This week’s episode of Hell on Wheels, Return to Hell follows up the grand gun fight in last week’s show, Two Trains with John Campbell still in bed with Louise Ellison. The two get up and talk about their recent time between the sheets and Campbell shows that he still has a lot of passion left for the journalist. Unfortunately he hears the train return and he goes out on the balcony to see who has come back.
The one face he does not see is that of his sheriff, Sidney Snow. The other three lawmen hired by Campbell step in front of the “fugitives” from the train and Bohannon states it “does not have to be this way.” Since Campbell’s men are outnumbered and outgunned the governor waves his law officers to the side.
Snow watches from a hill as the “prisoners” all gather in the church, leaving their weapons outside. Ezra goes to pick up one of the rifles and Cullen tells the boy to wait until he can teach him. Durant comes out and says that none of the men will return to work on the railroad until Sheriff Snow is caught or killed.
Brigham Young negotiates with the railroad man Mr. Huntington to replace the Chinese workforce with his Mormon laborers. Under the cover of darkness, Snow collects two long planks and some lanterns. Durant and Bohannon spend time in negotiations with “provisional governor” Campbell and by the end of the talk, Cullen says the only badge he will wear is one from the railroad.
The men in the church find that they have been locked in and just after they learn this lit lanterns are thrown in which set the building on fire. Hell on Wheels, Return to Hell shows just how mad Sidney is as he sets the church on fire. Snow’s own version of Hell which threatens to burn down the whole town. Bucket brigades are formed to save both the building and the town. Cullen saves the trapped men and Snow disappears again.
As the women nurse the wounded Eva settles an old score and Ruth tells Cullen that Ezra has not come back. While Bohannon and Ruth call out to the boy, Mickey tells Cullen to check under the floor of the backroom. Cullen goes back and when he lifts a floorboard, he sees Ezra’s body.
Ruth sees the dead boy and she is understandably upset. Cullen storms up the stairs to Campbell’s office and shoves a gun into the man’s face. He demands that the governor tell him where Snow is and John says that he has no idea but that he will do everything he can to help chase him down.
Mickey tells Cullen that Snow in not in town and Bohannon does not want to believe him. After pulling a gun on his friend, Cullen finally accepts that Sidney has gotten away. He tells Ruth that it is his fault that the sheriff got away and she tells Bohannon that when he brought Ezra to the church that she did not want to look after him. She goes on to talk about all the things that he will never do now. It turns out that Bohannon is not the only one who feels guilty about Ezra’s death.
The Swede and Brigham Young have a talk about his accompanying the Mormon railroad workers and the Swede looks to be one step away from killing Young. As Ruth and Cullen finish burying Ezra, she tells him she wants Snow sent to Hell, with her blessing. Durant gives Bohannon his rail badge.
Louise tells Campbell that she is writing an article about the administration of justice in Cheyenne and she tells her lover that he will not like it. Cullen starts getting things set up for rail work to continue when Snow returns to settle his score with him. The former sheriff braces the new lawman in the street and after he invites Cullen to come and take his gun, a shot rings out and hits the madman in the leg.
Another shot follows, which hits him in the torso. As Bohannon runs up he sees Ruth standing with a pistol in her hand having shot the man responsible for Ezra’s death. While there was no shootout, unlike last week’s gatling gun showdown, there was at least the possibility of a gunfight in the middle of the street a la Gunsmoke. Ruth may have spoiled the “draw” moment but seeing Snow get his comeuppance was satisfying.
Hell on Wheels, Return to Hell is the last episode for around a month with the next segment not appearing until November. This slow, track laying western is still pretty interesting and not bad for a western with few shootouts and an iron horse plot line. Anson Mount and Colm Meaney are still entertaining as is the rest of the cast. Perhaps when the show returns in one month’s time there will be a “high noon” shootout…or two.
By Michael Smith