The American frontier owes a lot to small towns like Hell on Wheels. Without these makeshift settlements, the railroad would never have become the transportation and commerce beacon that would eventually connect the East and West Coasts of the United States. It is thanks to the men and women who risked their lives and livelihoods to make these venture and worthwhile one that we thrived as a nation.
This is just one of the many facets about the series Hell on Wheels that intrigues and entices. The show’s use of historical fact within the context of fiction helps make the situations and the world the characters inhabit all the more fascinating. The reality that people really did live in similar situations in order to achieve and larger goal for the good of the nation (and oftentimes for the good of their own pocketbook), is a testament to the true nature of human determination and strength despite the odds.
It’s been quite a season of Hell on Wheels. A series that could have succumbed to the clichés of the typical Western was able to thrive and surpass all expectations with the result being a solid and unique twist on the genre. While it’s nearly impossible to escape the conventions that are inherent in the Western, Hell on Wheels doesn’t allow itself to get trapped by them. Instead it uses them as a springboard to tell much more in-depth character-based stories instead of typical Western-themed plots.
Anson Mount has proven himself time and again throughout the season as a strong leading man who brings a world of complexity to the role of Cullen Bohannan through his mere presence on screen. Many of his most powerful scenes have been performed without one word of dialogue being spoken.
Common as well has shown his range and talent as an actor in the role of Elam. Of all the characters in the series thus far, Elam has developed the most and definitely become one of the stronger presences on the series as a result. While his race given the time period may be somewhat of a setback, Elam has proven that a free man of any color can achieve what he wants given enough determination and will.
Colm Meaney’s role as real-life businessman and investor Thomas Durant is nothing short of brilliant. His masterful ability to play both sides in order to get what he wants makes him more like a politician with each passing episode, and his seeming obsession with Lily Bell (Dominique McElliot) gives his character a level of depth that allows for empathy.
Tom Noonan, Eddie Spears, Robin McLeavy, Christopher Heyerdahl, and the rest of the cast have proven time and again that the inhabitants of Hell on Wheels aren’t Western stereotypes. They are dimensional and complex characters that enable the series to dive deeper into the mentality and social hierarchy of the time.
As the events of the finale begin to unfold, it’s clear that events that have previously transpired that have yet to have any repercussions for certain characters are about to come to a head. I was very impressed and surprised by several of the sequences throughout the finale, at one point I felt I realized that I was literally on the edge of my seat.
What was most interesting about the finale was its ending, which left a whole lot of questions and definitely makes my curious as to how they will bring certain elements into play next season given certain characters’ actions over the course of the episode. It’s an interesting journey that I’m looking forward to continuing next season.
Hell on Wheels thrives thanks to its strong characters and superb cast. The show’s ability to overcome genre clichés and create a post-Civil War/Western world all its own is a testament to the hard work and creativity of the series writers, actors, and production team. Once again AMC delivers a solid and entertaining series.
The season finale of Hell on Wheels airs Sunday, January 15 at 10/9c ONLY on AMC!
What are your favorite moments from the finale? How do you think next season will start based on the final moments of this episode? Leave a comment and let us know!