Posts Tagged ‘episode two’

Episode Two: Finally, “Story Matters Here”

November 14, 2011

While Hell on Wheels still feels like a far cry from brilliance, I give its writers and the powers that be at AMC their due — episode two was leagues more cohesive and coherent than the pilot. Its forty four minutes or so were understandably exposition heavy, but for all intents and purposes, the episode was dominated by a new antagonist: The Swede. Durant was reestablished as a driven cut-throat businessman, manipulating the press and even getting his own hands dirty through his disrespect of the dead. Yet, as epitomized by his decision to ultimately hire Cullen as his new foreman, everything he does can be justified by his understanding of right and wrong. You may not like him or agree with his methods, but he deserves some degree of respect for being willing to adapt with higher interests in mind. By contrast, The Swede is just a yes-man: a mercenary who seems all too pleased to work out the problems from his own past on stand-ins at present. As someone who actually interacts with the commoners and residents of Hell on Wheels, it would appear as though Cullen has finally met his match. Both men are murderers, but Cullen is glamorized, even amusingly returning for his hat as he escapes from his makeshift prison cell. Ultimately, both men now report directly to Durant, so it will be interesting to see how egos (and pistols) collide in the coming episodes.

The episode also introduced new elements of subplot, as the B and C stories were expanded through flashback, and through the eyes of Lily. I’m not sure that I like the message being sent to viewers that wild Native Americans are savages while their domesticated and reformed counterparts (or brothers) are good. Apparently, a past history of scalping doesn’t make you a bad person. Yet, the cat and mouse game introduced could have some compelling elements, especially as the brothers are pitted against one another. While it’s unlikely that they’ll ever reach the epic level seen between LOST‘s Jacob and Esau, the potential still exists for a rich conflict. Maybe a self-sacrifice for the sake of Lily, or a gradual change of heart for one of the brothers? Time will tell. Speaking of time (and LOST), we now bear witness to flashbacks. I wonder, will we gradually get pieces of the puzzle, ultimately leading up to Cullen’s memory of Meridian? This story still has its flaws, but it finally feels like a semblance of a story.
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Hell On Wheels episode 2

November 14, 2011

Obviously the success of Hell On Wheels hinges on Cullen Bohannan (think I was calling him Collin last week–my bad), and consequently Teen Choice Award Nominee for Choice On Screen Chemistry with Britney Spears (as the AV Club likes to point out), Anson Mount. Right now though, Cullen is a walking talk box of gun slingin’ one-liners that range from gruff and snarky to gruff and serious. I’m not sure right now if the fault here should be placed on the writers–because I can excuse somewhat cliche dialog if a show does it with a wink, which Hell On Wheels seems to dabbling in–or Mount. Though right now I’m leaning towards Mount, who gave a pretty lackluster performance, especially in the scene with the pastor; though he was a tad better in that final scene with Durant.

Anywho, after the bloodbath that was the pilot, episode 2 was understandably a bit more plot/backstory driven. My big bone to pick is with Cullen’s filter-heavy, POV flashback, which felt much too heavy handed; I get that it was to introduce the needle point he finds in Johnson’s things at the end, but I hope in the future (if Mount can up his game) they reveal what exactly happen in Meridian through dialog. But this is a show about dealing with your past as the pilot hinted, which Sean And Mickey’s Mysterious Boston Incident, the actual introduction Joseph Back Moon, and, in my opinion, the now increasingly obvious fact that the pastor is the mysterious sergeant only served to heighten. Such a theme is compelling of course, but what’s interesting is how the past effects present action, not how the past effects present emotional states–and the latter drove this episode.

But, y’know, that’s how it goes. The beauty of television stories is that slow burn storytelling style, where at the end of the season you realize just how necessary those seemingly inconsequential episodes were. Granted, you can certainly craft more rewarding set-ups than this–but again, we’re only two episodes in and you can tell the creative team is still getting into the swing of things. (Not to mention the time between the writing/shooting of a pilot and the writing/shooting of the second episode is huge, which can cause the cast and crew to lose their footing a tad.) Here’s hoping things–like Mount’s acting chops–start to pick up next week.