TV Review: Hell On Wheels

by on November 18, 2011

in Entertainment, tv reviews

In this TV review of AMC’s new series, Hell on Wheels, I chat about some characters, motivations and what I think about this new show… should you check it out or not?

Hell on Wheels Review

We’re two episodes in to Hell on Wheels, this new, rugged Western TV series from AMC, and while the jury was initially out for a little bit, I’d say I’m getting pulled in as the characters show charismatic growth across the board.

Hell on Wheels comes from the minds of Joe & Tony Gayton, whose creative resumes include movies such as Faster, Bulletproof & Murder by Numbers.  The first few episodes were directed by David Von Ancken, whose resume includes CSI: NY, Cold Case, Californication and a few eps of The Vampire Dairies.

Anson Mount in Hell on Wheels

Hell on Wheels stars the ruggedly handsome Anson Mount, who stars as Cullen Bohannon, an ex confederate soldier whose sole mission in life right now is hunting down the soldiers who murdered his wife.  His quest for revenge has led him to the ragged and ever-moving town of Hell on Wheels, the Union Pacific Railroad’s tent camp where construction crews live when they’re not working on the railroad.  The railroad they’re working on is the first Transcontinental Railroad.

Other cast includes Common as Elam Ferguson, an emancipated slave; Colm Meaney as the over-the-top, greedy businessman Thomas ‘Doc’ Durant.  Durant is the entrepreneur who is running the construction of the railroad.  One of his bites of greed, we saw early on when he wanted the railroad path to be very curvy… because he gets paid by the mile.

Others players include Dominique McElligott as Lily Bell; Ben Esler as Sean McGinnes; Phil Burke as Mickey McGinnes; Eddie Spears as Joseph Black Moon & Tom Noonan as Reverend Nathaniel Cole.  We saw a new arrival in the second episode of genre fave Christopher Heyerdahl, whom many may know from TV from such shows as Sanctuary, Stargate: Atlantis (Todd the Wraith), Supernatural & Caprica.  On the silver screen, The Twilight movies Breaking Dawn & New Moon or Blade: Trinity and one of my faves, The Chronicles of Riddick.

Common in Hell on Wheels

Before moving on with this TV review, I checked into it and saw that the Hell on Wheels season premiere opened to a 3.1 household rating in the TV ratings and that panned out into 4.4 million estimated viewers.  That made the premiere AMC’s second-highest best series premiere in their history.  (Can you guess/remember what their first one was?  Hint: The Walking Dead!)

Christopher Heyerdahl in Hell on Wheels, as The Sweded

When the season premiere aired, I have to say I was wondering where it was headed.  We were introduced to many characters but we were getting specific moments in their lives.  Moments that didn’t hold any emotional sway for the viewer.  It felt like just another Western movie that would come and go.  It wasn’t until the last 20% of the series opener that we started to get some motivations for the characters.  Primarily, we learned more about Bohannon and what he has to be capable of doing to effect his outcome of revenge on his wife’s murderers.

When Bohannon shows up at the railroad camp, he gets hired and because he had owned slaves, was put in charge of the track laying gang, some of which used to be slaves.  It’s here that he meets Elam Ferguson, and in an odd, brutish-like sort of way, they become allies in thought, with the potential we see there, as becoming friends.  The one thing that sets Bohannon apart from the brethren of slave owners is that he had set his slaves free long before the rest of the country did and paid them wages for their work.  This sets him apart from many of the rough edged characters on the set.

Colm Meaney in Hell on Wheels

Despite the first episode being a bit slow, once it delivered the motivation, the second episode of the series, titled “Immoral Mathematics,” had more juice to it and the story built up momentum.

The way things look, Hell on Wheels is charging down the railroad tracks of fun, entertaining television.  The characters are developing historical depth while they continue to move forward with their stories.  I think, if you’re of the mind to entertain Westerns, I would recommend checking it out.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

James Dills November 25, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Anson Mount is awesome! He also starred in a really cool indie film, Tully.

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