|Date of death:||1869|
|Also known as:||The Swede|
Bookkeeper at the Union Pacific Railroad
Head of security (UPR)
Mormon Bishop (under alias)
Secretary for Brigham Young
Bookkeeper for the Mormons at the Central Pacific Railroad
|Behind the scenes|
|Portrayed by:||Christopher Heyerdahl|
|Seasons:||1, 2, 3, 4, 5|
|First episode:||"Immoral Mathematics"|
|Last episode:||Two Soldiers|
|Appearances:||40 episodes (see below)|
Thor Gundersen, commonly known as The Swede, originally held a high position on the Union Pacific Railroad at Hell on Wheels, hired by Thomas Durant. Enigmatic, manipulative, and adaptable; he may be best described as the foil and arch-nemesis of Cullen Bohannon.
Biography[edit | edit source]
Background information[edit | edit source]
Not much is known about Thor Gundersen except for the fact that he is actually Norwegian. He earned his nickname, "The Swede", apparently because the inhabitants of Hell on Wheels were unable to distinguish between a Norwegian and a Swede. He carries a sawed-off double-barrel shotgun, which he calls "Beauty."
According to Gundersen, he used to be a bookkeeper and was "good with numbers." During the Civil War, he served on the Union side behind the front line as a quartermaster directing supplies. However, his entire unit was captured, and he was imprisoned at the infamous Confederate camp for Union POW's, Andersonville Prison. During his time at Andersonville, Gundersen lost over half of his body weight, noting that he "just couldn't make the numbers add up." One night, he woke up to find another starving prisoner trying to eat his arm. Fighting him off, this experience made Gundersen realize that whether he survived or not was a simple matter of adding up various actions, no matter how amoral they may be. Gundersen killed the man who tried to eat his arm -- and given his shaken reaction to recounting the event, and that he had recently been unfazed to kill men with even less justification, it is somewhat implied that Gundersen survived Andersonville by eating the flesh of the man who tried to eat his arm.
In a tale he told to Thomas Durant, Gundersen reveals that he was married, but his wife left him for a gypsy. She stole his cuckoo clock in the process.
Season 1[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Season 1
Gundersen is introduced as a harsh enforcer and questions Cullen Bohannon about the death of Daniel Johnson, the railroad's foreman. Cullen does not implicate anyone when questioned, even though Johnson's true killer was Elam Ferguson. He incarcerates Bohannon in a freight car and leaves intending to hang him in the future. Gundersen later finds that his prisoner has escaped and has been hired by Thomas Durant as his new foreman. ("Immoral Mathematics")
He blackmails Sean and Mickey McGinnes into paying him a significant slice of their earnings. When they are unable to pay, Gundersen cuts the ropes to their theater, making it collapse. Later on, Gundersen appoints himself as referee during Elam and Cullen's fight, which was arranged by Durant in order to distract the workers from their missing wages. ("Bread and Circuses")
Out of view from Durant's coach, the enforcer tells the newly arrived Senator Jordan Crane of Durant's misuse of $147,000 worth of Union Pacific Railroad money to speculate on railroad stock. Gundersen provides this information in return for information about Sergent Frank Harper, Cullen's new target in his quest for revenge. After spending the day at Hell on Wheels, the Cheyenne tribesmen leave the camp. Gregory Toole, an Irish bigot and railway worker, incites a gang to attack the departing Native Americans. Gundersen intervenes and suggests that they cool off at the cathouse. Toole demands to see Eva, one of the prostitutes, but the women say she is not there. They discover her dressing herself with Elam in his tent. Angered, Toole and his gang drag him out of his tent with the intent of lynching him. ("Pride, Pomp and Circumstance")
Upon discovering the Irish gang, Gundersen allows them to hang Elam as entertainment in the Starlight Saloon. However, Cullen intervenes, saves Elam, and takes him to the woods. Gundersen arrives at the saloon and questions Mr. Toole. He then demands that Toole capture Elam and Cullen with his gang. The Irishman hesitates, and Gundersen stabs him in the eye with a fork. ("Revelations")
Following a derailment caused by the renegade Cheyenne warriors, Thomas Durant, Lily Bell, and other workers from Hell on Wheels arrive to help the wounded. Gundersen arrives and Durant orders him to have Cullen launch a counterattack on the renegades. Gundersen responds by telling him Cullen and Elam have fled and are considered wanted fugitives following the hanging incident. Durant shrugs the matter off when Cullen and Elam arrive on horseback to provide help. Upon seeing Bohannon, Gundersen draws "Beauty," his double-barrel shotgun, and loads it. However, he is too slow and Cullen has drawn his Griswold revolver first. He points it at Gundersen's head, who falls to his knees and begs for mercy. Cullen pistol-whips his victim, grabs a leather strap, and beats Gundersen. Mrs. Bell and Durant intervene and Bohannon finally stops.
Later on, Gundersen becomes visibly obsessed over Bohannon's murders on the East Coast. He presents his evidence to Durant, who scoffs and tells Gundersen that every one of the workers at Hell on Wheels are criminals. ("Derailed")
Gundersen has become a nuisance in the town. The tensions between the residents and Gundersen broke when the McGinnes brothers and the prostitutes witnessed Gundersen beating a prostitute. Upon the arrival of Senator Jordan Crane, Gundersen informs him that Cullen Bohannon is the man responsible for the murders of former Union soldiers.
Bohannon returns from his battle against the renegade Cheyenne dog warriors, and Sean McGinnes asks him to kill Gundersen for the benefit of the community. Cullen refuses, stating that he isn't a "hired gun." Bohannon states that there is another way to get rid of Gundersen: Inform Durant of Gundersen's embezzlement of railway funds. ("Timshel")
Near Council Bluffs, Iowa at a trading post, Gundersen pours drinks for Sergeant Harper, Bohannon's next target in his quest for revenge. Harper reveals his discharge papers showing proof that he was discharged due to disability prior to the murder of Mary Bohannon. Gundersen convinces Harper to testify to Cullen's motive in his murders even though he was not present in Meridian.
The two ride in to Hell on Wheels and Harper is wearing his old Union sergeant's jacket. Sean McGinnes witnesses the two and informs Cullen that he has seen a man wearing a Union jacket with sergeant's stripes. Cullen goes to Gundersen's caboose to confront him. He arrives, but cannot find Harper anywhere. Gundersen tells Bohannon of the story of Loki, a Norse god responsible for causing chaos, suggesting that Bohannon is similar to Loki.
During the dance, Gundersen is presumably searching for Harper to defend him until the federal marshals arrive. The McGinnes brothers surround Gundersen, and an angry mob forms to exact their revenge on him. A man on a horse lassos Gundersen, and the mob surrounds him. Mickey McGinnes beats Gundersen with his own club. The mob then tars and feathers him and runs him out of town.
The following morning, Gundersen is seen wandering around until he comes across a wanted poster. He rips it from the pole and reads it. The poster declares a $250 bounty for the capture of Bohannon for the murders at Hell on Wheels and for the ones on the eastern seaboard. ("God of Chaos")
Season 2[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Season 2
Gundersen returns to Hell on Wheels as the equivalent of a custodian for the rundown community. He develops a friendly relationship with Reverend Nathaniel Cole to the point where the two tent together. ("Viva La Mexico")
Throughout the rest of the season, Gundersen's motives become more and more questionable. He takes advantage of Reverend Cole's declining mental health and uses him to sabotage a train carrying an injured Thomas Durant to Chicago. ("Purged Away with Blood")
He also sabotages a steam engine to halt the production of the bridge on the railroad. He also painted himself white so the Sioux would think he is the White Spirit so he could get them to attack Hell on Wheels. ("Blood Moon")
After fleeing Hell on Wheels once he sabotaged the steam engine, he was tortured to within inches from death by the Sioux, who did not believe Gundersen was the White Spirit. He was placed in the infirmary, where Cullen Bohannon vowed to hang him for sabotaging the railroad and he posted a guard on him. Gundersen warns of an impending Sioux attack that all but Bohannon are skeptical of. In the confusion caused by the preparation for the impending raid, Gundersen escapes the infirmary by slitting his guard's throat with a scalpel.
During the attack, Gundersen hides in Lily Bell's train car. When she returns the next morning, he strangles her to death in order to make sure Bohannon will suffer at the very thought of Gundersen or Lily.
Later that day, when Bohannon goes to hang Gundersen from the now finished bridge, for sabotaging the railroad coupled with the murder of Lily, Gundersen mocks Bohannon, claiming that they will always be tied to each other in memory. He tells Bohannon about how pleasurable it was to murder Lily as Bohannon prepares to hang him. Gundersen, unwilling to give Bohannon the satisfaction of killing him, jumps of the bridge while Bohannon secures the rope to hang him with. Gundersen plummets into the water below and with his hands still tied, floating down stream and is presumed dead by Bohannon. While the impact on the water, coupled with having his hands bound in a deep section of the river, should have been enough to kill Gundersen, it is possible that he survived the fall. ("Blood Moon Rising")
Season 3[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Season 3
Gundersen, now going by the alias Andersen, comes to the aid of the Dutsons, a small Mormon family when their wagon axle breaks. ("Range War") Gundersen draws close to the family, especially the Dutsons eight year old son, Ezra. He listens to Ezra's father, Joseph speak about his beliefs and Gundersen asks to be baptized. This turns out to be an elaborate ruse to order to murder Joseph and his wife, Eleanor in the river. Ezra flees, but Gundersen calls after him that he will find him. ("One Less Mule") Gundersen meets up with a member of the Mormon fort and introduces himself as Bishop Joseph Dutson and that his family has been taken by Indians. ("Cholera")
Season 4[edit | edit source]
Gundersen plays a minor role in Season 4. Still under the alias of Bishop Joseph Dutson, he attempts to keep Cullen at the Mormon fort, claiming to be motivated by an urge to see him attain redemption. However, Cullen escapes and exposes Gundersen's disguise ("Escape from the Garden"). The Mormons want to hang him, but first summon Brigham Young from Salt Lake City to judge whether Gundersen is guilty. Brigham sees through his act yet decides to take Gundersen with him and to give him a second chance. On the way back to Salt Lake City, Gundersen reveals his identity and swears that he "really is Mormon." He works discontentedly as a secretary to Brigham in Utah until he meets Collis P. Huntington of the Central Pacific Railroad (CPR). Gundersen is pleasantly surprised when Huntington actually recognizes that he is Norwegian. The two immediately bond over their low opinions of Thomas Durant. Gundersen tells Brigham that he hopes to join the CPR.
Murders Committed[edit | edit source]
- Infirmary Guard - Throat slit. ("Blood Moon Rising")
- Lily Bell - Strangled. ("Blood Moon Rising")
- Joseph Dutson - Neck snapped. ("One Less Mule")
- Eleanor Dutson- Neck broken. ("One Less Mule")
- Cullens Family - via axe.
Appearances[edit | edit source]
|Season 1 appearances|
|"Pilot"||"Immoral Mathematics"||"A New Birth of Freedom"||"Jamais Je Ne T'oublierai"||"Bread and Circuses"|
|"Pride, Pomp and Circumstance"||"Revelations"||"Derailed"||"Timshel"||"God of Chaos"|
|Season 2 appearances|
|"Viva La Mexico"||"Durant, Nebraska"||"Slaughterhouse"||"Scabs"||"The Railroad Job"|
|"Purged Away with Blood"||"The White Spirit"||"The Lord's Day"||"Blood Moon"||"Blood Moon Rising"|
|Season 3 appearances|
|"Big Bad Wolf"||"Eminent Domain"||"Range War"||"The Game"||"Searchers"|
|"One Less Mule"||"Cholera"||"It Happened in Boston"||"Fathers and Sins"||"Get Behind the Mule"|
|Season 4 appearances|
|"The Elusive Eden"||"Escape from the Garden"||"Chicken Hill"||"Reckoning"||"Life's a Mystery"|
|"Bear Man"||"Elam Ferguson (Episode)"||"Under Color of Law"||"Two Trains"||"Return to Hell"|
|"Bleeding Kansas"||"Thirteen Steps"||"Further West"|
|Season 5 appearances|
|"Chinatown"||"Mei Mei"||"White Justice"||"Struck"||"Elixir of Life"|
|"Hungry Ghosts"||"False Prophets"||"Two Soldiers"||"Return to the Garden"||"61 Degrees"|
|"Gambit"||"Any Sum Within Reason"||"Railroad Men"||"Done"||
Quotes[edit | edit source]
"In the beginning, there was blood. The land demands it. Every new land demands blood and we relent. It is our nature. We after all, animals. In our arrogance we forget this but in the end we rise from the land only to return." ("Slaughterhouse")
"The reason you hate me is that I am a constant reminder of the capacity for evil that resides within you." ("The White Spirit")