Alec Cuccia – Hell on Wheels 1.2

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The narrative of the second episode of Hell on Wheels was much better than the first. It was more cohesive, though that partially could be just because all the characters were in closer proximity to each other than in the first episode where they had to physically come together in the town Hell on Wheels. Even still, I don’t particularly care about any of these characters. Their motivations are opaque at most and bland at the least. The protagonist is on a simple revenge mission. I’ve seen this before! He doesn’t pull me in in the way a main character should. O’Brien from Star Trek is greedy. Again, that’s almost all he is. Common is angry, and for good reason, but so what? What else is there? The only character that I felt was really well flesh out was the Swede. He was scary and funny and obviously very smart. All of the tension in this episode came from him when it should have come from his interactions with the main character.

I also want to comment on a few plot holes. How did the good Native American know where the white girl was? How did he know where the bad Native Americans were? How did he know about the killings at all? He was at the killing site at the end of the pilot, and yet by that time the only person who could have known about the killings was O’Brien from Star Trek, as O’Brien from Star Trek hadn’t reached Hell on Wheels yet to tell anyone else. Also, how did the protagonist know about O’Brien from Star Trek’s need to lay a certain amount of track before the federal government pays him? The protagonist says “Everybody knows…” but that doesn’t sound like common knowledge to me. Hell, if the federal government knew the practices that O’Brien from Star Trek was doing to get the amount of track he needs (at a cost to the government), wouldn’t the government step in and put a stop to everything? I don’t know. It’s silly. And what, exactly, is the importance of the white girl lost in the wilderness? She has maps or something, OK, but so what?  Oh and how silly is it that at the end of the episode the protagonist finds his wife’s stitching in the pocket of the man he killed last episode? OK yeah, that’s believeable…

When it comes down to it, Hell on Wheels is an show that desperately wants to be interesting and taken seriously but isn’t quite there yet. The characters are bland and uninteresting (I can’t even remember their names!), the plot is vague and full of small holes, and the dialogue is painfully bad. And yet, it is interesting enough to make me want to watch it again. Maybe to just see if they can salvage what they have.

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