TV Review: Hell on Wheels (AMC)


It is our goal to bring a fair review to all the shows that get picked to be followed. There are times when the first episode is not enough to draw us in, but we are not ready to squash the show and deliver a negative review. “Hell on Wheels” is a show that does not grab you during the first episode but gives the viewer enough pause to bring them back for episode 2.

The characters are well worth investing your time. It gains strength in the second episode and just keeps sucking the audience in with grasping storylines. Using factual events as foundation for a fictional storyline is nothing new but this series has characters that you just want the full background of. As the story moves forward the writers only slightly salt & pepper each character while keeping it suggestive without full disclosure.

Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) is a former confederate soldier who is in pursuit of the Union soldiers who took his wife’s life. He has love in his heart but vengeance is budding; ready to be unleashed on the ones who made him a widow. He is a foreman on the first transcontinental railroad in charge of an all-black “cut crew.” He finds himself befriending one of the crew members, Elam (Common) who balances the differences between the whites in charge and the blacks who are truly the ones making a dent in the progress of the railroad.

Thomas “Doc” Durant (Colm Meaney) hopes to take his businessman background and invest heavily to secure a large monetary reward. He is responsible for hiring Bohannon to supervise the line crew and makes sure that not only does the work get done, but that it is completed in record time. Sean and Mickey Grinnes (Ben Esler, Phil Burke) are brothers looking to make their fortune in the west as it gains strength in numbers. Lily Bell (Dominique McElligott), whose husband was a surveyor working on the railroad project now leaving his wife a widow.

The characters that have internal struggles throughout the plotline are: Joseph Black Moon (Eddie Spears), a native American, and Reverend Cole (Tom Noonan), a minister for the Union Army during the Civil War. Moon has an understanding of both sides and his heritage is an integral part of who he is, but the new world pulls him towards a different life. Cole is disgusted with the direction the Indians & whites have taken and would like to be a prominent mediator between the two sides.

AMC has acquired a strong show but is the great start a direct factor of premiering and following “The Walking Dead”? Does it have the strength to stand alone? Will the two shows be locked together for the next season? Can 10 episodes of a time so long ago hold the audience, yet still encourage them to return for a second season?