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Hell on Wheels Episode 3

November 22, 2011

I can’t quite figure out why, but I definitely don’t agree with most of my classmates that Hell on Wheels is complete garbage. Perhaps it’s the business-focused side of my brain at work, but I find that this show is exactly what middle-America needs. AMC is not trying to impress the 18-24 age range of highly intellectual students that go to New York University. Instead, they are probably targeting 35+ adults, mostly males, and ones that don’t want to watch a show with a complicated plot when they come home after a long day of work. Still, I feel that Hell on Wheels will continue to improve as the season progresses, and while I don’t personally find it enjoyable, I think Hell on Wheels has beautiful cinematography and does a wonderful job at recreating the past.

What I do find very interesting in terms of the visual aspects of Hell on Wheels are the costumes and wardrobe – I find that not only is the show great at researching the clothing that people wore during the time period that the railroad was built, but I also appreciate the symbolism that goes along with the wardrobe of the characters. For example, our main character Cullen is always donning his pistol. This pistol, we find out in the first episode, is a standard issued revolver of the Southern army and is a much larger firearm than any of the weapons used by other workers on the railroad. This revolver represents Cullen’s past, and perhaps the only thing that will allow him to move on from it will be avenging the death of his wife. On the other hand, Elam, the slave, always dresses in a suit and dress hat despite the fact that he’s working in the dirt. His character dresses this way because he is trying to move on from the pre-Civil War era, and would like to be respected the way a white man is.

These representations are going to play larger roles, in my opinion, as the show continues. I feel that the show has a great setup for only having three episodes thus far – all of the characters have motivations, and have very complex relationships. This is a good formula for a show, we must simply wait to see what it has in store for us.


Hell on Wheels: Episode 2

November 15, 2011

The second episode of Hell on Wheels was leagues better than the pilot; with a clearly defined plot, more definite character motivations, and the addition of characters with intriguing stories, this show is definitely laying the tracks down to make huge improvements over time. The only problem that I foresee is that the show may end up repeating itself, with Cullen getting himself into a problem at the beginning of the episode and then working his way out by the end.  On the other hand, I find that Lily’s story is much more compelling, and I feel that this season will focus a lot on her development as a character who has lost everything she knows.

My overall sentiment about this show is that it needs more time. We would all agree that one of the main reasons why people prefer TV over movies is because the audience can really grow with the characters and begin to love them more over time. I think what Hell on Wheels is trying to do here is develop the characters first, so the audience is intrigued by them alone, and that is when they will start bringing in serious plot twists and more enthralling stories. I agree with most of my classmates that this show does invest a lot of money in the visual aspects, but I don’t think that AMC would support that sort of money spending unless there was a truly great plot behind this period piece. I simply believe that the show needs a few more episodes to take off its training wheels, and then the greatness will be unleashed. Or… I could just be an optimist.

Hell on Wheels: Pilot Episode

November 8, 2011

While I don’t feel that Hell on Wheels is the absolute worst depiction of the buiding of the Union Pacific Railroad, I do feel that there are some major flaws in the execution of this show.

Much like plenty of AMC’s other shows, Hell on Wheels emphasizes the importance of staying as accurate as possible in a period piece. After watching their short clip on the wardrobe of the show, it became very clear to me how much time and research is put into the show simply for the clothes on the actors’ backs. Furthermore, AMC clearly does not have a modest about their perfect execution of period pieces; the fact that they have put a video on their site that explicitly goes into the details of how the wardrobe is based on photographs of the people the characters portray says a great deal about the credit they would like for their hard work.

Aside from the realistic depiction of the people involved in the building of the railroad, Hell on Wheels also does a great job at presenting an accurate picture of the trials and tribulations Americans had with the Natives of the land. All of our history books certainly express that Americans were wrong in taking the land of the Native Americans, but rarely do we understand how brutal the indigenous people were when they were defending their land. Yes, it was their land and they had every right to defend it, but there is a definite difference between shooting someone in the head with a revolver and scalping the skin off of someone’s head. I believe that Hell on Wheels did a great job at making the battle between the Native Americans and the settlers as realistic as possible.

My only problem with Hell on Wheels, though it is a large one, is that I don’t feel the plot is engaging enough. I feel that it is very typical of a Western, and I do not think the characters have enough breadth. Each are very stereotypical for a Western film or television series, but I do hope that in the coming weeks we see that there is an intriguing story behind each main character; I fear that it will be the stereotypical back-story that the audience can assume on their own, but I think this show would have a better chance at becoming a hit if the main characters and their stories wee unconventional.