'Hell on Wheels' TV Series Review
Note: This isn't a spoiler heavy review, but I do talk about some things that may reveal a little too much if you've never watched the show. So just keep that in mind when reading this review.
I'll be the first to admit that I was a bit late to the Hell on Wheels party. I didn't start watching it live until season four (of course I watched the first three seasons on Netflix), and I'm pretty disappointed that I didn't start watching it when it first premiered. It is a great show, and it was definitely one of the better shows on television during its five season run. So without further ado, here's my thoughts on the show as a whole.
Hell on Wheels starts out with Cullen Bohannon's quest for revenge on those that murdered his wife, but it eventually evolves into something completely different once he gets hired by the Union Pacific Railroad. Basically, it goes from a revenge story to a full blown railroad business story. And to be honest, I was actually pretty worried that the transition from a revenge story to a story about the railroad might make the show a little boring, but I was very wrong. Cullen is so determined to finish the railroad that he's willing to go to hell and back to ensure its success. He deals with indians, violent Mormons, disease, worker strikes, and business rivalries in his quest to finish the railroad. It's quite the ride, and it gets better with every season. The biggest problem with the overall plot of the series is that they had to rush the story along towards the end of season five so that the show had a conclusion before it was cancelled. But I guess it could also be looked at as a good thing, considering most TV shows that are cancelled before the creators planned on ending it have no conclusion at all. And, to be fair, the ending we were provided with is very satisfying considering they had to wrap up the entire show in seven episodes.
If you're a fan of the Western genre, then you were probably pretty sad to see the show get cancelled. It was one of the only western shows on air, and it was the best by far. Luckily for us, the first five and a half seasons are up on Netflix for us to re-watch. The second half of season five will probably be added in the next few months.
The casting in this show was spot on. Anson Mount is pretty damn perfect as Cullen Bohannon, and the rest of the crew is solid as well. The character that I was the most disappointed with, though, was Elam. He had so much potential and was such a great character, so I was in near disbelieve when they took the direction they did with his character. I'm not sure if it was because Common had some other projects inbound and decided he couldn't stay on the show anymore, or something else entirely, but I really wish he had stayed on for the duration of the show. There was just so much more they could have done with him. Anyway, the show's characters evolve a fair bit throughout the seasons and become more and more interesting as time goes by. There's no doubt in my mind that you'll be pretty damn invested in the main cast by the end.
There is no set location for Hell on Wheels. Originally, the main location for the story was a town called Hell on Wheels, but as the railroad moved on, they moved to a different town. The story also takes us to a Mormon fort, indian camps, and the Mormon city of Salt Lake City. It is pretty cool to see all of these different locations in a Western setting. The frequent change in scenery helps move the story along, and it also helps keep the show interesting.
This show is for fans of the Western genre, and I suppose anyone who's really into trains may find this show interesting as well. If you're not a fan of Westerns, or if you have no interest in trains, this is not the show for you.
Hell on Wheels is a great show that, in my opinion, didn't get the attention it deserved in its five season run. The story is intriguing, the characters are engaging, and the ending is satisfying (considering the circumstances). I definitely recommend that you check it out on Netflix, you won't be disappointed.
As far as my rating, I gave it four stars purely because I feel like the creators had to rush the ending due to the cancellation. If they had done one more full season to wrap everything up instead of cramming it into half of a season, I'd probably give it four and a half stars.