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Hell on Wheels (AMC)

post #1 of 63
Thread Starter 

The premiere is this Sunday and the fine folks at Salon have got me salivating for it.

 

Salon Review

 

Anyone else excited to have another western show on TV, albeit one that is not named Deadwood? And, should this succeed, what dickish moves will AMC do to the showrunner? Or is this destined to be another Rubicon, an excellent show that nobody watched?

post #2 of 63

I am excited for it. If it can pick up steam (puntastic!) better than Rubicon, I may stick to it. It is going to join my viewing party list.

post #3 of 63

AMC is smartly pairing it up with The Walking Dead, so I don't think the ratings will be a problem at first. If it can hook viewers, it'll probably be a smash.

 

Blasphemy time: I don't consider "It's no Deadwood" to be a stinging criticism. I enjoyed the hell out of Deadwood, but it's far from untouchable; I'd put it on par with Carnivale as a unique, fascinating show with a lot of flaws, specifically a meandering plot that often doesn't seem to know where it's headed, a weird aversion to its own most dramatic elements, and large degree of inertia. Some days I think that makes it a more challenging show, other days I feel like the writers were just being self-indulgent. I have to admit, Breaking Bad has readjusted my thoughts on the more langourous pacing of some of HBO's shows to a degree.

 

At any rate, it's unlikely that this show (or any other show ever) will try to imitate Deadwood, so the comparison seems pretty superficial to me. It's a modern TV western on a premium cable channel that's known for high-quality programming. Unless there's some overt attempt to echo Deadwood (I'll admit Colm Meaney's character seems a bit Swearengen-esque, and the basic theme of a lawless capitalist scumpit is obviously there, but the comparison seems pretty broad) I don't see why that has to be an issue.

post #4 of 63

Also, the fact that this show deals with native Americans and former slaves, two points of view that were sadly lacking from Deadwood, makes me happy.

post #5 of 63

Bump. What'd we think?

 

Not too shabby. Still a ways from being anything special, but suggests a decent meat-and-potatoes western. I liked the whole thing about the slaves being freed and then enslaved again by capitalism, obviously the really resonant metaphor for our current world situation. Common's character seems interesting. Building the series around the idea of the hero trying to figure out who, in the camp, is the guy who killed his wife is a decent hook, though it could get old really fast. And they're trying too hard to make Colm Meany's character into Al Swearengen, complete with drunken monologues. But a lot of potential there nonetheless.

post #6 of 63

First episode was kinda broad for my tastes.  Like a comic book, in a way.  But I'll give it some time.

post #7 of 63

Broad is a good word. I enjoyed Colm Meany's performance, although whenever Al Swearengen would monologue he would be doing it to someone for some kind of purpose, Meany seems to just be pontificating for narrations sake. I'm not too big on the lead, but Common showed a surprising amount of screen presence (never really paid much attention to his acting before). The Native American attack was pretty well done, that arrow shot through the gut was a nice touch. I'll keep up with it.

post #8 of 63

Some reviewer summed it up as Dull on Wheels, and I agree.

It's just so on the nose, bland, and broad. Everything is oh-so-spelled out, the characters are cardboard, and it's just horribly written—at least that first episode was. No nuance, subtext, creativity or originality. There's no character to the show. Acting's pretty bland, too, even though they've got some decent actors in there. And don't get me started on Colm Meaney's ridiculous heavy handed exposition/meta summation of the show at the end. Who is he talking to? I can't take this show seriously with shit like that happening. As a comedy, though, I enjoyed it.

post #9 of 63

I am in the middle of the second episode.  It has a little more juice but it's still kinda silly.  I can't tell if The Swede is effectively creepy or something out of a Mel Brooks movie.

post #10 of 63

So, wait, did Tom Noonan just tell The Swede that he heard the prisoner escaped 30 seconds after the prisoner escaped?

 

Maybe this is a Mel Brooks movie.

post #11 of 63

The Swede earned this show another episode for me next week, but things really need to pick up. I wouldn't mind if they just kept introducing one cartoonish villain after another, until we've got a legit rogue's gallery going. Make it like Dick Tracy in the west and I'll be satisfied.

post #12 of 63

The Swede doesn't strike me as a villain after this episode. He'll be at odds with the main character but I can see them working together.

 

Much stronger episode, but nothing too memorable quite yet. I'm more interested in the girl's story than anything else.

post #13 of 63

I like this show... The first episode was kind of flat, but the 2nd one was very good, IMO. It has earned itself a few more episodes on my season pass.

 

I still don't know any of the character names, though. smile.gif

post #14 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Deanburger View Post

The Swede doesn't strike me as a villain after this episode. He'll be at odds with the main character but I can see them working together.

 

Much stronger episode, but nothing too memorable quite yet. I'm more interested in the girl's story than anything else.



Uh, the guy hinted at the unspeakable things he had to do in prison to survive, things that changed him as a human being. Things that were the reason the main antagonist put him in this position now. He also collects protection money from the folks around camp. Dude may not be overtly evil, but a punch-clock villain is still a villain.

post #15 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bailey View Post

So, wait, did Tom Noonan just tell The Swede that he heard the prisoner escaped 30 seconds after the prisoner escaped?

 

Maybe this is a Mel Brooks movie.



I thought there was a reasonable time gap there--maybe I'm misremembering things. And since the Swede and his muscle must have started looking for him, probably not very discreetly, immediately after his escape, I see no reason why the camp wouldn't know pretty fast.

 

I guess I must be enjoying this show, since I'm defending it. Right now I'd peg it as quite watchable, without anything tipping it over into overly bad or good. We'll see how it goes. It's funny, despite the presence of some really great TV shows right now, my standards are low enough that simply failing to have the characters do anything ridiculously stupid or having the plot play out logically earns a show points for me. And even then I sometimes still watch, as with The Walking Dead.

post #16 of 63

The prison story would be the makings of a villain if he had done something unspeakable to get there, but all it showed was that he did what he had to do to survive. Collecting protection money may be ass hole-ish, but not the makings of a villain. By that logic, Tony Soprano would be a villain (I guess you could argue that).  The Swede doesn't strike me as a main antagonist any more than Colm Meany does.

post #17 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Deanburger View Post

The prison story would be the makings of a villain if he had done something unspeakable to get there, but all it showed was that he did what he had to do to survive. Collecting protection money may be ass hole-ish, but not the makings of a villain. By that logic, Tony Soprano would be a villain (I guess you could argue that).  The Swede doesn't strike me as a main antagonist any more than Colm Meany does.


 

Yes! Yes I would argue that Tony is a villain because that's what he is! Protagonist does not equal hero, and antagonist does not equal villain. The Swede and Durant may not be the main antagonists, but they are most certainly bad people.

post #18 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Prankster View Post



I thought there was a reasonable time gap there--maybe I'm misremembering things. And since the Swede and his muscle must have started looking for him, probably not very discreetly, immediately after his escape, I see no reason why the camp wouldn't know pretty fast.

 

 

It's not like it was that big a deal.  There was a commercial break, I think, so conceivably he might have been running and hiding for a little while.  But the way the show made it seem, he hid his chains in his hat, lost himself in the crowd, and that was the first place he dunked into.  And all the while the Swede was looking to spy him, not asking people if they saw anything, or alerting anyone else.

 

I was sure he was at least going to say "How did you hear about that in your tent?" and peek in there, or something.

post #19 of 63

I saw about half of last night's episode then fell asleep.  Not cause I was bored. Just really tired.  

 

And it pisses me off that AMC isn't re-airing this week's episode until fucking Saturday.  All goddamn week they're showing Jurassic Park over and over instead of giving viewers a little chance to catch up during the week.

 

 

post #20 of 63

I really can not give a shit about Bohannon's wife's murder.  That sub-plot needs to die.  And the plucky Irish brothers don't need a dark secret from their time in Boston.  I'm giving this a full season, but they seriously need to re-jigger where the narrative focus is.  The rampant corruption in the construction of the rail road and the hazards of frontier living should be more than enough dramatic fuel for this show.

post #21 of 63

I dunno... w.r.t. more railroad stuff, I'm about sick of Colm Meaney at this point.

 

He's starting to resemble Humpty Dumpty and he needs to tone down his acting about ten notches.

post #22 of 63

I've honestly completely forgotten what part Common's character had to play in that episode. He and the Indian guy need way more screentime; I'd rather watch them than Meany (I think it's getting pretty obvious that they're trying to imitate Swearengen here. It's painful).

post #23 of 63

So after talking up how awesome he'll be as a foreman, his first two days on the job consist of waking up, laying out the day's work, and then vanishing for the rest of that day and all of the next.  'My men will go to hell and back for me' my ass.

post #24 of 63

Well hey, he was the one saying they shouldn't be detracting from the digging work. And then he went out and found the girl, even though no one knows he did.

 

This show has its share of implausibilities, but I actually like the Darwinian nature of the camp. Durant's the only law, and he doesn't give a shit as long as the railroad gets built. You make him happy, and you can get away with murder (literally).

post #25 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fafhrd View Post

So after talking up how awesome he'll be as a foreman, his first two days on the job consist of waking up, laying out the day's work, and then vanishing for the rest of that day and all of the next.  'My men will go to hell and back for me' my ass.


 

I think Durant hired him out of his audacity, not his promises.

post #26 of 63

Well im out. Again I tried but I don't know how you make a show like this boring but they did. What happened AMC? First The Killing and now Walking Dead and Hell On Wheels. All shows with a really good premise that I had to bail on due to horrible writing. I guess I can always get into Breaking Bad. The old ones are up on Netflix streaming.

post #27 of 63

On the one hand I credit them for giving genre shows that would have never been given a shot on the networks a chance.  On the other I can't help but think once they started to get some success producing original series, they shifted their focus a bit and were looking for crowd-pleasing hits rather than the best original shows.

post #28 of 63

It all looks very good. They've got some good actors on hand (I especially like seeing Tom Noonan play the least creepy guy on the show). I don't even mind Colm Meaney, because even if it's not good acting, there sure is a lot of it. But I can't really put my finger on why this is such a boring hour of TV. 

 

I mean, the writing, I guess. I think it's that despite its scope, there's precious little real ambition on display. There's no thematic work at play, no big ideas, just big characterizations. Which is fine for pulp adventure, and if Hell on Wheels isn't interested in having depth, I wish it would just live there. But I see a lot of pretensions to weight and meaning here not justified by the content. It really is trying to be Deadwood, with its gray morality, period grisliness, overcooked speeches (Meaney, the Swede's prison story), and Noonan in the Brad Dourif role. And that is simply not a winning proposal, especially if the writing staff isn't there.

 

I'd also really like some genuine wit on display. Everyone here except Meaney is playing a dour sufferer, particularly the 'good guy' characters. I always thought Common was a good actor, but I sure dislike his character here. The Irish dudes have the rhythms of comic relief, but they haven't done anything I even recognized as a joke yet, let alone a funny one. Meaney at least is funny, devouring entire honey-glazed hams in one gulp as he is.

 

On the other hand, this is a good indication of how strong the medium has become this century. If this show was on in the 90s, it would be tremendous. I'd be setting my VCR to record it so I'd have it to watch over and over. Coming out in 2011, it's a toss up over whether it's worth the time or not. I do love westerns, so we'll see if I keep with it.

post #29 of 63

For some reason, I keep thinking we're in for some kind of mystical twist.  Like the show is sort of luring us in by being this bog-standard Western, and then it's going to pull the rug out from under us with, I don't know, the devil showing up or something out of Deadlands.  The opening credits really seem to hint at this, with the fire and the smoke and the darkness.

 

Probably just wishful thinking though.  I'm enjoying it for what it is though -- Deadwood Lite -- and I think the performances are uniformly good.  I just think it needs a kick as far as pacing.  These first four episodes could have easily been two.

post #30 of 63

I can see it pulling out the supernatural card at some point.  Definitely.

 

Also, are we SURE Reverend Cole (Coal?) is a nice guy?  Because preachers who look like Tom Noonan tend to be sorta, y'know, fucking evil.

post #31 of 63

I think they finally gave Noonan's character some backstory, and it was a good one. That chat where he explained how he rode with John Brown was a much needed shade for the character.  In that scene he seemed totally believable as an outlaw badass seeking redemption. The way his speech became a little more assured when he revealed who he was shows that every day is a struggle for him to suppress who he was.

post #32 of 63

So yeah. Maybe I'm just a big ol' contrarian, but something about this show brings out the defender in me. For all its huge, gaping flaws, the pieces are in place for something legitimately good (even if we took to long to get there). To repost something I just wrote at the AV Club:

 

What's strange is that I'd argue that every major character is at least *potentially* interesting, even if the writing regularly lets them down. But everyone has some wrinkle to their personalities that could easily flower into something cool with just a little push. Durant, the preacher, and the Swede are, obviously, stealing the show, and I find it interesting that Durant tends to be a pathetic buffoon (I'm not sure if that's intentional or just the writer's inability to write him as the machiavellian villain that he was set up as--it might be a little of both). Common is pretty one-note, but the character is solid; if nothing else, this show has done a good job of making us feel the tightrope this guy is walking. It's extremely dangerous to be an angry, discontented black man in this particular time and place, and the guy seems to have a self-destructive streak (which finally exploded at the end of this episode).

But what I find interesting are Bohannon and blondie (FHMotW), who are slotted into "heroic lead male and female" roles and could easily be pretty bland but, oddly enough, are intriguingly flawed and interesting. Bohannon's a lot less easy a hero than you'd expect him to be, what with the Southern pride and the drinking and murdering and all, and I appreciate that he's not just a modern liberal dropped into the old west like a lot of modern western heroes. Meanwhile, FHMotW seemed like she was being set up as a saintly love interest, but seems to have developed a nasty, scheming streak--she's almost on the cusp of being a villain, with every reason to conspire with Durant to wipe out the indians. If this show was better written, I'd say they were setting her up as a Lady MacBeth figure, especially given how easily she seems to be playing Durant. It's still not out of the question that this might happen.

Either way, I'm about to say something blasphemous: the two of them are way more interesting and nuanced than Timothy Olyphant's and Molly Parker's (or Anna Gunn's) characters on Deadwood. Deadwood is, obviously, the superior show, but it sometimes suffered from rather simplistically heroic major characters. Here, we've got the opposite--an often badly written show with a lot of morally grey and nuanced heroes. It's for this reason that I still have hope this show might improve and become something genuinely good.

post #33 of 63

I've kind of given up on Hell on Wheels, for now. We'll see how people take the rest of the season. 

 

But Bullock and Alma rock! And weirdly, I think all the stuff you wrote about the leads on HoW applies to them quite handily, and more besides. Bullock's in the hero slot, but he's only drawn to law and order because it channels his psychopathic rage, and he's smart enough to know it. He's a better at being Dexter than Dexter ever was. And Alma is practically a villain. The character would almost be misogynistic if Trixie wasn't around to counterpoint her.

 

Sorry, the way other people are about The Wire is how I am about Deadwood.

post #34 of 63

I'm being a little awkward in my phrasing here, and I don't mean to write off Bullock or Alma as characters. Obviously you don't get a great show like Deadwood without some good character writing. But ever since, I think, the AV Club pointed it out, I've been a little stuck on the fact that, with a few major exceptions, Deadwood's characters slot a little too easily into the "hero" or "villain" role. And in fact it was one of the show's cleverest conceits that the fairly straightforward hero (yes he's got rage issues, but they never really take him outside the bounds of "good guy", do they?) ends up taking a backseat to the supposed villain, who steals the protagonist role. But I've only seen the show through once, maybe I need to rewatch it.

 

Anyway, I think what I'm trying to say is that Deadwood is a show that has a knotty, complex, textured execution, built around characters (with, again, some major exceptions) who are pretty straightforward. Whereas HoW has actually laid down some potentially very complex and morally grey characters and placed them in a pretty hamfisted series of scenarios, to the point where I wonder if the complexity is actually an accident. But if it's not, the show could get good really quickly.

post #35 of 63

Just goes to show it takes all kinds.....I was just in the Homeland thread (a show which people apparantly love) and I find this show to be superior.

 

I really like the show.  At first it took me a while to warm to it, but Bohannon and Common's relationship has moved to the center of the show and I find it very interesting. I watch this with my 11 year old son and gives us great opportunities to talk about race, politics, women's rights, religeon, native americans, building a railroad......so far I dont think the show has done a major disservice to any of this things.  The biggest turn off at the start was Bohannon himself (hey look it's Josey Whales with black hair) but since that time even he has grown on me.

 

Yeah, Colm Meany is no Swearing Al, but I definately want to see where the series goes from here.

post #36 of 63

Yeah, I think the past three episodes have been a marked improvement.  Less soliloquyzing by Meaney, a fair bit of additional depth for Bohannon and Elam, significantly less of the comedy Irish brothers with a dark past, and they got rid of the cartoonishly racist Irishman at the end of this last episode.

 

They've got a bit to go, and I'm afraid they'll try to do a Bohannon-Lily-Durant love triangle, which will throw out what little goodwill they've gained so far.

post #37 of 63

It took them this long to have a well rounded episode. I'll stick with it until the end of the season. I liked that they expanded the scope of the show a bit, seeing the old plantation in the beginning and bits of Chicago. It was a striking realization that this show hasn't shown a building since the first episode.

 

Also, epic bitch slap.

post #38 of 63

Did I miss it somewhere in the first couple of episodes where they mentioned that Bohannon had a son that was killed in the same tragedy where his wife was raped and murdered? I'm a father myself and if my wife was raped and murdered I would be furious, but if someone murdered my child it would rise to a whole new level of rage, so it seemed odd they kept that from us until this episode...unless I just missed it. This last show was fantastic. Hope the improvement continues.

post #39 of 63

The son was news in that last episode, but he mostly wasn't the one talking about the victims, it was just 'Meridian Mississippi? *bullettoface*'  The most information we'd gotten about what happened was Levine's infodump, and I don't think any of the Union soldiers involved even knew there was a kid in the barn.

post #40 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bailey View Post

Also, are we SURE Reverend Cole (Coal?) is a nice guy?  Because preachers who look like Tom Noonan tend to be sorta, y'know, fucking evil.


Well...

 

post #41 of 63

Is this Show only having a 10 episode Season?  I just read a thing saying, "This Sunday brings the Season Finale of Hell on Wheels."

 

 

 

I've been entertained by the show so far, though I do have a weak spot for westerns.  It really wasn't until the past 3 episodes that I think the show has begun to find its feet.  Still has a lot of potential though.

 

I think one of my favorite moments was when Bohannon was asking Common not to pick a fight with the Indians.  I loved Bohannon's walking away muttering "Yeah..." That's the kind of interaction I'd love to see more of.

post #42 of 63

No one wants to talk about the giant limp cock that was the Hell on Wheels finale? 

 

This dopey and lovesick angle with Colm Meany is doing his character NO FAVORS. The Swede, once formidable, has been completely castrated. Scene after scene and episode after episode of him being completely outmatched, plus an anecdotal story about his wife leaving him? Common continues to be clothed vapor. 

 

Tom Noonan is -precidtably - the show's redeeming factor. Him giving Cullen the absolute wrong advice was my favorite sequence of the season. 

 

 

post #43 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackyShimSham View Post

No one wants to talk about the giant limp cock that was the Hell on Wheels finale? 

 

This dopey and lovesick angle with Colm Meany is doing his character NO FAVORS. The Swede, once formidable, has been completely castrated. Scene after scene and episode after episode of him being completely outmatched, plus an anecdotal story about his wife leaving him? Common continues to be clothed vapor. 

 

Tom Noonan is -precidtably - the show's redeeming factor. Him giving Cullen the absolute wrong advice was my favorite sequence of the season. 

 

 


I guess I am far to forgiving of this show, I actually enjoyed the finale and felt it was a fitting cap to the season.

 

Bohanon killing the wrong man was a bit heavy handed but the fastest way to illustrate his characters predicament.  He has been confronted with a second chance with Lily, but knows he is not deserving of a second chance after attempting his vengeance. Now that his vengeance has been rendered impotent, he is purely adrift, where he goes from here is interesting to me.

 

Common's character has assumed Bohanons position within the camp. His reluctance to marry his love seemed perfectly reasonable to me. He has just now attained a position in society that he could not of dreamed of a short time before, he wants to see where it leads before tying himself to a woman and family. Her accosting him on his hypocrasy was appropriate and his choices further down the road also are interesting to me.

 

Our fair haired woman is still feeling over a bit cliched, predictable love triangle, scrappy heroine and all that jazz. The way they overstated her looking for Bohannon at the dance was poor direction in my opinion. But she does have a screen presence and is quite lovely, I am willing to give her more time to develop something interesting.

 

Colm Meany is pure cliche, I am hoping that maybe we get something to humanize him. His attraction to Lily is understandable. I think if they fully develop his need to be understood and appreciated he will become a more compelling character.

 

The Swedes fall has played out in slow motion, I think it would have had more impact if it had been more sudden and he had fallen from a greater height. I get what they are doing, developing a hell hound to pursue Bohannon. But I think they may have removed too many of his teeth before making his turn.

 

The preachers daughter and Josephs romance is forced and boring. They should shelve that, it does not feel organic, just shoe horned in. Joseph could become a far more interesting character to me if he truly betrayed his people for either his Christianity, the preachers daughter or both.

 

Anyway, I am looking forward to next season. I dont think this is a great show, but it has potential.
 

 

post #44 of 63

I'm trying not to read this thread too much so as to not be spoiled - but whats the general chewer concensus now that we're a little way into this?

 

Image-thumbs-up-down.jpg

post #45 of 63

It started to live up to its potential at the end, but it's still pretty rocky. Season 2 will either elevate it into genuinely good TV (I don't think it has greatness in it, unfortunately), or destroy it utterly.

 

Rubicon was far, far more deserving of a second season than Hell on Wheels.

post #46 of 63
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fafhrd View Post

It started to live up to its potential at the end, but it's still pretty rocky. Season 2 will either elevate it into genuinely good TV (I don't think it has greatness in it, unfortunately), or destroy it utterly.

 

Rubicon was far, far more deserving of a second season than Hell on Wheels.


Why was Rubicon cancelled exactly? That show was aces.

 

post #47 of 63

I think it was a generic 'ratings don't justify the expense' excuse, but they haven't really elaborated. They haven't even released the series on DVD/Blu-ray, as far as I can tell. It's like they won't even acknowledge its existence.

post #48 of 63

I liked the finale quite a bit. The last 3 episodes of the season were quite a step up in quality compared to the somewhat meandering pace of the season. 

 

But the finale was about as fitting of and end to the season as one could expect. I'm curious to see where they are taking season 2.

 

 

post #49 of 63

I still really believe in the potential of this show. But it does sort of play better as a very subtle black-comedy than a work of drama IMO.  

post #50 of 63

Pretty disappointed in the finale but enjoyed the previous episodes enough to continue watching. They finally showed the scene of Bohannon discovering his dead wife hanging and burying her and his son and the guy's expression doesn't change a single bit throughout. I understand he is supposed to be a hard man, but I guess I thought that edge was supposed to have started at that moment. It seems no one wants Cullen to do anything but scowl every second he is on camera.

 

The preacher's advice to Bohannon was great. Seeing The Swede get heated tar thrown on him in such a way as for it to get in his mouth while he was screaming was great. Not a lot of other great moments in the show. The Irish dude's 180 degree turnaround doesn't feel real to me...and maybe it will be revealed in season 2 to all be an act. But then again, he didn't seem that clever before Common shot him either, so it is probably just bad writing.

 

Overall, the season was mostly meh, but with enough good moments for me to give it another shot.

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