As I’m faithfully following Season 2 of Walking Dead on Sunday nights (YAY ZOMBIES!), AMC airs a new show immediately following WD. Always a smart move on the network’s part, trying to leech off of popular show like that. Well guess what? It works! And I was leeched! I stuck around to watch what the somewhat promising previews advertised of Hell on Wheels.
Okay. Positives: Good cast. Believable actors. Great cinematography and production value. Great costume designs. And could/might/maybe win an Emmy for blah blah blah. Negatives: I hate the Civil War era! If you’ve followed NMB, you might recognize a similar rant from a short post entitled “I’m gonna Leo DiCap his ass! (Gangs of New York)“. AMC, I get it. Mad Men is a great show capturing a past life style and decade. The 1960’s held a lot of racial, sexist, and other social no-no’s. And there is an obvious genius behind that show. And yes, I get that other networks are sucking your new milky teet of enormous success in that area (The Playboy Club and Pan Am for example). But you’re drinking your own nutritious dairy product with Hell on Wheels.
Hell on Wheels, as evident only from the pilot episode, follows many characters in post Civil War times…more specifically 1865. The “Wheels” part comes from the story’s backdrop. They’re building the nation’s first transcontinental railroad reaching West for America’s Manifest Destiny dream. Sounds pretty good so far right? Because objectively, those were epic and historic times! Well here comes the typical entertainment requirements: there’s a greedy business man, there’s a respectable hero figure seeking revenge, and there’s a woman wandering around who will predictably find some new man to care for her. At this point I was still shaking hands with the show, getting to know it. I was giving it the benefit of the doubt but keeping a firm grip showing I wasn’t going to be suckered into something stupid. Here’s where I let go…
Like Mad Men, they brought the social stigmas that are attached to the time period. Mad Men? Refreshing. Relatable. Hell on Wheels? They played the obvious “slave” card hard in the pilot. And I can see the woman issues arising very soon. Those times and issues are overplayed, over debated, over analyzed, and over all together. Unfortunately, these were only most of my issues with the show. I had a hard time following the story. It’s not complicated by any means, but they didn’t give enough of a shiny object to keep our attention per character between cuts to the other characters they had to introduce. Overall, the pilot is hard to get into but easy to watch. I suspect the next 5 or so will justify what I’ve seen thus far, but for now…I say don’t bother. Wait till you have an empty Saturday and there are a solid handful to watch back-to-back. Otherwise, watch the trailer. Literally every part worth seeing is in that 1 minute and 30 seconds.