While I don’t feel that Hell on Wheels is the absolute worst depiction of the buiding of the Union Pacific Railroad, I do feel that there are some major flaws in the execution of this show.
Much like plenty of AMC’s other shows, Hell on Wheels emphasizes the importance of staying as accurate as possible in a period piece. After watching their short clip on the wardrobe of the show, it became very clear to me how much time and research is put into the show simply for the clothes on the actors’ backs. Furthermore, AMC clearly does not have a modest about their perfect execution of period pieces; the fact that they have put a video on their site that explicitly goes into the details of how the wardrobe is based on photographs of the people the characters portray says a great deal about the credit they would like for their hard work.
Aside from the realistic depiction of the people involved in the building of the railroad, Hell on Wheels also does a great job at presenting an accurate picture of the trials and tribulations Americans had with the Natives of the land. All of our history books certainly express that Americans were wrong in taking the land of the Native Americans, but rarely do we understand how brutal the indigenous people were when they were defending their land. Yes, it was their land and they had every right to defend it, but there is a definite difference between shooting someone in the head with a revolver and scalping the skin off of someone’s head. I believe that Hell on Wheels did a great job at making the battle between the Native Americans and the settlers as realistic as possible.
My only problem with Hell on Wheels, though it is a large one, is that I don’t feel the plot is engaging enough. I feel that it is very typical of a Western, and I do not think the characters have enough breadth. Each are very stereotypical for a Western film or television series, but I do hope that in the coming weeks we see that there is an intriguing story behind each main character; I fear that it will be the stereotypical back-story that the audience can assume on their own, but I think this show would have a better chance at becoming a hit if the main characters and their stories wee unconventional.