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Characters: Hell on Wheels

     Main Characters 

Cullen Bohannon

Played by: Anson Mount
  • Anti-Hero: Type IV. Shades of Type III and Type V depending on his mood. He's brutal, vengeange-obsessed and sometimes an asshole, but he is still fighting for the right cause.
  • Badass Beard: Since the first season.
  • Death Seeker: Becomes one very briefly in season 2, due to murdering an innocent man and feeling nothing about it.
  • A Father to His Men: Becomes this when he becomes Head Engineer.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: With Elam eventually
  • Guile Hero:
    • Very cunning when he's not blinded by vengeance, not to mention his knowledge of American history and warfare.
    • Season 2 provides further proof to this with him playing Durant and the workers like a fiddle, then executing The Plan he set up to get the workers back to their jobs. It works like a charm.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Bohannon overrides any sense of self-preservation or logic if revenge is the reward. This in particular blows up ons his face when he murders a innnocent man because of the illusion this man killed his wife.
  • The Sociopath: He isn't even close to being this, but expresses fear of becoming one after not feeling guilty for his brutal murder of an innocent man.
  • Unscrupulous Hero: He will do everything it takes for the railroad.
    • Sociopathic Hero: Sometimes gets to this point when his actions get more and more extreme.
  • Warrior Poet: A very well-read soldier.

Thomas "Doc" Durant

Played by: Colm Meaney

Elam Ferguson

Played by: Common
  • Anti-Hero: While Fergurson's plight as a black man in the 1800s is very sympathetic and he has a good sense of morals, he has a tendency to be very selfish and violent.
  • Badass Preacher: Not an official Preacher, but he served as one in his youth.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: With Bohannon.
  • Scary Black Man: A heroic one, but Fergurson can be a very scary man when he wants to.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: With Eva; he's black, she's white in the racist 1860s.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Multiple. He starts the series as a common worker of Durant, but after some bouts with the Irish and Bohannon's training, Fergurson becomes a expert marksman, second only to Bohannon himself in Hell On Wheels.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Gets one from Toole over his treatment of Eva after he gets her pregnant

Lily Bell

Played by Dominique McElligott
  • Character Death: choked by The Swede
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: Graphically choked by The Swede.
  • Damsel out of Distress: Lily Bell stabs the man who killed her husband with his own arrow, treks however many miles alone and sews up her own wound before she's rescued.
  • Determinator: Crawled through some five miles of mud, with an arrow wound on her hand, starving and without water, as she was pursued by Indians. Most people would go home and rest after such a experience. Mrs.Bell instead went right back to work.
  • Determined Homesteader's Wife: Was this, until her husband died in the first episode. She then spends the rest of the show as a Determined Widow
  • Guile Heroine: Lily is clever enough to impress Durant, and is matches him in knowledge of economics and psychology. A fitting example being when she escaped a murder attempt by convicing the assassin to side with her.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: She trusts The Swede; not a particularly smart thing to do.
  • Proper Lady Snarker: Moresoever around Durant, but it's there.
  • Lady and a Scholar: The most educated person on Hell on Wheels, as well as the kindest.
  • Number Two: To Durant, until Hanna comes along.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Her death is the final straw on Bohannon's sanity, and The Swede's final work.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Bell is a Proper Lady of highest kind, polite and civil in all occasions, but do not try to push her around, for she ''will' fight back with all she has.

     Recurring Characters 

Reverend Cole

Played by: Tom Noonan
  • The Alcoholic: for the first half of the second season
  • The Atoner: his attempts to assist the Sioux and kidnap/kill Durant could be seen as his attempt to atone for his inability to help the Cheyenne in the first season
  • Badass Preacher: He's a priest who fights with a rapier.
  • Character Death: Died for real in the third season.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Showing signs of this in season 2.
  • Cool Sword: A magnificent rapier is his "weapon of choice".
  • Despair Event Horizon: After the Cheyenne's attack on the railway
  • Disappeared Dad: was one to his daughter, until she turned up in Hell on Wheels
  • Disc One Final Boss: He is slain, but the Sioux aren't even half-way done by the time he dies
  • Face-Heel Turn: Started off as one of the most moral white characters of the series, ended up as one of the most villainous.
  • Famous Last Words: "Behold...your legacy."
  • God's Hands Are Tied: What he comes to believe after crossing the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Good Shepherd: He tries but can't quite pull it off because of his lack of faith strength.
  • Go Out with a Smile: He dies with a wide grin on his face.
  • Heel Realization: Right before his death, he apologizes for his sins to Ruth, saying he's been a horrible father.
  • If Jesus Then Aliens: Averted. Despite being a minister, he doesn't believe in urban legends.
  • Knight Templar: "The glory of the Lord will be revealed and all the people will see it, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken." Indeed.
  • Odd Friendship: With The Swede.
  • Only Sane Man: The matter is Indians where he is the only person to even consider the possibility of peace.
  • Preacher Man: Started off as this, gets more ambiguous as season progresses.
  • Sanity Slippage: After the Cheyenne Attack on the railroad, he becomes unhinged and becomes alcoholic. It only gets worse and worse from there.
  • Straight Edge Evil: Played with. He starts his sanity slippage and descent into evil by drinking himself to oblivion, but is little more than a Cloud Cuckoo Lander at that point, he only becomes truly evil after he stops drinking.
  • Those Two Guys: Hangs about with The Swede in season 2.
  • Tragic Villain: He was driven into villainy by the sheer cruelty of the world he lived in, and because of his alcoholism
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: He tries to kill Durant to end the massacre of the Indians.

Joseph Black Moon

Played by: Eddie Spears
  • The Atoner: For his past misdeeds as a proud and brave Indian Warrior.
  • Shoot the Dog: Or knife the Reverend rather, the only way to stop his murderous rampage.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: With Ruth. Fate always intervenes when they're about to get together.


Played by: Robin McLeavy


Played by: Duncan Ollerenshaw

Pawnee Killer

Played by: Gerald Auger

Sean and Mickey McGinness

Played by: Ben Esler & Phil Burke
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Just ask the Butcher (whom he butchered) Or Carl (whom he blackmailed for being an asshole).
  • Brains and Brawn: Sean is the brains, Mickey is the brawn. This is Lampshaded by Sean early in the second season. The dynamic is played with later, when Mickey acquires a better sense of judgement than Sean in a few occasions and fully subverted in Season 3 where Mickey becomes far more intelligent than Sean, who is much more prone to mistakes.
  • Cain and Abel: Season 3 sees the brothers getting increasingly more antagonistic towards each other. In the end, the Abel kills the Cain: Mickey shoots Sean when he gets out of control.
  • Character Death: Mickey kills Sean.
  • The Chew Toy: Sean can't catch a break from mid-season 2 onwards.
  • Character Development: Mickey starts the show as very naive, easily scared and bumbling, but as his time on Hell On Wheels passed by, he became a much more assertive and clever man.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Sean goes flying across it when Mickey abandons him to his fate.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Durant?: Mickey is a pimp, Durant is a master manipulator and one of the wealthiest and most influential men in America who could destroy him with a flick of his wrist, yet Mickey is not afraid to lay the verbal smackdown on Durant, and he barely flinches when Durant makes his (very serious) threats.
  • Greed: Sean's main motivation it makes him a Jerkass.
  • Kick the Dog: Sean trying to profit off people's mysery.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Sean goesn't get to finish his confession before Mickey shoots him dead.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Sean suffers from this. Unless stalking people in the night is a sign of sanity.
  • The Mole: Sean, to Durant in season 3.
  • Nice Guy: Mickey treats everyone with respect and a warm smile.
  • Noodle Incident: Mickey did something in Boston. We're never told what, exactly. Until season 3's "It happened in Boston", in which Mickey explains to us that Sean fell in love with two girls, did some horrifying crime to both of them in a fit of rage.
  • Not So Different: Sean had a burning hatred for the Swede and his way of doing business, but after the Swede is down, he ends up conducting business with the same methods. He does not realize the similarity.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Mickey, when he becomes the chief of the whorehouse.
  • Those Two Guys: They're always together. As noted by Brains and Brawn, there's a reason for this.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Due his Character Development, Mickey became quite clever and hard to catch, impressing even Durant.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Sean on Ruth.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Mickey has the brotherly variation of this, always seeking Sean's approval. He seems to have grown out by season 3.


Played by: Dohn Norwood

Ruth Cole

Played by: Kasha Kropinski
  • Break the Cutie: Woman cannot catch a break. From losing her father to being stalked by Sean to watching Sean get brutally gunned down in front of her.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Sean definitely does it.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: When her father losses his faith, she tears into him.
  • The Conscience: Acts as this for Bohannon in season 3.
  • Fiery Redhead: She doesn't seem it at first but develops it later.
  • Good Shepherd: Is trying to fill the role abandoned by her father with her own stronger faith. Is much better at it than he was.
  • Parental Abandonment: Cole hasn't seen her for most (if not all) of her life, despite knowing of her existence.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: With Joseph. Fate always seems to get in the way when they're close to being together.
  • Token Good Teammate: She's probably the only member of the railroad who doesn't have some sort of innocent blood in her hands.

Many Horses

Played by: Wes Studi
  • A Father to His Men: He always treats his warriors with outmost respect.
  • Antagonistic Offspring: Pawnee Killer is more of a Well-Intentioned Extremist than Many Horses.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: It's something of a character trait for him to deliver these. For example, while talking about the land issues with the US government:
    Sen. Crane: It's not yours, it's the US Government's.
    Many Horses: Did they buy it?
    Sen.Crane: No-
    Many Horses: Did they trade for it?
    Durant: It's not like that-
    Many Horses: Then how can they own it?
  • Good Parents: Many Horses is the only good parental figure in the show, always wise and supportive.
  • I Have No Son: Towards Joseph, but less ominious than usual: Many Horses says that because he is acknowledging that Joseph is now his own man, and free to trail his own path.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: He is perfectly calm and reasonable, even willing to negotiate with the railroad owners (such negotiations fail, but sure as Hell not because of Many Horses).
  • The Stoic: He has yet to smile on screen.


Thor Gunderson, aka The Swede

Played by: Christopher Heyerdahl
  • Affably Evil: In the first season. Firmly Faux Affably Evil in the second as you can see by him choking the life out of Mrs. Bell while thanking her
  • Arch-Enemy: Could be considered one for Bohannon considering he's the most recurring enemy of the series.
  • Ax-Crazy: He is a unstable maniac who wants it all to burn.
  • Awesome McCoolname: His first name is the Norse god of thunder, his last name sounds like thunder, and he has a The Magnificent title.
  • Badass Longcoat
  • The Bad Guy Wins: He got everything he wanted in the end of the second season. Even his death was fully part of his plan.
  • Bald of Evil: As of mid-second season.
  • Big Bad: Of the second season, where most of the conflict is directly related to his machinations.
  • Big Eater: Rare is the scene where he is not eating.
  • Blood Knight: Not initially, but eventually became a manipulative battle addict instead of a berserker style battle addict.
  • The Chessmaster: Even when he loses his rank, he can still play things to his advantage and eventually wins
  • Corrupt Hick: Despite being a northerner and an Immigrant, he fits this trope to a T. When he's not out being the Hanging Judge, he's shaking down businesses and bribing officials to look the other way while he robs his employer.
  • The Corrupter: Cole already had a few problems before him, but it was The Swede who gave him his final push into villainy. Also attempts this on Bohannon for very little reason other than "why not".
  • Creepy Mortician: Of the gravedigger variety, as of Season 2.
  • Death Seeker: Eventually gets to this point. Driven to Suicide: His plan for slaughter and destruction of Bohannon's soul complete, he ends his life in peace.
  • The Determinator: Even being turned in a human fireplace barely stopped him
  • The Dragon: To Durant.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: By the second season, he has completely lost his marbles.
  • Evil Counterpart / Foil: As the man himself notes, The Swede is, essentially, Bohannon's dark side personified: A ruthless murderer addicted to battle itself. He is a constant reminder of Bohannon's capacity for evil.
  • Famous Last Words: "I wish you...a good day."
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: From a humble quartermaster to a corrupting and destructive battle addict.
  • God Guise: It is revealed a few Indians believe him to be the White Spirit. Whether or not he believes it to be true, The Swede uses this belief to his advantage.
  • Hanging Judge: We see him working as a town judge a few times in season one. All of them are related to ordering someone to hang, even when the crime is relatively minor.
  • How the Mighty Have Fallen: Says the trope's name verbatim in season 2, when referring to his current misfortune.
  • Hypocrite: He compares Bohannon to Loki, the "god of chaos" yet his behavior, especially in the second season, is far more disruptive than Bohannon's bordering For the Evulz.
  • I Call It Vera: He has a sawed-off shotgun named Beauty. "She's an old piece, but she shoots true."
  • In Love with Your Carnage: See Mood Dissonance.
  • Inspector Javert: To Bohannon whom he hunts but unlike the typical Javert he's also a Corrupt Cop.
  • It Has Been an Honor: He says this to Bohannon before dying. Bohannon disagrees
  • Knight of Cerebus: The show is pretty grim already, but in the second season, when the Swede enters the scene, you can expect things to get increasingly worse, and in the season finale, even more so.
  • Knight Templar: Thinks the city is a filthy hellhole, and that all actions are justified when the goal is maintaining order.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: The Swede has, more than once, retreated when problems became too great.
  • Lean and Mean: Thin as a rack after his experiences In Andersonville.
  • Light Is Not Good: He is known as "The White Spirit" among the Indians.
  • Made of Iron: Shrugs off third-degree burns without further thought after an afternoon of rest. And then he comes back, even though he fell off a significant height into shallow water, in a shot that heavily implied he died on impact.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Serves as this to both Reverend Cole and The Sioux.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Plays Durant's feeling for Lily to his advantage, plays Crane's greed to his advantage, plays Lily's good heart to his advantage, e.t.c
  • Mood Dissonance: Waltz around in complete happiness while the city burns to ashes


Major Bendix

  • Ax-Crazy: Saying he has poor impulse control would be a massive understatement.
  • The Cavalry: Played with. Being a cavalryman, his techinical job description is to be this to Bohannon, but given he's a unstable lunatic, they only call him when the situation is most dire.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: As summed up by this dialogue, about a massacre that happened no less than a few hours before:
    Bohannon: That woman put up much of a fight?
    Bendix(while holding her decapitated head): I honestly can't recall.
  • Brutal Honesty: Bendix is very blunt about his goals and opinions.
  • Eagleland: His thought-route is a classic Type 2.
  • Fat Bastard: A rather chubby fellow.
  • Faux Affably Evil: He is very casual and chatty about the day he murders people.
  • Majorly Awesome: The evil version. Asshole or not, he seems quite good at his job.
  • Off with His Head!: Fond of this tactic, particularly with Indians.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: A massive bigot against Indians.
  • Rules Lawyer: He very liberal when interpreting Bohannon's telegrams for help. He basically tries to find (far-fetched) ways of justifying Indian slaughter in them.
  • Wicked Cultured: A subversion. He talks a big game with his very elaborated phrenologist speeches, but phrenology is a long-disproved field of science.

Hannah Durant

  • Affably Evil: She's rather polite and civil towards Lily, even though she's planning her downfall.
  • Non-Action Guy: While literally every living being in the railroad (Including Thomas Durant and Lilly Bell) grabs a weapon to fight the Sioux, Hanna screams and hides.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Same thing as Durant. Profit above everything, including good and evil.
  • Proper Lady: She is the living embodiment of the description given on the trope page, only antagonistic.
  • Put on a Bus: Hasn't been seen since the end of the third season.


Sen. Jordan Crane

Played by: James D. Hopkin

"Doc" Whitehead

  • The Atoner: Regarding his misdeeds as member of a gang of thieves.
  • Character Death: He asks Bohannon to shoot him.
  • Combat Medic: Not many doctors can have a fistfight with a Sioux warrior like he did.
  • Death Seeker: Because of his misdeeds as a thief, Whitehead is very glad with death, and actively seeks it.
  • Face Death with Dignity: He is calmly looking at the horizon when Bohannon shoots him.
  • A Good Way to Die: He feels this way at the end, saying he had a good life, and that it's a good way to end his life on Earth.
  • Honor Before Reason: Decides to stay with Durant, even though it's certain he'll die.
  • Morality Chain: For Bohannon. He tries to keep the guy from turning into the Swede.
  • The Medic: Quite literally, in Hawkin's gang (and later on Hell on Wheels, for a brief amount of time).
  • Mercy Kill: He asks Bohannon to shoot him so he will die with a friend by his side.
  • Known Mostly By His Nickname: Everyone calls him "Doc" or Hey, You!.
  • Punch Clock Villain: He served as a medic for a gang of thieves, but only because he had no other option.
  • Token Good Teammate: Alongside Bohannon, he was this in Hawkins' gang.

Declan Toole

  • Ambiguously Evil: At this point, it's very hard to tell if he's evil or not, but Eva and Elam certainly feel very scared of him.
  • Badass: His opening scene has him effortlessly beating down a thief, and he barely blinks at Ferguron's threats.
  • Carry a Big Stick: Well not a "big" stick, but his Weapon of Choice is a police baton and he can surely wreak some havoc with it.
  • Dashingly Dapper Derby: His Nice Hat.
  • Establishing Character Moment: He walks out of a train, sees a thief robbing a man, promptly beats the thief down and gives the man his walllet back. This establishes Declan as a man of old-fashioned values in the crapsack world that is Hell on Wheels.
  • Fair Cop: He apparently was a cop in New York.
  • Honor Before Reason: His motivation is taking Eva's baby (with her consent) to give it a better life. No matter how much trouble even suggesting that causes him.
  • Officer O'Hara: A classic irish copper.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: He is calm, collected and cultured, everything Toole was not.

Ulysses S. Grant

Louise Ellison

  • Intrepid Reporter. She is at Hell On Wheels to cover the building of the railroad and does so as honestly as possible
  • Lipstick Lesbian/Ambiguously Bi: She got shipped out west at least partly to keep her away from her boss' daughter but she didn't seem to mind when Bohannon kissed her either. She didn't really respond but that could have been just because she was shocked and surprised.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Durant pointed her towards the murders Bohannon commited in revenge and then used her story against him at the trial.

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