Hell on Wheels started as one man’s single-minded journey to avenge the death of his family. As the series enters its final season, though, it has been transformed into a deeply meditative look at a changing world, an intricate retelling of a brutal time in American history and powerful examination of the characters that helped create it.
AMC recently announced that next year’s season five of Hell on Wheels will be its last. And after this uneven fourth season, maybe it’s time. Everything that needs to be said has, and Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) our fascinating lead who has grown from a revenge-hungry former soldier into a dangerously driven man with a new wife and child.
There’s a very strong argument to be made that along with Hannibal, AMC’s Hell on Wheels is one of the most underrated dramas on television right now. Over the course of three seasons, the show has moved from a historical drama to a deeply moving and fascinating character study that just happens to be set during the building of one of America’s greatest accomplishments, the building of the Union Pacific Railroad. Its muddy and vicious camp is inhabited by rich and thrilling characters, the storylines continue to capture the viewer’s attention, and our lead, a man often struggling with a dark world and the darkness within himself, is an endlessly fascinating and evolving character.
Season three of Hell on Wheels has been moving along steadily. It has been deliciously tense, powerfully acted, and full of exceptionally well put together stories. The season has been slow, yes, but with only four episodes left it’s also been very rewarding. With “One Less Mule”, it’s clear that the season is headed towards a breathless finish.
“The Game”, Hell on Wheels’ fourth episode, slows the show’s pace to a near crawl until its last few moments, when Eva and Elam face a tragedy. The episode may start off with humor as Cullen and Elam attempt to find timber by visiting the Arapaho tribe, but this being Hell on Wheels, things quickly devolve.
It’s no secret- last season’s Hell on Wheels had a lot of issues, mainly the forced relationship between Cullen and Lily Bell (after all, this is not a show conducive to a dewy romance). Fortunately that arc wrapped up in the season two finale and judging by the premiere season three promises to be one heck of a year.