Serials seem to be all the rage on television nowadays. All of the big four have at least one serial. And even the big cable networks have their own serials. Even cable movie channel, AMC saw some time ago that it couldn’t survive on modern movies alone. So it picked up Breaking Bad. Now, it’s got another hit on its hands with the new hit drama, “Hell on Wheels.”
“Hell on Wheels” is a good fit for AMC. That’s because its serial status aside, it comes across more as a movie than an actual television show. That’s not an entirely bad thing, either. It’s one more piece that shows–even as violent and sexually explicit as it got at times–that Westerns are still popular, even in the twenty-first century. Season one sees Confederate Civil War veteran Cullen Bohannan joining Thomas Durant’s Union Pacific railroad as it makes its way westward across the United States. Bohannan has joined the railroad in an attempt to hunt down the men who killed his wife and his son. Things aren’t easy at all for Bohannan while he’s in the railroad town of Hell on Wheels. The whole time he’s there, he’s constantly at odds with Durant’s head of security, Thor “The Swede” Gundersen. That’s not all, either. Not only does Bohannan have to deal with Gundersen, he also has to find Lily Bell, whose husband was working with Durant to plan the Union Pacific’s route. He also has to help take down the renegade Native Americans who killed Lily’s husband and derailed a train. There’s even what seems to be a bit of a budding romance between Bohannan and Lily. One can’t help but wonder though if anything will happen, considering how Season One ended.
Season One’s finale in mind, the writing behind “Hell on Wheels” makes for stories that both male and female audiences will love. There’s more than enough action amd beautiful cinematography throughout Season One to keep the attention of its male audiences. The drama of Durant and Gundersen backstabbing each other for their own devious purposes and the possibility of romance between Bohannan and Lily will pull in female audiences. There’s also the growing romance between Elam Ferguson and Eva that said audience will also grip said audiences. Of course, it should be noted that considering the mix of explicit violence and sexuality, “Hell on Wheels” is not proper for younger audiences.
The violence and sexuality aside, there’s something about “Hell on Wheels” that makes it stand out from other tv shows. It’s been noted by one source that “Hell on Wheels” comes across more as a movie on television than a standard tv serial. That’s actually a good description. The combination of cinematography, stories and acting all combine for a serial that has its own identity. Rather than doing the standard sparknotes style “previously on” opening, each time, each new episode picks up right where the previous episode left off. That straight forward opening forces audiences to watch the previous episodes. And audiences who do watch each episode are handsomely rewarded with a show that is one of the best serials on tv today. Now with Season One on dvd and blu-ray, audiences can only hope that after such an outstanding first impression, the show will continue to hold up its reputation when it reutns later this year for its second season.
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