Cullen Bohannan, played by Anson Mount, was a Mississippi slave owner before the American Civil War and served as an officer for the Confederacy during the campaign. Once the war was over, federal soldiers murdered his family and burned his farm. He had lost everything and is out for revenge. He is also the only white man on the transcontinental railroad that treats the Freedmen Crew, composed entirely of ex-slaves, with any form of respect. Such character depth and irony, paired with the show’s breathtaking photography, is why AMC’s Hell on Wheels is the dramatic series everyone should be watching. Still, the show has yet to be included in conversations around most water coolers.
The show was recently picked up for an expanded fourth season and occupies one of the least popular time slots in television; Saturday Night, so tuning in will not interfere when fans are watching Game of Thrones on Sunday. Season four of Hell on Wheels is slated to roll out sometime this summer and the show’s diehard fans can hardly wait. Aside from that, the show has been gaining in popularity on Netflix, where several dramatic series off the weekly radar seem to find their best audience, with its first two seasons. The third season is currently available on Blue-Ray and DVD.
Everyone should see the first three seasons before watching the fourth season of Hell on Wheels during its weekly television time-slot on AMC because of the show’s intricate plot lines and character development in order to be up to date.
The show takes its name from the nickname given to the tent cities that sprang up around the expanding railroad in the American Frontier of late 1800’s. Vice ran unchecked and greed was the only virtue present in these camps despite the efforts of missionaries and evangelists and the imminent threat of Native Americans, all of whom are as closely and as accurately portrayed in the series as any effort from Hollywood in the past. The show’s historical accuracy may be one of its best attributes.
Hell on Wheels has seen its share of critical acclaim, having won several awards, and having been nominated for a host of others, including an Emmy for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music in 2012, a Visual Effects Society Award for Outstanding Visual Effects in a Broadcast Program and Outstanding Compositing for the same. Other notable nominations include Hollywood Makeup Artist and Hair Stylist Guild awards for Best Period and Character in Hair Styling and Makeup.
African-American actor Common won the BET award for Best Actor in 2013 after having been nominated for the award in 2012 for his role as freedman Elam Ferguson.
The series, itself, has won an AMPIA Award in 2013 for Best Art Direction and the Director’s Guild of Canada Award for Production Design in the same year. The series also won a Leo Award for Best Casting in a Dramatic Series in 2013.
Popular actors such as Colm Meaney, who plays railroad CEO Thomas Durant, and Wes Studi, who plays Cheyenne Chief Many Horses, are some of the best in the business at portraying characters from the era, and turn in hallmark performances throughout the series. Meaney has said in interviews that playing such a rich and well-written character is a real pleasure.
Everyone who watches AMC knows Saturday knows is the day the network dedicates to western programming and movies. AMC presents Hell on Wheels as their grand finale in the genre, and everyone who has been watching the past three seasons knows why this is the series given such distinction. With the previous seasons already on Netflix and disc there is no reason not to start watching.
By Joseph Porter