‘Hell On Wheels’ Is Heavy, But Not Without Momentum

In preparation for the second episode of AMC’s new series Hell On Wheels, which airs tonight, I caught up on the pilot episode this morning. I’d skimmed a review earlier in the week, but I didn’t want to spoil anything for myself so I didn’t read too deeply. But what I gathered was that, given time, it had potential. And after my initial viewing, I agree.

The pilot is slow moving and its tone is as heavy as the steel the railroad was built with, but I trust (hope) it will gain momentum and pick up speed. I appreciated that the show left much of the details of each character’s circumstances opaque and allowed the viewer to fill in the gaps. At the same time, I’m worried that opaqueness might be indicative of a lack of depth and direction rather than intentional mystery. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

Our (anti) hero Cullen Bohannan is as stolid as a granite pillar but without any depth. Yet. He’s outshone by the supporting cast, including Colm Meaney as wonderfully evil railroad baron Thomas ‘Doc’ Durant and Ted Levine as the railroad foreman.

Bohannan’s quest to avenge his wife’s death by killing the men who murdered her is cliched, but I hope that the subplots will complicate this enough to imbue the show with some uniqueness.

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