Hell on Wheels Season 5 Episode 5: Elixir of Life
Official Synopsis: Unexpected violence strikes during the festival of Tin Hau Don in Chinatown. Cullen confronts The Swede. Durant involves Maggie in his latest scheme.
An intriguing opening to the episode — Chang and Cullen are on their way to San Francisco to pick up supplies (fireworks) for the Tin Hau Don festival. Although it’s clear both would rather be by someone else, treat us to an interesting conversation about the past: when it should be forgotten, when it should be remembered. As we learn later, the conversation foreshadows coming events.
Meanwhile, back in Laramie, it looks like business is booming for Eva and Mickey. They’ve got a pretty slick business plan down, even though Eva’s still having issues with one of her girls. I have a feeling that might come to head sooner than later, as well as the partnership between Eva and Mickey. In other news, what’s this lake of brimstone the Union faces?
Ah, Cullen. Like most fights against the Swede, he comes too little too late. It’s the same case again when he calls Phineas into his office to warn him about the Swede. At the same time, Thor Gunderson is next door, striking a deal with Chang to cement their alliance against Bohannon. The way things are shaping up, Cullen’s going to have his hands full with that pair.
With Phineas firm in his grasp, it looks like the Swede’s plan is in full swing. After making up a story about receiving orders from the angel Moroni on a golden plate (like Joseph Smith’s revelation) he presents the guns he’s been stockpiling to Brigham Young’s son. The scene of the Swede bowing down before Phineas is chilling, a precursor of the chaos to come.
But now, time to lighten up a bit! You’ve gotta love Maggie’s fire. Not only does she ruin Durant’s latest con, but then she turns around and has the gumption to throw a pile of…undesirable material at him. It’s good to see someone aside from Bohannon seeing past his B.S. — or throwing it at him, I suppose. On the other hand, you almost had to believe he felt bad later on when he sold all that worthless land to Psalms and his crew of freemen.
I have an ominous feeling after Cullen’s conversation with Tao. I got an even more ominous feeling when Cullen leaves his bottle of the “Pacific Ocean” in the care of Strobridge’s daughter. It’s clear he’s expecting trouble, trouble he might not survive. Chang’s toast did little to assuage Cullen’s (or my) worries.
Man, my teeth were clenched for the last ten minutes of the show. When Chang revealed the old rifle in the rice box trick, I was as stunned as Cullen. I was almost convinced Chang’s gesture was genuine. Cullen’s desire to beat the Swede once again caused him to act on impulse and, as always, he paid the price.
You’ve gotta love the latest cat and mouse game between Bohannon and the Swede. When Cullen went through those rice crates, I got a sinking feeling right alongside him. But it’s too late. The wild goose chase is complete and Tao becomes the latest victim of the Swede’s (and Chang’s) guile.