Photo Credit: Chris Large/AMC

Hell on Wheels Season 5 Episode 3 Review: White Justice

Hell on Wheels Season 5 Episode 3: White Justice
Synopsis: Cullen contends with violence in Chinatown set off by disgruntled railroad workers. The Swede manipulates Phineas in his plot against the Mormons.

Read the previous episode review

Episode 3 kicks off with a clip from Fong/Mei Mei’s past, presumably the first time she donned the disguise of a man to protect herself from the violence in her home land. This scene is interspersed with Fong and her father arriving at the Central Pacific camp to begin work on the railroad. Although I love that Hell on Wheels is delving into so many back stories, I’m not sure they’re going to be able to wrap so many character arcs up all nice and neat by the finale.

After the intro, we’re treated to another confrontation between the Swede and Bohannon. The Swede’s ticked about shoveling snow and goes into another spiel about being the Joker to Cullen’s Batman, or vice versa in his opinion I suppose. After Bohannon rides off on the train, the Swede pics up another shipment of…rice? from Chang. He also asks to triple his order, leaving us to wonder just what nefarious plot he’s up to now.

Turns out, he’s only buying rice to create a discrepancy in the Church’s accounting books. He points out the flaw to Phineas and Brigham Young’s son flies off the handle. After double checking the numbers, Phineas returns later, convinced Brigham Young is cheating him, just as the Swede intended. Now, with Phineas in his clutches, it looks like the Swede is almost ready to make his power play against the Prophet.

Meanwhile, Cullen’s new steam engine has increased tunneling speed, but at the expense of white men’s jobs. This doesn’t sit well with Strobridge and he goes behind Bohannon’s back to find new work for them. Huntington dispenses some wisdom but in the end, doesn’t relent to giving the men new jobs. Does this signal a permanent rift between Strobridge and Bohannon?

After getting Strobridge off his put, Cullen’s walk through camp as the Chinese go about their down time further shows just how isolated and alone he is. He makes a stop by Fong’s tent and the ensuing discussion brings up past themes of racism and the true meaning of “freedom” in post-Civil War America. “We’re still Chinese,” she says when Cullen tries to assuage her fears.

Later on, Chang has a great one-liner in the same vein to wrap up the episode: “So this is America. It may be the law, but it is not justice.”

Back in the bar, Strobridge’s recently fired men are all fired up (pun intended), similar to what happened back in Hell on Wheels between the Irishmen and African-Americans. Strobrdige does his best to curve their wrath against the Chinese, but doesn’t seem to get through to the trio.

In the next scene, the white fellers stir up some trouble in Chang’s sweatshop. Even his kung-fu can’t save him and they hang one of Chang’s employees. With a crowd of Chinese gathering around, they prepare to hang Chang (no rhyme intended) next. What is it with the Irish wanting to string everybody up?

Just in time, Bohannon, Tao and Fong show up to cut him down. The next morning, Chang wants a trial, leaving Bohannon and Strobridge to arrest the men responsible in preparation for a trial. Unfortunately, the Chinese are the only witnesses and can’t testify against the whites. With Chang harboring a grudge, we leave Bohannon preparing for the ensuing storm.

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