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Hell on Wheels - "Railroad Men" - Review: "The Race Is Won"

20 Jul 2016

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Hell on Wheels Season 5 Episode Guide!
5.01. "Chinatown" - Review!
5.02. "Mei Mei" - Review!
5.03. "White Justice" - Review!
5.04. "Struck" - Review!
5.05. "Elixir of Life" - Review!
5.06. "Hungry Ghosts" - Review!
5.07. "False Prophets" - Review!
5.08. "Two Soldiers" - Review!
5.09. "Return to the Garden" - Review!
5.10. "61 Degrees" - Review!
5.11. "Gambit" - Review!
5.12. "Any Sum Within Reason" - Review!
5.13. "Railroad Men" - Review!
5.14. "Done" - Series Finale (Airs July 23)

Hell on Wheels 5.11: "Railroad Men" - Review:

Here we are then. After five seasons, several major deaths and unexpected twists, Hell on Wheels is almost over. With just two episodes left to wrap things up, Hell on Wheels actually went and wrapped things up in Railroad Men, the penultimate episode, focusing on the final battle between the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads in a race to the finish. The Central Pacific Railroad has 6 miles to go making it the favorite to win, whilst the Union Pacific is coming in at 10 miles and has to complete them all in a single day. It's near impossible, and Strobridge brings both in the Irish and Chinese workers to help. To make matters worse for Cullen, Mickey has managed to rally the support of his countrymen but Cullen doesn't maintain the support of the Chinese.

Governor Campbell is also determined not to fall victim to corruption, and proclaims that Grant's presidency will be free from it, forcing Huntington to adopt a different tactic with his plan failed. Things aren't looking good for Cullen's men meanwhile as they battle through the railroad with him getting involved himself whilst Durant prefers to watch from afar, urging on his men. Durant's refusal to get involved and instead determination to urge from the sidelines appears to possibly be his own downfall however, because Psalms, along with the Freedmen, have had enough of him not getting involved and can see Cullen digging with his men. So much to Mickey and Durant's despair, they decide to switch sides and battle in favour of Cullen and the Central Pacific. This much needed boost was a pretty awesome moment and possibly one of my favourite ones of the season so far, and allowed Cullen's side to win the race in the end, but only just and the railroad still needed to meet up inspection. But after five seasons, since its inception, Hell on Wheels has now completed what it set out to do. Tell the story of the completion of the railroad.

Whilst the series was all about at first Cullen getting revenge for the people who killed his first wife Hell on Wheels actually got through that plot with surprising speed, building eventually to Season 5 and the inter-railroad drama that we've seen on display here. Despite the fustrating midseason break I probably have to say that overall so far Season 5 has probably been the best one yet, with the soft reboot of the show giving it a much needed boost. It made Cullen's switch of sides to go against Durant an interesting one, and gave him a mutual friend/enemy in Mickey, who they both wished each other good luck before the race began at the finish line.

With the race over though, it appears that Huntington eventually has relented ownership of Ogden's Hub to Durant, essentially making him the victor, as long as the ceremony is had on the side of the Central Pacific. This allows Durant to brag about his ultimate victory for Cullen, even if we have seen a glimpse at his future in the previous episode where he ultimately dies alone with nothing. The question remains though what does happen to Cullen? He can't exactly go back to Naomi now who has left him for Isaac, making the return of Mei a possibility, even though she has said that she doesn't want that life for him. And Cullen's still nursing his leg wound (A side note, I love shows that keep a long term injury running over several episodes rather than forgetting about it next week, makes a real change from the police procedural where this has been dealt with so quickly in the past). There are also no final villains for Cullen to face, at least on paper. The Swede and Chang are both dispatched, so in theory, it's over.

Yet I still can't wait to see what surprises that Hell on Wheels has left in store for our characters. The show has been a powerful character driven story from start to finish, so it'll be interesting to see whether Cullen gets his happy ever after ending or not. It could go either way at this point, and he isn't exactly in the best of shape where we left him, mourning those he lost in agony and alone.

Did you enjoy the penultimate episode of Hell on Wheels? Where do you think this series will take us in its final episode? Let me know in the comments section below. If you don't read any of my other reviews or are keeping up with the comments in the What are you watching tonight section for the last couple of days then you'll also have probably missed that I'll be going to France for the next couple of weeks from tomorrow, meaning that the review of the series finale will most likely be delayed until when I get back in August. So stay tuned for that.

Overall Episode Verdict: A+
+Completion of the railroad.
+Psalms and the freedmen switching sides.

About the Author - Milo MJ
Milo is an Arsenal FC supporter and loves TV shows like Battlestar Galactica, Justified, The 100, The Americans and Person of Interest. He reviews Black Sails, Hell on Wheels, Murder in the First, Narcos, Preacher, Roadies, The Shannara Chronicles and Veep for Spoiler TV as well as books, films and games for his own blog The Fictional Hangout and contributes to comic reviews on a weekly basis for All-Comic.
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