Hell on Wheels: Two Soldiers
June 16, 2016 6:06 AM - Season 5, Episode 8 - Subscribe

In the beginning of the final seven episodes of the series, Cullen and The Swede finally have it out.

Written by John Wirth & Tom Brady
Directed by Michael Nankin
Full cast and crew credits
posted by Brandon Blatcher (1 comment total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How much you like this episode depends on how easily you buy the premise that Cullen would struggle to take Thor “The Swede” Gunderson into town for justice, rather than kill him.

Coming in cold to the series, after a ten month delay, it initally sounds ridiculous. But the writers know what they’re doing, as Cullen’s choice not to outright kill The Swede reveals itself not be so much a strength of character or some innate goodness. Instead its a mixture of all those things plus an element of fear. Cullen doesn’t want to go further down the road of wantonly killing whoever he thinks should be dead. With the final sprint for the railroad beginning, he knows this chapter in his life and ending and he wants to leave it behind him as clean as he can. The choice has always been Cullen’s on whether to kill a person and he’s made that choice plenty of times, in anger, in righteousness, with little regret. This time he wants to put a stop to his godlike behavior and instead agreed to abide by the laws of men. Because at this point I suspect it’s all he can bear.

Cullen can’t look The Swede in the eye as he dangles on the end of the rope. He takes no joy in the death, even one so richly deserved, on both personal and societal levels. It’s just something that needed to be done, despite The Swede’s pleas of forgiveness.

The audience finally gets a look Gunderson’s past, where he was a happy and beloved member of the Union army. But then he and his unit were captured by Confederates and imprisoned in dire conditions so terrible, his friend tried to eat him, forcing The Swede to kill him. The Civil War changed Cullen, arguely for the better. The Swede was not so lucky, though we see that at some point, he and Cullen could have been friends.

Hats off and a deep bow to actor Christopher Heyerdahl for his consistently entertaing and riveting portrayal of The Swede, one of the most unforgetabble characters on recent television.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:06 AM on June 16, 2016 [5 favorites]

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