Huntington begins to plot. Bohannon tells him he cannot lie to Grant, and Huntington checks him that as soon as he signed onto the Central Pacific, he elevated himself to the status of a mogul, whether he realized it or not (and the range of emotions that wash over his face as he realizes it’s true is amazing to behold), and sometimes there are things that you must do for the greater good of the business.
While that weighs on Bohannon, he goes to see Durant, who earlier was fairly flippant with him. This time, it’s a softer Durant who tries to woo him to “come home,” telling him the Union Pacific is his family. This is startling for him (and us) to hear, as Durant has somehow finally realized he’s been up a creek without Bohannon by his side.
Then Bohannon weighs the council of the third man, Grant, and sort of gets a greenlight from him that nothing is off the table, so the earlier possible swindle of Young out of an end point at SLC could be restored.
This helps Bohannon with his fourth conversation, with Young, who asks him to bend the railroad his way in exchange for the location of his family, but Bohannon, now offered the one thing he’s sought, says “no,” he won’t do it this way. But Bohannon does go back to him, and he gets the name of the encampment.
When they all reconvene, he doesn’t give any of the men exactly what they want, or thought he had agreed to. Instead, he sets up a new idea, one that Grant rubberstamps–the fastest team gets to set the terminus, and gets to claim the riches of the natural resources in Ogden. Grant hears him out and is delighted.
“The Central Pacific wishes to propose a more radical alternative…we propose no terminus at all…the point to be determined by the speed with which each railroad builds.
Not long ago, I took a train ride after a long war, and today I sit here, in this room, a stakeholder in the Central Pacific Railroad. Now make no mistake about it–the other men in this room are driven by self-interest and greed. Greed for the coal fields in Ogden. But Ogden’s riches shouldn’t go to the man with the best speech or the most devious lie. This contest hadn’t ought to end in a room. Odgen should go to the man who gets there first. You said it yourself, nothing’s ever the table.”
“You want a race.”
“Yeah, I want a race.”
“Then Mr. Bohannon, you shall have a race.”
Afterward, Huntington says that he should fire him. Bohannon reminds him he won’t if he wants to win. Then he’s left alone with Durant, who tells him he’ll fail. Bohannon checks him on it.
“The race we start tomorrow will be decided in the mud. I was born in the mud, tore a farm out of that mud, built an army out of more mud.”
Durant taunts him that those were all failures. Bohannon tells him exactly how he’ll win, and Durant says Ogden will be his. Bohannon chuckles. “We will see.”
And then we have a quick turn as Young the younger tries and fails to kill his father. When The Swede realizes Phineas wasn’t successful, he flees. One of the Young sons tells Bohannon that Phineas had asked for the location of the excommunicated and the penny drops for Bohannon about The Swede’s master plan. We close the episode, and the season, with him riding hell for leather after The Swede, who’s already arrived on the rise above a house, looking down on Bohannon’s wife and son in the yard, as a twister forms behind him.
Dun dun dun!
I love that at the heart of all these men trying to decide something so fateful for an entire nation, Bohannon essentially measures each man and turns it into a contest of grit and determination. He survived a war decided in blood and mud, despite the back room dealings, and here he makes a stand to do the same again. This is how he can win. This is how he can heal. Love it. Such good work all around.
Honorable mention to the fabulous Robin McLeavy for the fantastic scenes with Eva, who finally strapped on a gun belt and embraced the wild west show she’s been living in to hang onto her hard-fought prosperity. Do NOT mess with her. I think it’s safe to say Mickey’s on notice, too. She still owes him for his shenanigans last season.
See you next year. Thank you so much for reading!
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