Hell on Wheels Season 4 Episode 8 Review: Under Color of Law


Might there be more death on the horizon for Hell on Wheels Season 4?

The killing of a not-well Elam at the hands of Cullen was a shocking turn of events in Hell on Wheels Season 4 Episode 7. While actor Common was ready to move on from the show, it's at least a positive that neither he nor the writers wanted to leave his fate to the outlandish bear attack in Hell on Wheels Season 3 Episode 10.

Rather than provide a disappointing send-off, the series allowed Elam to return but with tragically changed results. And it made the final knife stab and gunshot all the more impactful combined with Cullen's haunting sorrow at the end of the hour.

So it was no surprise that in Hell on Wheels Season 4 Episode 8 Cullen pushed himself further into his work on the railroad, putting his gun aside, but also putting his wife and child aside. And I expected that the show would give time to focus on the aftermath of Elam's death and allow the people to dwell on thoughts associated with a major character gone.

But while the impact was felt, especially with Cullen and Psalms, the pace and series of events continued right along, further establishing the increasing danger in Cheyenne and of John Campbell.

While John hasn’t done as much but mostly command his lackeys, he does provide a powerful presence in each of his scenes. There’s a reason he’s the governor.

So it was exciting to see him, almost in a rather sinister manner, recruit the imprisoned Syd to join his lawmen, along with the other prisoners in the cell.

And boy was a large group of “wanted” men rounded up real quick. It was so fast in fact that pretty much all the work on the railroad had to be stopped. It’s especially funny seeing as probably a good majority of the people working on the railroad left some form of criminal life behind in their efforts to start fresh.

Even Cullen has committed his fair share of crimes. I’m sure he’s going to be on John’s list soon enough.

But I love the addition of the charismatic Syd, especially now that he’s working for John. Not only was it fantastic casting in picking actor Jonathan Scarfe for the role, but there is such an engaging presence that makes you want to see more. He’s not a guy to root for, but his demeanor and fresh personality add a certain zest to the series.

It really makes me want to see him eventually face off with Cullen.

And as much as Cullen does grieve, we know he does, he also realizes the situation he is putting his wife and child into. Seeing her back at home with her family really captured that, but I love that he accompanied her when she ran off.

He didn’t get mad at her, boss her around, or even force her back. But you can tell that he cares for Naomi and his child, and I believe that when he says he will return, he will.

Clearly though, picking back up his gun and potentially (probably) having to use it will come before that peace time. But like I mentioned before, is it possible for Cullen to escape the world of death that seems to surround those that head out for the railroad?

Mickey did manage to dodge Syd… for now. I loved the clever hiding spot and staredown between Syd and the boy during that scene.

Everything really feels like its heating up, and it’s exciting knowing that Hell on Wheels Season 4 has made huge leaps from its previous season.

Still, I am curious as to what context the Swede will continue to play on the show, and if its even necessary he return after leaving with Brigham Young. I know it was great to see that almost look in the camera during his reveal in the carriage during the hour, but his path seems so far removed from Cullen and the railroad now.

Either way, Hell on Wheels has really stepped it up from the pace, the story and the tension, all while continuing to capture a picturesque landscape. Now it’s just time for a little law breaking.

Still missing Elam? Do you want to see a showdown between Cullen and Syd? Sound off below and be sure to check out the latest installment when you watch Hell on Wheels online.

Sean McKenna was a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. He retired in May of 2017. Follow him on Twitter.

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