The Season 3 finale of AMC’s Hell on Wheels is set to air this Saturday, October 5th. Entitled “Get Behind the Mule”, the tenth episode will bring together several narrative arcs launched at the beginning of the season. Hell on Wheels, currently set in the year 1867, dramatizes the historical westward expansion of both the transcontinental Union Pacific railroad and the American population. Lead character Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) is a former Confederate soldier who originally embedded himself in the railway project to serve a revenge mission but who has now ascended to the position of chief engineer for the railroad.

One of the season’s narrative arcs began in the second episode with a Mormon family who had built a home on what became the railroad’s right-of-way. Despite Bohannon’s efforts to find an alternate route for the Union Pacific, he was forced to exercise the power of eminent domain – the ability of the railroad, with government sanction, to seize property for public use. Within the framework of eminent domain, land can be seized by a corporation if the state decides that corporate use serves the public good – the transcontinental railroad had been deemed in the public interest.

Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) & Elam Ferguson (Common) – AMC Image

The railroad’s chief-of-police will be killed when the Mormon family resists the seizure of their land. Bohannon is forced to execute the murderer, a Mormon youth, yet there lingers the idea that it had not been the son but actually the Mormon father who had killed the officer. The father swore to make Bohannon pay for the deed and in the ninth episode, that father gets closer to his goal when Bohannon is captured and brought to a Mormon fort for trial. Elam Ferguson (Common), the current chief-of-police, then plans his own mission to rescue Bohannon.

An additional major narrative arc in the current season has been the return of The Swede (Christopher Heyerdahl), the former head of security for the Union Pacific, who sought to destroy both the railroad and Bohannon once he was exiled from his position. At the finale of Season 2, it was unclear whether The Swede had met his demise or not. That question has been answered in Season 3 as The Swede commits murder so as to pose as a Mormon bishop at the very fort to which Bohannon has now been brought. 

Beginning at 12 noon (EST) on October 5th, AMC will run all previous nine episodes of the current season of Hell on Wheels in succession. The season finale will then air at 9E/8C. For a previous post on that gives some historical background on the practice of eminent domain in the American West – and how it remains a current issue in the 21st century – please see this link: Eminent Domain in the West.

(Copyright – Chad Beharriell)

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