‘Hell on Wheels’: Season 5, Episode 14 Recap

‘Hell on Wheels’ closes out its five season run on exactly the right note. The the railroad finally completed it’s time for our favorite characters to figure out what to do next with their lives.

Series finales can be very tricky. It’s hard to manage the expectations that can build up and also leave your fans satisfied. Luckily for us Hell on Wheels managed to exceed expectations yet again. Below is my recap for episode 14 “Done”.

The Golden Spike

The episode opens with Durant (Colm Meaney) and Huntington (Tim Guinee) having a ceremony marking the railroads completion and driving the golden spike into the road. Of course they begin bickering as to who will be the one to drive the spike in. While the ceremony is going on, Cullen (Anson Mount) wakes up hungover from the previous night’s festivities. He’s clutching something that Mei (Angela Zhou) left for him. He asks Mr. Lee what it says and is informed that it is an address in China.

Photo Credit: AMC

Cullen heads to Mickey’s (Phil Burke) for more whiskey and it seems that even though the railroad is done there’s still tensions between everyone. A bar fight erupts as the golden spike ceremony carries on. John Campbell (Jake Weber) arrives and serves Durant with a subpoena to appear before congress to answer bribery and corruption charges. Campbell also makes a stop to see Cullen, he finds a bar fight and asks what the hell is going on, Cullen laughs and tells him he doesn’t know. It seems all the guys in the fight are having the time of their lives. Campbell gives Cullen papers and tells him that he has to testify against Durant on the corruption charges.

Cullen tells Campbell that he isn’t going to Washington D.C. Campbell informs him that he is and he should reflect on where it goes next, it will determine how the rest of his life is looked upon. Mickey pays a visit to Durant and finds out that Durant is buying out his stake in the railroad. Mickey doesn’t want to sell but Durant tells him that it’ll be worthless once word gets out about the corruption hearings. The final words Mickey says to him are ‘I hope you burn’.

Louise (Jennifer Ferrin) goes to find Eva (Robin McLeavy). Louise tells her that her editor is interested in Eva’s story and he’d like Louise to help her right a book about her life. Meanwhile, Huntington meets with Cullen and tells him that once he is done in D.C he’ll be needing him in San Francisco. He wants Cullen’s help when they start working on the southern railroad line.

Photo Credit: AMC

Once he arrives in D.C, Cullen is invited to a fancy gala on President Grant’s request. Durant attends the gala too and is trying to see where he stands with his allies there. It isn’t looking good for Durant. Cullen meets General George Custer and seems to make friends with him. It’s a little odd to see Durant as the outsider and Cullen being welcomed in by the fancy Washington elite. Once President Grant arrives Cullen finds out that Grant wants him to make him a Colonel and be in charge of keeping the railroad safe. Cullen reads between the lines and tells the president that he isn’t an Indian killer. Grant insists that isn’t what he wants. When Cullen tells him that he’s a railroad man, President Grant calls bullshit and tells him he’s a soldier who’s lost without a war to fight.

Durant and Cullen have one final meeting. Durant tells him that he knows he’s not in a good position as he has no more allies in this town. Durant tells Cullen that Maggie Palmer was right. Cullen responds saying that Maggie was a good woman and Durant tells him that he loved her. Cullen breaks the news that he’s been called to testify. Durant gives him permission to say whatever he wants, but warns Cullen against his new D.C friends. He says they’ll betray him.

Eva stops by Mickey’s to get her ten percent. Mickey asks her to go with him to San Francisco but Eva tells him that they aren’t good for each other and it would only be bad for the both of them in the long run. He’s angry though he does give her the money she’s due and wishes her good luck.

Cullen meets with President Grant and ends up accepting the offer. All dressed up in his fancy uniform Cullen testifies before congress. The only thing he’ll say when they try to question him is that the transcontinental railroad couldn’t have been built without Durant. Any other attempts to get Cullen to say something results in him repeating that phrase. They dismiss him when it’s clear he won’t be saying anything else. Eva meets with Louise and her editor. She’s getting fitted for a new dress and it becomes clear that the editor is only interested in sensationalizing her story and further disparaging Native Americans. When she begins having a panic attack, Louise shoos her editor out. Eva tells her that she can’t do this and Louise accidentally insults Eva by saying this is the best that she could hope for. Eva’s response is to hug her, tell her she loves her and says that she promised herself that she’d stop whoring. Eva tells Louise good luck in Chicago.

Photo Credit: AMC

Cullen has another encounter with Custer. He’s less than impressed with the things that he has to say about the Native Americans. It seems Cullen’s initial assessment of what he would be doing is correct. Cullen finds himself in a church, more specifically a confession booth. While he doesn’t manage to actually confess anything he finds something in the confessional booth.

It’s Durant’s turn to speak before congress. He tells them that he doesn’t care what history will say about him, he’s interested in the things that he actually saw and did. While Durant makes one final speech we see Cullen leave behind his uniform, Mickey set off on a train towards San Francisco, and Eva finally tame the horse she’s been trying to break for several episodes. Eva rides off. Cullen arrives in San Francisco but instead of meeting with Huntington he buys a ticket for China. The last we see of Cullen Bohannon is him on a boat looking like he’s finally a peace.

Other Thoughts on the Episode

  • I think this episode belongs on the list of best series finales of all time. It was exactly what fans deserved after five years with these characters.
  • The finale didn’t wrap up everything in a nice little bow, but it did provide closure for all the characters that we cared about.
  • I really liked how Cullen and Eva’s fates were left open ended. They had both reached a place of peace and it was enough to give viewers hope that they would find a happier life as they set out away from the railroad.
  • I’m really going to miss this show. It has always been one of the finest shows on television.

What did you think of tonight’s series finale? Love it? Hate it? Let me know in the comments!

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