Thursday, July 12, 2012

Hell on Wheels Season 1

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

Hell on Wheels Season 1 - 4 out of 5

Deep down, I want to be a cowboy.  And not in the Alan Jackson, openly racist, big belt buckle wearing, wife punching, honky tonking, Confederate flag waving, hard drinking, low I.Q.'ing, and whatever other stereotype you can think of for the NASCAR lovers who now think they are what real cowboys are.  Instead, I want to be more like the gun-slinging shadowy men of the open plains seeking revenge and/or redemption like John Marston in Red Dead Redemption or Cullen Bohannan in Hell on Wheels.

Hey, a train!  This must be Tom Waits favorite show.


Hell on Wheels is about post-Civil War America.  Slavery is done and it's time to rebuild the nation and the building blocks come in the form of the railroads--the one thing I always buy up in MONOPOLY.  Seeking revenge for the murder of his wife, Bohannan infiltrates a railroad tycoon's worksite--lovingly referred to as Hell on Wheels--in order to take the lives of the men who hung his beloved.

Nothing like waking up to a cock in your face.

In the camp, he comes across the stories of various souls all carrying their own cross.  There's the man simply called The Swede who is on to Bohannan's plan, two Irishmen trying to make a living in the camp, a former slave who falls for one of the camp's whores (and I mean that in the nicest/historically accurate sense), a preacher with skeletons from his past looming on the horizon and much, much more.  Open plains, drama, savage Indians (once again meant in the historical sense, not in a racial slur sense) and...trains...fill up this series about the Old West.

The quite moment of contemplation before a man is about to hurl chunks.

For an opening season, Season 1 of Hell on Wheels is not a bad beginning.  While it doesn't move at a feverish pace like those magnetic trains in Japan, rather it moves at a more modest slow, steady, "I think I can" style.  The show itself actually resembles the railroad as it slowly lays its tracks down and begins to build up steam as the fires of character development burn and blow out smoke of drama out of its...um...smoke top thingy that's on top of the train--I don't know what that thing is called and I don't feel like Google'ing it.

I also like to stand in epic poses with storms rolling in the background.

Other than looking pretty damn authentic (I've been to the Old West, I own a DeLorean) the real strength of the show comes from the characters.  Cullen Bohannan (Anson Mount) is the heart of the show and although his story is compelling and his character is a great example of the gruff-talking, gun-twirling cowboy I want to be, he's actually not the most entertaining character I found on the show.  Colm Meaney, who plays the railroad tycoon Thomas "Doc" Durant, is fantastic to watch as he milks the Government to make himself richer in his endeavors but even he's not the best.  Rapper Common plays the now free slave Elam Ferguson who falls for a white woman (without a big ass, mind you) and refuses to be put in chains again and he's so impressive, that I forget that he's a rapper--because most musicians can't act.  I read it in Wikipedia.  But even a great performance from a rapper who's music I've never heard of isn't the most addicting character on the show.  No, that honor must go to Christopher Heyerdahl as The Swede.

Common...I've never heard a single note of your music but let me tell you this:
Clearly acting is your calling, follow it!


The Swede is amusing, interesting and kinda frightening all at the same time.  Heyerdahl's performance is so calm, cool and calculating that it was easy to lose yourself in the character and become sucked into the story.  Probably too much as I just bought a six-shooter, holster and a full cowboy get up and I tried to cattle-rustle my neighbor...even though I don't exactly know how to cattle rustle and my neighbor doesn't own cattle...or a farm.

Don't mess with The Swede.  Seriously, the man scares the shit out of me.

For an opening season, Hell on Wheels came out of the gate at a slow, steady pace with a solid foundation and a track that seems to be going somewhere--hey, these train analogies are fun!  With a terrific cast, great characters and amazing final episode, I can't wait to see what's around the bend and see Season 2.

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