The narrative of Hell On Wheels continues to be overtly simplistic and rather boring, even into its third episode. The show continually tries to tap into its era’s ingrained bigotry and racism, yet it all constantly falls flat. Aren’t we, as a society, past the level of story telling of Native Americans = bad, white people = good? They are so many ways Hell On Wheels can portray its era’s racism without being racist itself. Where are the perspectives of the Native Americans? They are simply trying to protect their home from genocide. Wouldn’t that be an interesting take on Hell On Wheel’s railroad? Why is the only “good” Native American an unabashed simpleton? And moving on from the show’s poor treatment of Native Americans, the protagonist of the show seems to be magic. When he looks through the dead man’s belongings he happens to find a picture of everyone who killed his wife and their names? Who would write their friends’ names on a picture? That makes no sense. And why would the dead man be carrying around so many mementos of that time he raped and brutally murdered a woman? You can’t even make the claim that it was so evil he couldn’t let himself part with any of these things because he himself says in the pilot that he did so many many bad things and is kinda over them all already. Opps. And how come the main protagonist can just get on a horse and ride and fall right into a plot point? If the blonde girl was that easy to find, how come no one else found her before the protagonist did? Why did he shoot those three guys who came to find her after he did if he had no intentions of picking up the bounty? Why did she trust the protagonist and not the three guys? Ughhhh my head hurts now.
Visually, the show is very striking. A lot of money has obviously been thrown its way to make sure of this fact. The show’s reliance on visceral imagery, like blood, gore, death, disease, and dirt all help to paint a picture of a bleak, depressing place. Obviously, some of these visual characteristics come part and parcel with the nature of what the show’s trying to depict. The mud and dirt of the town Hell on Wheels makes sense, as it’s a hell hole pop-up town with no actual amenities what so ever. The blood is not a necessity of a rail road town, however, and thus it is the blood that is the most visually striking component of this visually striking show. For whatever reason the show’s colors are dulled. I think this is supposed to make it feel “old timey”? But even so, the red of blood stills manages to stand out. Blood is the most color that gets added to this show. When you see it you immediately know something’s wrong.