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Monday, November 14, 2011

Hell on Wheels- Episodes 1 + 2 review and overview of the show (spoiler free)

This show is getting some mixed reviews, but after seeing two episodes, we’ve realized that this show has a TON of potential to become absolutely amazingly fun. The second episode is better than the first, and we see this show improving over the course of the season as we get to know these characters. We love AMC. We love Westerns. Lots of people have called the show’s first couple of episodes slow and meandering. Um, it goes a heck of a lot faster than The Walking Dead, and Hell on Wheels seems to be speeding up as it goes along. AMC lovers will love this show too. People get scalped. It’s rad. The first couple of episodes were, admittedly, an uneven and rocky start. But you can just see that this is going to be worthwhile.

The opening scene was good. This show does violence well. The violent scenes are intense, which is a surprise since we shouldn’t be expected to care about the characters yet. We don’t KNOW them yet, at all. The characters are not fleshed out yet, especially the main character, but we feel like there is plenty of time. It’s good to start with lots of mystery surrounding your characters to get us hooked. The Indian attack scene was incredible. We gasped a total of three times in the pilot, collectively. We aren’t sure if the main guy is too good looking or not. He’s doing a solid job so far, and the beard grizzles him up a bit.

We don’t know if we like the way the show is handling the race stuff. It’s almost Hallmark-y at points, if Hallmark were mixed with a little grit. Wait, except the way the Indians are handled. They are mostly just bloodthirsty savages (unless they've been baptized), killing all the white people. They need to stick some Hallmark in THERE, or it's gonna get real racist, real fast. We don't care for racist. Few people do anymore. Weirdly, the Cheyenne on this show speak to each other in English. Come on show, make an effort.

There are some questionable moments in the show. One example of a low point was the speech at the end of the pilot. What the heck was that? It was a bunch of nonsense, and it was crazy weird. But for every moment that hits the wrong tone, there is a moment that really grabs you. We think the kinks will get worked out. It’s AMC. We also love the music. If you’re looking for Deadwood 2.0, look elsewhere, because this show is NOT that show, and it's probably not even comparable to that show. But we like both Westerns.

The main character of this show is Cullen Bohannon, a former Confederate soldier and slaveowner, but he freed his slaves, so we are all allowed to like him. He is looking to avenge the death of his wife. Union soldiers killed her in Meridian, Mississippi. Cullen goes to “Hell on Wheels,” which is the tent city that follows the transcontinental railroad while it is being built. Cullen takes a job overseeing a crew of former slaves, even though he has no experience.

The man hiring was Mr. Johnson, a clearly racist old bastard with a crazy beard who we kind of liked, despite his doucheness. We liked him as a character. Mr. Johnson gives Cullen the job because Cullen once owned slaves. One of the black men Cullen oversees is Elam. Elam’s pretty angry about life, which is understandable, because he still feels like he’s a slave. Sure, he’s getting paid, but he’s also still getting yelled at, beaten, and overseen by former slave owners. Pretty soon though, Elam and Cullen buddy up a little, which is sweet in a bloody sort of way. You’ll see.

A little ways ahead of Hell on Wheels, there is a survey team led by a guy named Robert who has custody of all the maps. He has recently battled illness and was cared for by his sweet wife, Lily. They seem super in love, and it’s really sweet, until they get attacked by the Cheyenne in a pretty fantastic scene. Thomas “Doc” Durant is the entrepreneur getting the railroad up and running. He’s probably the worst person ever, but we love him too. What he does in the beginning of the second episode is just freaking classic. Then we meet “The Swede,” and he’s cool too. It looks like we have yet another show to watch. Sigh. Will we ever have free time again?

Episode grades: B


  1. Really digging this show, too. Thank God for AMC and FX. No mainstream network would go near these topics with this level of graphic depiction.

    Colm Meaney (of Star Trek fame), playing "Doc Durant", is an excellent choice for this role, and he is doing a fantastic job being the Al Swearengen of the show (I know the two shows are different, but you have to admit that the two roles are similar here). The lead is good, but as you say, this is going to be a "slow burn" show that will take time to develop characters. I hope they get that chance.

    My favorite character so far is "The Swede". His description of the Andersonville prison camp was wickedly awesome; the man became a true monster out of necessity, and has all the hallmarks of a villain to remember.

    Going to be a show that will be a candidate for the top tier I think. Off to a great start, for sure.

  2. Doc is more of a cartoon than Al, who was...just...the best villain ever. But we do see the similarities.

    We're glad you're watching it!