Despite an open mind, Hells on Wheels was utterly disappointing. It may have had the usual aesthetics of an AMC show (production value), but it was seriously lacking in the most important: story and acting. The look was authentic enough but I’m not really into costuming, all I can say is for me they made no glaring mistakes. And while I did feel as if I was immersed into a sense of period, it wasn’t compelling. Throughout the entire pilot I had the distinct feeling that I had seen this all before which may as well be ironic since I have never seen a Western. I may have fallen asleep to a few, caught a few minutes of some Clint Eastwood movie before a Mad Men episode, perhaps. But I also wasn’t allowed to watch Deadwood because they said naughty words and my father prefers robots to cowboys. Nonetheless, as an avid viewer of television, I can confidently say that this did not seem at all like a proper beginning. It seemed like the gun went off, but they were slow to start, if they ever started; however, it is difficult to say much about a show based on its pilot. This pilot could have zero influence on the rest of the season which would be weird but plausible.
The scalping and the overall violence (specifically the scenes with the Native Americans) were disturbing and did not seem as if they were warranted to the narrative. I think if you look at this inclusion of gory violence, it seems to me as if the show is trying to define itself which means while Mad Men has its cocktails and sexcapades, Breaking Bad has its meth heads and The Walking Dead has its undead, then perhaps Hells on Wheels could be the gunslinging, ass kicking cowboy show. What I mean to say is that in the context of the narrative, the scalping and further violence added nothing and amounts to nothing more than a gimmick. A gimmick AMC shows usually rise above.
Hells on Wheels should reconsider its narrative, tighten (and create more compelling) storylines, before it becomes another Rubicon. Because Breaking Bad is ending soon and Mad Men isn’t getting any younger. AMC doesn’t want to be known again as that channel that could of been.