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Hell on Wheels, Ep. 3.07, “Cholera”: Empire Builders

Hell on Wheels, Ep. 3.07, “Cholera”: Empire Builders

Hell on Wheels S03E07 promo pic, "Cholera"

Hell on Wheels, Season 3, Episode 7, “Cholera”
Written by Tom Brady
Directed by Deran Sarafin
Airs Saturdays at 9pm (ET) on AMC

With only three episodes left before the season finale, Hell on Wheels has taken Cullen (Anson Mount) to the point of near death and face to face with the young Mormon boy that lost his family at the hands of the Swede (Christopher Heyerdahl).

As a heat wave sweeps through the camp, rats and snakes take refuge in the town’s water supply which eventually leads to a cholera outbreak that catches up with Cullen. “Cholera” is certainly about the actual physical illness, but it seems to be more about imaginary ailments. Durant (Colm Meaney) spends the majority of the time having a pity party for himself after killing his U.S. Senator partner and Eva (Robin McLeavy) is suffering from what appears to be postpartum depression.

Durant’s always seen himself as superior to Cullen, but when he kills his partner and blames it on Shaun, the audience knows better; that’s the last thing Cullen would ever do. Cullen remains a man who will always take responsibility, albeit reluctantly, for his mistakes. Durant is a painfully arrogant man and that’s obvious when his stupidity won’t even allow him to accept help from Mickey (Phil Burke). Durant’s obsession with being an “empire builder” and creating his perfect town might not add much to his character but it fits incredibly well into what we already know about him.

Hell on Wheels

Season three has been excelled in many areas, chief among them the development of the show’s supporting characters. The further exploration of Eva gives us her head-scratching but still effective decision to give up her baby. It’s clear that she is suffering from some kind of illness and while her decision to put baby Rose on a train with her brother-in-law doesn’t come completely out of left field, that puzzling choice is the only major issue with the episode. She’s said more than once that she doesn’t think the camp is the right place for her child and that she won’t be a good mother. Yet, the idea that she would just hand over her child seems odd and it doesn’t quite fit. Her decision might not make total sense but this doesn’t take away from the power of the scene; McLeavy has done a wonderful job this season.

Shaun and Mickey might be the most intriguing supporting characters we’ve seen develop this season. They seem to represent a major theme for the show, the idea that the conventionally bad people have more to offer than most everyone else. We were made to believe early in season two that Mickey was the worst of the two brothers but it’s become clear, especially this season, that he may have a stronger moral compass than his brother.

As Hell on Wheels heads toward its season finale, “Cholera” gives us another interesting relationship to explore. Can the sweet connection between Cullen and the mute Mormon boy last? This certainly isn’t a show that looks kindly on gentle character developments. In the coming episodes we’ll hopefully see more of Cullen and the boy. “Cholera” is a satisfying episode that is a great lead into the final part of the season.

Tressa Eckermann