|Status:||Unknown (presumed dead)|
Former head of security
|Marital status:||Married, but wife left him|
|Behind the scenes|
|Portrayed by:||Christopher Heyerdahl|
Thor Gundersen, commonly known as The Swede, is a character in Hell on Wheels and was the main enforcer of the activities of Central Pacific railroad at Hell on Wheels, hired by Thomas Durant. He now works as the groundskeeper and/or mortician. He is portrayed by actor Christopher Heyerdahl.
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, but behind the lines as a quartermaster directing supplies, as he was "good with numbers". However his entire unit was captured, and he was imprisoned at the infamous Confederate camp for Union POW's, Andersonville. 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 apparently killed the man who tried to eat his arm -- and given his shaken reaction to recounting the event, and that he has 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.
- Main article: Season 1
The Swede first appears in the episode "Immoral Mathematics." He 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 murderer was Elam Ferguson. He incarcerates Bohannon in a freight car and leaves before hanging him. Gundersen later finds that his prisoner has escaped and has been hired by Durant as his new foreman. The Swede soon becomes the main antagonist in the story.
A New Birth of FreedomEdit
The Swede returns and immediately works to weaken Cullen's power as the new foreman by taking some of his workers with him in search of the fair-haired maiden of the West.
Bread and CircusesEdit
Realizing that he was cheated out of his money by the McGinness brothers, Gundersen takes revenge by cutting the ropes to their theater. Later on, the Swede 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.
Pride, Pomp, and CircumstanceEdit
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 money to speculate on railroad stock. The Swede provides this information in return for information about 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. Mr. Toole, an Irish bigot and railway worker, incites a gang to attack the leaving Native Americans. The Swede intervenes and suggests that they cool off at the cathouse. Toole demands to see Eva, one of the prostitutes, but the women there 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.
Upon discovering the Irish gang, Gundersen allows them to hang Elam as entertainment in the saloon. However, Cullen intervenes, saves Elam, and takes him to the woods. The Swede arrives at the saloon and questions Mr. Toole. He then demands that Toole capture Elam and Cullen with his gang. The Irishman hesitates, and the Swede stabs him in the eye with a fork.
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. The Swede 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 with shotgun shells. However, he is too slow and Cullen has drawn his Griswold revolver first. He points it at The Swede's head who falls to his knees and begs for mercy. Cullen pistol-whips his victim, grabs a leather strap, and beats The Swede. Mrs. Bell and Durant intervene and Bohannon finally stops.
Later on, The Swede becomes visibly obsessed over Bohannon's murders on the East Coast. He presents his evidence to Durant, who scoffs and tells the Swede that every one of the workers at Hell on Wheels are criminals.
The Swede has become a nuisance in the town. The tensions between the residences and Gundersen broke when the McGinnes brothers and the prostitutes witness the Swede 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 The Swede 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 The Swede: Inform Durant of Gundersen's embezzlement of railway funds.
God of ChaosEdit
Near Council Bluffs, Iowa at a trading post, The Swede 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 Bohannon's wife. The Swede 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 The Swede's caboose to confront him. He arrives, but cannot find Harper anywhere. The Swede tells Bohannon of the story of Loki, a Norse god responsible for causing chaos, suggesting that Bohannon is similar to Loki.
During the dance, The Swede is presumably searching for Harper to defend him until the federal marshals arrive. The McGinnes brothers surround The Swede 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 the Swede 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.
The Swede returns to Hell on Wheels as the equivalent of a custodian for the rundown community. He develops a friendly relationship with Reverend Cole to the point where the two tent together.
Throughout the rest of the season, The Swede'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 Durant to Chicago.
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.
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 The Swede 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.
The Swede warns of an impending Sioux attack that all but Bohannon are skeptical of. In the confusion caused by the preparation for the impending raid, The Swede escapes the infirmary by slitting his guard's throat with a scalpel.
During the attack, the Swede 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 the Swede or Lily.
Later that day, when Bohannon goes to hang the Swede from the now finished bridge, for sabotaging the railroad coupled with the murder of Lily, The Swede 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.
The Swede, unwilling to give Bohannon the satisfaction of killing him, jumps of the bridge while Bohannon secures the rope to hang him with. The Swede 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.
|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"|
"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."–The Swede