We’re kind of fond of Hell on Wheels around here, and Sunday night, the series is wrapping its second season with a back-to-back airing of episodes nine and ten. Which is awesome, because twice the show! Which is not awesome because it’s getting spanked in the ratings, and with such a short season, may have missed its window for gathering enough viewers for a shot at a third season. We want it to come back next year, so we’ve compiled a handy list of reasons why you should check out the show, and watch the finale.
Maybe you’re not into Westerns. Maybe you’re not into shows on AMC. Maybe you’re not into American History. All valid reasons. And to them I say: you really are missing something quite special, and I think you’d be pleasantly surprised if you sampled an episode (or all eight so far this season, or even theÂ ten before that–season one is on DVD). So, why should you watch?
Intricately woven storylines
Each episode has no fewer than a dozen speaking roles–and the story arcs crisscross around each other in fascinating, sometimes startling ways. On the face of it, the inhabitants of Hell on Wheels are survivors of a broken nation after the Civil War, looking for a place in the world. They’re bound by the need for work, and they come together to create a new family in a new nation. They’re ethnically and geographically diverse and for better or worse, are stuck with each other.
Given the mishmash of where everyone is supposed to be from, the dialects are all over the place and the actors are spot on in portraying the various regions each character hails from. Last week’s episode had a terrific scene that revealed that Bohannon’s “street” Southern has been a bit of a ruse. During a dinner with the Durants, he sits up a little straighter, enunciates a little clearer, and switches from shoveling his food with the fork in his right hand to using both his fork and knife in their proper positions. We weren’t the only ones startled. Lily looks across at him and literally wonders who she’s been in bed with.
What I know about the Civil War came mostly from high school and college courses, the John Jakes novel/ABC mini-series North and South, and various and sundry Westerns (I’m not proud of this), but it would seem that HoW has painstakingly recreated the barren state of the country in the late 19th century as the railroad ventured West.
It’s gritty, dank, and threadbare and then across the tracks, opulent and ridiculously wealthy. I was always aware of the Chinese role in creating the railroad but knew nothing of the intricacies of the men and women behind the East Coast expansion toward California. It truly was blood, sweat, and tears. And HoW pulls no punches in the portrayal of the men on the rails, the men writing the checks and spinning the deals, and the men and women keeping the tent cities afloat.
The show films in Calgary, which has been used to great effect in other Westerns, and it’s just as spectacular here. It’s a character in the show as much as the people are. The cinematography is really, really amazing. I’m always surprised when they can still capture vistas like that in North America. (The recent Hatfields & McCoys went to Romania to shoot without power lines).
Ridiculously pretty (and talented) boys and girls
Let us be shallow for a moment. Have you seen this cast? Anson Mount, Common, Robin McLeavy, Dominique McElligott, and Chris Heyerdahl (creepy as hell here, yes, but exotic looking nonetheless) are just a few of the talented folks inhabiting the parade of characters. Last week, that gorgeous dame Virginia Madsen sashayed into town to stir up trouble. And these lovely ladies and gents aren’t just pretty faces. They can actually walk and talk and chew gum, and speak whole sentences, make you laugh, buckle your knees, and break your heart.
Heart and soul
Sometimes on shows that are so sweeping, you don’t get a chance to know everybody. The creators of HoW have taken the time to craft rich characters with struggles and successes who we’ve come to care about. We miss them when they sit out an episode.
I want to know where they’re going to be after this week’s finale airs. Take a chance on the show, and I’d bet you will, too.
The two-hour season finale of Hell on Wheels airs Sunday on AMC beginning at 9/8c.
[Updated May 2020: The entire series is available on Netflix].
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Dennis Heaton Talks The Imperfects
Longtime readers at TV Goodness will know that Motive is one of my ride-or-die series, and as such, I am fiercely loyal to its creator, Dennis Heaton. He followed up that fantastic reverse procedural with Netflix’s The Order and is back on our streaming screens with The Imperfects, which dropped…
Kelly McCormack Talks Favorite Moments in A League of Their Own
[Warning: Mild spoilers for season 1.] Now that you’ve had a chance to watch A League of Their Own, here’s the rest of my chat with Kelly McCormack about her favorite moments of the season. Seeing the iconic Peaches uniforms for the first time wasn’t just a goosebump moment for…
John Griffin and Harold Perrineau Talk From on EPIX Season 1 Finale
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] How are we doing, #FROMily? In case you missed it this morning, the very good news is that that cliffhanger will be followed by a second season, which was gifted this morning ahead of the linear broadcast of the finale. I always legitimately appreciate when we…
Elizabeth Saunders Talks EPIX’s From
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] One of the things that makes EPIX’s From such a fun ride is the abundance of Canadian cast members. Elizabeth Saunders, who plays Donna, is a favorite from her turn on the third season of Mary Kills People [streaming on Global TV in Canada and Roku…
Corteon Moore Talks From “Broken Windows, Open Doors”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode.] Tonight’s episode of From had us all in our feels as we learned through flashbacks about the Sophie’s Choice Boyd had to make to save his son, and back in the present as Boyd said his piece with Ellis before heading into the woods with…
Pegah Ghafoori Talks From “All Good Things…”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode] Tonight on From, Fatima’s anniversary celebration turned into a Colony House of horrors when a misguided Kevin let his monster bae in and she promptly killed him and left the window open for her crew. While the party devolved into terror and sent everyone running,…
Shaun Majumder Talks From “Book 74”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode.] Tonight on EPIX’s From, Father Khatri made a bold move, kidnapping Sara instead of turning her in, and then recognizing her as a vessel for some big messages. That startling realization speaks to him on multiple levels–as a man of faith, a man trapped in…
Avery Konrad Talks About Sara’s Struggle in From “Silhouettes”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode.] Over the course of the season so far on From, we’ve witnessed Sara’s battle against the voices telling her to to do terrible things, and tonight we saw her unravel further, threatening the Matthews and lashing out in a moment of terror with horrifying results….
Hannah Cheramy Talks From “Choosing Day”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode.] Tonight, on EPIX’s From, the Matthews participate in the show’s version of the sorting hat, choosing where to call home–the town or Colony House. At the end of the episode, Julie makes the decision to split from her family and instead settle in with Fatima…
Ricky He Talks From “The Way Things Are Now”
[Warning: Spoilers for episode 102 of EPIX’s From.] Epix’s new series From is two episodes in and it’s already laying the groundwork for a seriously spooky season. Tonight’s episode demonstrated the careful balance of relief and horror that the show hits, with our characters’ worst fears realized, just not when…
What They Said: Three Revealing Conversations from Survivor’s Remorse “Closure”
WARNING: Spoilers for Survivor’s Remorse “Closure” The latest episode of Starz’s Survivor’s Remorse featured conversations that showed characters really digging deep into their thoughts, emotions and motivations.
Two Takes: The Catch “The Knock-Off”
Who can you trust? If this episode of The Catch was any indication, the answer is just about nobody. Betrayal was running rampant as Felicity (Shivani Ghai) arose from the dead to seduce-con Margot, Gretchen (Maria Thayer, Gotham, The Mindy Project) played gold-hearted Alice 2.0 before swindling Ethan, Tessa jumped…
What They Said: Top 3 Quotable Moments from Preacher “El Valero”
Both Quincannon and Jesse refuse to give up on what they each think is rightfully theirs. While Jesse is struggling to face the consequences of his actions, Quincannon has laid his past demons to rest and is hellbent on moving forward and putting Annville on the map again. Despite a…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Supergirl “Worlds Finest”
Oh, Supergirl. That ending was cold. But I can’t hate on you because the latest episode has quickly become one of my favorites.
What They Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Black Sails “XXIII”
The dialogue in “XXIII” is phenomenal. It’s always a fun ride when Black Sails carries its viewers along without giving them the chance to catch their breath. When an episode moves at this unforgiving pace, there is no chance for a breather nor is there a respite from the information…
What Lucifer Said: Favorite quotes from Supernatural “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
Supernatural episodes are almost always funny but thanks to the dialogue and a certain man speaking said dialogue, I laughed a lot during “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” You know, when I wasn’t busy fearing for Sam’s life or wondering what in the world was going on with Dean and…
What They Said: The Flash, “Legends Of Today” and Arrow, “Legends Of Yesterday”
Two nights of Arrow +Â The Flash = what more could we ask for?! I don’t know what it is about blending these shows, but I canâ€™t help but feel that every time they come together, they somehow become greater than the sum of their parts. And thatâ€™s saying a lot…
What they Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Graceland “Little Bo Bleep”
Shoot outs. Fake outs. And long-awaited revelations. “Little Bo Bleep” was a jam-packed episode that wrapped up some loose ends and totally frayed others. Â It finally gave us one Sarkissian in jail and pulled back the curtain on Briggs’ master plan, but it also set up Jakes for a world…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Poldark “Part 4”
â€œWhat have I told you, I don’t require my wife to crochet and sip tea, but I do require her to remember she’s not a beast of burden.â€ No, Iâ€™m not talking about The Rolling Stones! I have to admit though, just for a second, the lyrics popped into my…
3 Moments of Goodness from Brooklyn Nine-Nine “Johnny and Dora”
The most satisfying part of this season’s finale has to the Jake and Amy kiss. Well, they kiss three times but the last one is the best one — and it means something. The Charles and Rosa dynamic was also great. I love how she’s convinced he doesn’t know anything…