Eminent Domain

"Eminent Domain"

Season Number: 3
Episode Number: 2
Airdate: August 10, 2013
Director: Adam Davidson
Writer: John Wirth
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"Eminent Domain" is the second episode of the third season of the AMC series Hell on Wheels.


The railroad progress is interrupted by a family of Mormons in its path. When a family member kills the railroad's sheriff, Cullen seeks justice. Louise Ellison, a New-York Tribune reporter, arrives in town to witness it all.


Cullen Bohannon gives Louise Ellison, who's writing a story about the First Transcontinental Railroad, a tour of the town. He claims he doesn't need Thomas Durant help in the race against the Central Pacific Railroad. She asks where Lily Bell is buried. Cullen replies Lily is in a wildflower field, adding that Hell on Wheels is no place for a lady. Elam Ferguson meets Dick, who says Elam now works for him.

Three armed riders enter town and order Cullen to keep the railroad off their property. Cullen rides to a nearby farm and meets Aaron Hatch, a Mormon, and his family. Hatch invites him to dinner, during which he insists his family is not moving. Cullen says he'll try to find a route around the farm, but the family will have to move if none can be found. Cullen spends the night and, in the barn, he and the eldest daughter, Naomi Hatch, begin to kiss. Her inquisitive younger brother Henry Hatch interrupts them.

The next day, Cullen is told an alternate route can be built but would put them five weeks behind schedule. Back in town, Sean McGinnes, the railroad's new bookkeeper, tells Cullen that Durant has cancelled the livestock contracts and cornered the market. An angry Cullen says he should have killed Durant long ago. Louise overhears this. Later in the church, Cullen tells Ruth about the Hatch family situation. She cautions that Mormons are a "violent people."

In Omaha, Nebraska, Durant dines with some ranchers, one of which is a woman whom he proposes building a commercial railroad terminus on her land. As a representative of Crédit Mobilier, he offers $100 per acre to prevent the railroad from claiming eminent domain. At the bar, he is joined by Sean, who slips him an envelope stuffed with money and the Union Pacific telegraph routing code. Durant can now eavesdrop on Cullen. Sensing Sean's unease, Durant assures him that he's not doing anything wrong. At Hell on Wheels, Louise is cornered by a large, drunk worker, who forces himself on her. She slashes his face with a razor and he strikes her.

The next day, Elam and Dick have breakfast together. Cullen arrives and instructs them to ride out and order the Mormons off their land. At the Hatch farm, Dick approaches the boarded-up house. He hears Hatch yell that, again, the family isn't leaving. Dick is shot in the stomach. Elam drags him away and rides back to town with him draped over the horse. Elam tells Cullen he doesn't know who fired the shot. Eva declares Dick has no chance of surviving. Dick asks to see Elam's baby. declaring her beautiful as Elam had described. Dick dies and Cullen places his police badge on Elam's vest. Elam says he didn't want the job in this manner.

Cullen, Elam, Louise and a cavalry arrive at the farm with a writ of execution. Hatch and his two sons approach the railroad group with weapons. Cullen tells Hatch that he must be accountable for the murder. After Hatch insists his family will not survive without him, Cullen assures him they'll be taken to a Mormon settlement. Hatch grabs his eldest son, Jeb Hatch, and says the boy killed Dick. A reluctant Jeb agrees with his father and is hung as his family watches. Hatch tells Cullen that he now owes him a life. Cullen rides off and stakes the property for the railroad. Later, Louise composes her newspaper story, writing that the railroad business has always involved unscrupulous and corrupt people, neither of which Cullen Bohannon seems to be.




  1. Anson Mount as Cullen Bohannon
  2. Colm Meaney as Thomas Durant
  3. Common as Elam Ferguson
  4. Jennifer Ferrin as Louise Ellison
  5. Robin McLeavy as Eva
  6. Phil Burke as Mickey McGinnes
  7. Ben Esler as Sean McGinnes
  8. Kasha Kropinski as Ruth
  9. Dohn Norwood as Psalms

Guest starring


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