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Hell On Wheels- Ep 2

November 20, 2011

While Hell On Wheels continues to move at a relatively slow pace, the second episode was significantly more interesting than the first. “Immortal Mathematics” spent more time emphasizing the protagonist- antagonist relationship between Bohannon and the newly introduce character The Swede or Mr. Swede or whatever they call him. Which I found to be quite cliche; to introduce a typical foreign villain who had been a prisoner of war, done despicable things in his past that changed him and the rest of his life, and an inexplicably creepy face. And of course, The Swede does all the dirty work for his boss Durant. With this main plot slowly developing, the episode briefly touches upon the rest of the subplots in the show.

These subplots also unfold themselves in a predictable manner- the rogue Native American who has found God has been excluded from his people but also doesn’t fit in with the other white folk. But of course, he will be the one to save poor stereotypical damsel in distress Lilly Bell from being executed by his own people. Perhaps we can see a forbidden love of friendship beginning to form here, one that I can only see going terribly wrong but somehow finding itself to a happy ending in the conclusion. Might I also add that the portrayal of the Native Americans is so unfortunately stereotypical I could almost say it borderlines offensive. Its an unfortunately stereotypical and predictable narrative, but maybe this could be explained by the inflexible genre. Even though this episode developed the plots and subplots better than the pilot, the directions the show is taking is simply not doing it for me.

Hell On Wheels Ep 1

November 7, 2011

I’m not a big fan of western genres so watching the pilot for Hell On Wheels was a bit of a stretch for me. I am however a huge fan of The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad and am extremely interested in watching Mad Men. I think perhaps my expectations for Hell On Wheels was just too high since I had all three of those previously very successful shows in mind. Though I found myself easily getting distracted by other things and gradually losing attention in the show. Small instances such as the action sequences between the Native American and Lily Bell momentarily grasped my attention and then I found myself lost all over again. The structure of the show follows a certain narrative cuing for future conflicts that seem very scripted and fairly predictable, i.e Lily potentially seeking revenge on the Native American’s, Cullen seeking revenge for his wife’s death etc. Additionally the color scheme that follows a dark and dreaded setting feels forceful and unnatural. I understand the cinematographer was perhaps trying to set a desert olden times like feeling, but it sort of just made me want to close my eyes and sleep.

Most reviews I read understandably compare Hell On Wheels to Deadwood (another western show I have not seen) and follow the general archetype of the western genre, only making me wonder how they might twist the narrative into a more original story line. Although, I did read that most Western genres do not generally follow the story of slaves and that seems to be one of the few unique aspects of the show, thus I’m eager to see how they emphasize that role. All-in-all I try not to judge shows by their first episode, especially since it took me 5-6 episodes in to The Walking Dead and Breaking Bad before I was fully hooked. Additionally, I’ve re-watched the first 2 episodes of Mad Men multiple times and have not yet found the drive to continue further. It is to my understanding that AMC shows tend to take a few episodes before fully enthralling its audience in all it’s glory. Therefore I’ll give Hell On Wheels the benefit of the doubt, at least for the next four episodes.