“Hell On Wheels” — episode 3

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You’re losing me, “Hell On Wheels.” I could forgive last week’s slow burn–it was the 2nd episode after all–but man was this episode boring. Well I should clarify: Everything that didn’t involve Colm Meaney was boring. Meaney’s Durant continues to be the sole reason I’d keep watching this show, and I can only hope he’ll get progressively drunker and angrier as the story progresses. I guess my main problem with this episode revolved around the poorly written episodic arcs for primarily Elam and Cullen. It’s cool that Cullen got to shoot some people and that scene where he (drunkenly) operates on Lilly was both cringe-worthy and very well shot (I loved those quick cuts from the wound to Lilly to Cullen taking another swig from his flask), but the temporary derailment of his mission to find the Sgt. in order to introduce him to Lilly, as well as his interactions with Joseph, neither strengthened his character nor his mission. As for Elam: Common sure is getting burned so far. He’s been given a whole lot of jack to do other than try to rally the troops and bust down barriers, which would be fine if it didn’t feel like “a very special episode” circa 1865–did anyone else find that scene in the whore house especially groan worthy?

 

As for the actual aesthetics of the show, I think “Hell On Wheels” is doing a really fine job. I especially like the use of music, which switches nicely between 1860s and contemporary tunes quite smoothly; those heavy guitars in the cold open added a good amount of weight while managing to feel anachronistic. I also loved the way they lit Durant’s office–a dim glow that accents all the deep reds and browns of the room–in that scene where he spills his drink on himself. But unfortunately, aesthetics aren’t everything; and for the first time I feel like I’m ready to drop Hell On Wheels.

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