Hell on Wheels Season 5 Episode 6: Hungry Ghosts
Official Synopsis: Cullen and Mei take a dangerous journey through the California wilderness, escorting precious cargo. Eva nurses Louise back to health.
I’m back in the saddle! It’s been forever, but we’re going to get through the rest of Season 5, come hell or high water. Haha…come hell…(cough) okay, down to business!
Episode 6 starts off in heartbreaking fashion: Mei kneeling over her father’s body, beside herself with grief and ready to exact revenge for his death. Wisely, Cullen pulls her away from Mr. Chang to get a grip on things in her tent. The next day, Cullen approaches Chang to end the violence. Although he agrees, it’s hard to believe their won’t be more killing on the way. Without further adieu, Cullen and Mei head to Sacramento with Tao’s body.
Their plans are soon derailed (pardon the pun), however, when the train is stopped at a bridge under repair. Although he’s prepared to head on to Sacramento alone, Cullen remains true to his inner softie and agrees to help Mei get her father there as well. On the way, they run into Stagecoach Mary — I’ve got a feeling the little interaction won’t be the last time our fearless female stage driver crosses paths with Cullen.
In the ensuing scene, we’re treated to another one of Bohannon’s fireside chats. He waxes poetic, giving another sliver of information about his past. He says he went home for honor, and his father and grandfather but then reminisces on his failures, ending with “sometimes I still wake up with ashes in my mouth.”
The showdown between Brigham Young and Durant, while intriguing, doesn’t hold a candle to Eva’s exchange with the Lion of the Lord. Their conversation marks one of the first accurate portrayals of Mormon doctrine in the series and also leaves me wondering if there’s more in Eva’s future than managing a brothel. Right now, however, she’s got her hands full keeping Louise alive. After leaving her sickbed to interview Brigham Young, Ms. Ellison collapses in the street, the result of an infection from her abortion. She looks like death warmed over when she wakes in bed, Eva at her side.
Just when you think things can’t get any worse for Mei, Cullen’s stubbornness causes their wagon to topple over in the river, sending them and the casket holding Tao’s body rushing downstream. They make it out of the river, but lose most of their supplies and the casket in the process. When they finally found the body, it’s apparent they’ll have to bury Tao in the wilderness, instead of shipping him to China, and Mei breaks down again. Later on, they’re digging the grave and Cullen tells her to stop and let him finish.
“Just be his daughter right now,” he says.
Her reply sums up Bohannon perfectly. “You have dug many graves.”
“Too many to count,” he replies, “the worst was the ones I couldn’t bury.”
Later on, Mei arrays herself in her mothers dress and they hold a lantern service for her father. Lighting the paper lanterns at the river, she tells Cullen. “For your ghosts, those you have buried and those you cannot.” A beautiful if somewhat ominous scene ensues and it’s like all the departed characters from Hell on Wheels are looking down on the pair, their deaths weighing on Cullen.
In an effort to keep the Mormon workers from leaving the Union Pacific, Durant and Maggie play their ace in the hole: they show Brigham Young plans from Huntington to circumvent the Great Salt Lake. In response, Young pulls all workers from the Central Pacific, including the Swede and Phineas Young. Ready to enact his master scheme, the Swede puts his finishing touches on his corruption of Phineas. I’ve got a feeling things are going to end very, very badly for poor Phineas.
Fully recovered, Louise writes her most scathing article about the Union Pacific yet. When the story reaches Grant, he calls for a meeting in Salt Lake with Huntington and Durant. With the showdown of the season on the way, Cullen makes for Utah to join them.