Hell on Wheels : Deadly Villains

The recent October 4, 2014 episode of the AMC western drama Hell on Wheels had another good character, though not a major character like the recently departed Elam Ferguson, who also got killed. Only this time around it was the young boy Ezra Dutson, acted by eleven-year-old actor Tayden Marks. And the person responsible for Ezra's death, is the relatively new character and villain, former Confederate soldier Sidney Snow, acted by Canadian actor Jonathan Scarfe.

Okay Mr. Tayden Marks, we know that Common, who portrayed Elam Ferguson, had a good reason to leave the show with his role's last appearance three episodes ago -- that being conflicts with his music career. Now what's your excuse? Had you and your parents hidden from fellow cast members and crew that you are a child prodigy genius level, as your parents are suddenly about to send you to Stanford, MIT, or Juilliard? Only kidding. But you will be missed.

Yes the young boy Ezra Dutson, raised by Mormon parents whom he had seen them killed before his miraculous escape from the villain Thor Gunderson, acted by Christopher Heyerdahl from last season three, was now only to be killed by a newer villain.

For those who've not heard of or seen Hell on Wheels, the story begins after the American Civil War. During that time the nation began a major project to build the First Transcontinental Railroad by Union Pacific across the West. The principal character in the AMC western drama is a former Confederate soldier named Cullen Bohannon, acted superbly by Anson Mount. During season one, Cullen Bohannon is driven by just two things. The first is revenge after the murder of his wife and son by several Union soldiers during the Civil War, and secondly, appointed then as foreman and chief engineer working for Union Pacific, progressive construction of the railroad.

This past episode ten of season four titled, "Return to Hell," a relatively new character Sidney Snow brings more villainy upon the town named Hell on Wheels, a mobile town that follows the railroad construction in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Five episodes ago he appears in the TV series. He escapes death by the Fuentes brothers in Juarez, Mexico, thinking all are killed, as he arrives in Cheyenne. Not long after, he recognizes fellow ex-Confederate soldier Cullen Bohannon. Then, Bohannon asks an ex-slave now promoted to walking boss of the railroad named Psalms, acted by Dohn Norwood, to employ Sidney Snow in the work crew. This since at that time, Bohannon was not heading the construction of the railroad. But nevertheless Sidney Snow is mystified that he now has a black man and ex-slave, as his boss. Yet later Sidney Snow leaves his employ.

Later Marcos Fuentes, as the only survivor of his brothers, arrives in Cheyenne with a few men and have a shootout with Sidney Snow. Eventually it becomes man to man in a general store, whereas after killing Fuentes, inadvertently Snow shoots an innocent boy witness followed by also shooting the store keeper. Soon after he also finds Cullen Bohannon's Mormon wife Naomi, acted by Mackenzie Porter, who also took hiding during the shootout along with their baby. Just as Snow discovers both mother and child, Cullen Bohannon arrives just in time.

In last Saturday's episode, Snow returns to Hell on Wheels not long after being freed from jail by the Provisional Governor of Cheyenne. Previously he had deputized Snow and the other jailed men, giving them authority to arrest all the workers of the railroad, including Psalms, as a power move. Bohannon intervenes to free the workers also with the help of Mickey McGinnes, Irish immigrant owner of the Saloon and Major, acted by Phil Burke. Snow escapes, and returns to set fire to the town church headed by Ruth, acted by South African-born actress Kasha Kropinski.

After the citizens doused the night fire, the next morning both Cullen Bohannon and Ruth search for Ezra. It is Mickey McGinnes who voiced that Ezra may have still been in the church during the fire. The boy may have hidden beneath the floor boards, the place where Ezra had hidden McGinnes, when Sidney Snow was arresting the railroad workers and searching for the Irishman in a previous episode. And soon after, though he is not shown, they find Ezra.

Ruth then wavers from both grief and rage, obviously born from an inborn maternal instinct. This perhaps, from Ruth having suffered a miscarriage from an affair with Joseph Black Moon in a previous season. And while in last season three, she takes in the then traumatized Ezra after he escapes from Thor Gunderson who had killed his parents. She even voiced so much to Cullen Bohannon before Ezra's burial as she says, "I never deserved to be a mother."

Immediately after the burial and while Ruth is still dressed in a black dress, Sidney Show arrives again to have a showdown in the middle of the street with Cullen Bohannon. Yet as Bohannon advances but only to arrest, two shots are fired. And all witnesses are shocked that those shots came from Ruth. Nevertheless from upcoming episode scenes, Sidney Snow is being treated for gunshot wounds while there is the dilemma of what to do about Ruth.

Having watched that episode then made me think about villains in story entertainment, and why they capture our interest. And this is what I've gathered so far.

Sometimes, we can learn from villains. In the scene from Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope, Darth Vader says to the six commanders, "Don't be too proud of this technological terror you've constructed. The ability to destroy a planet is insignificant next to the power of the force," he says, while standing next to Governor Tarkin as they are aboard the Death Star. And as evil as he is, he's right. For he is talking about asymmetrical warfare, a lesson we all learned from September 11, 2001 -- as the terrorists while guided by their beliefs, and ingenuity, had used low tech means, which were utility knives and box cutters.

Sometimes also, a hero can become a villain. In the graphic novel Injustice: Gods Among Us, based on the video game, Superman becomes a villain. It begins as Superman tells Batman welcome news that his wife Lois is pregnant. Yet soon after, they discover Lois is kidnapped by the Joker. Quickly, Batman issues a priority alert to all Justice League members and reserves to find her. Yet eventually Superman does find Lois, unconscious after an operation by the Joker and his female companion Harley Quinn while standing over her. But the tragedy begins.

Waking up from a gas mixed with fear toxin and a diluted form of Kryptonite, Superman thinks Lois is Doomsday, all planned by the Joker. Thinking he had battled Doomsday in space, he later realizes he killed Lois and their unborn baby. Lois also had a heart monitor, which when it stopped, had detonated a nuclear bomb in Metropolis killing thousands of lives. All of this enrages Superman, who later kills the Joker. Keep in mind also, this is an alternate reality story.

Wonder Woman tries to console Superman, but to no avail. For Superman appoints himself before the United Nations as leader and begins a world totalitarian rule. Next, he brands Batman as a terrorist, who sees that humanity has a right to self-governance.

Superman also kills Oliver "Ollie" Queen as Green Arrow, who sides with Batman. Known perhaps as the first social progressive superhero, if you were to call Ollie Queen a bleeding heart liberal, all he would do is smile. But also wealthy like Bruce Wayne/Batman, the expert archer may take umbrage if you called him a limousine liberal, since he always puts his life on the line. In this story, he aids Batman at a crucial moment in their fight against Superman before he dies. For of all the superheroes, Batman knows there's a fine line between being a hero, and being a villain. Anson Mount star of Hell on Wheels even says as such from quote from Internet Movie Data Base (IMDb) as he says, "I think all of us have a hero and a villain in us."