I think “Immoral Mathematics” was a success. Hell on Wheels is about a period in time when America was beginning to embrace and cultivate upon Manifest Destiny and the classic capitalistic spirit. Needless to say, before divulging into more titillating hyper-focuses upon character relationships, plot twists, heroines, villains, etc., Hell on Wheels had an enormous stage to build. That said, I think the writers behind this show got a little overly zealous in the pilot and tried to jam a million different things down the viewers’ throats (and judging by the umbrella opinion of my classmates on the pilot, the viewers’ weren’t having it). Thankfully, this second episode didn’t spread itself so thin and, instead, focused mainly on one issue—the effects and aftermath of the murder of Daniel Johnson.
The episode begins with an interaction between the big-bellied Durant and a photographer who is covering the Native American attack on the railroad camp. As Durant stabs a few more arrows into a couple of cadavers in the surrounding area to amplify the brutality of the attack, he is further established as the stereotypical fat, greedy American who wants to capitalize on American expansion into the west by further villainizing the Native Americans. Do I think this character is necessary to capture the essence of the time period? Of course. However, did this cartoonish character evoke the same fear and creepiness that “The Swede” did? No way. If there is one thing that AMC is excellent at, it is developing a villain. Similar to Gus Fring in AMC’s Breaking Bad, the Swede is calm, collected yet sure to be ruthless and cold-blooded beneath his strategic guise.
Bohannon’s character as the protagonist among chaos evolved significantly throughout this episode. His tough demeanor and growing relationship with Elam (Common) make him a personable yet seemingly authentic character. His gambit to take a position of authority at the railroad camp has left him in a position to execute his personal vendettas and continue developing the substance of his character.
To sum it up, I think this episode was a strong signifier that Hell on Wheels is going places and taking a turn for the good and the better.