November 7, 2011 at 6:07 am #232967
Anyone wish to discuss AMC’s latest misstep?November 7, 2011 at 6:51 am #232969
It was really hard to connect with the show at all. It was just so damn dull. Which sucks, because I was really looking forward to it.November 7, 2011 at 9:08 am #232970
Are people ready to accept yet that AMC is not infallible?
The Walking Dead
Hell on WheelsNovember 7, 2011 at 9:26 am #232971
I didn’t even know this was on. Hope it is on demand so I can check it out.November 7, 2011 at 9:33 am #232972
As big a fan as I am of AMC, the cancellation of Rubicon set me on the path to realizing that its a network run by human beings who occasionally made poor programming choices. Add that to the very poor writing week after week on The Walking Dead, and I’m starting to wonder what happened to the network that got a one-two punch with Mad Men and Breaking Bad in the same year.
That being said, I actually was intrigued by the Hell on Wheels pilot. It was by no means great television, but I like the seeds that are planted. Of course, my favorite bits involved any scenes with Anson Mount and Ted Levine, and Colm Meaney grew on me as the episode continued. I do wonder if we needed all of these characters tossed at us in the pilot, though. Lily and Robert Bell on the Advance Survey Team … John, the Native American who was baptized … The Irish brothers who are obviously meant to be the comic relief … Even Elam’s actions were pretty predictable this episode, though I’m surprised to see you-know-who take their bow so early in the series. Thankfully, the reviews I’ve read say that the series gets better with each episode. If they cut back on the expositional dialogue a tad, and they keep a moral ambiguity about the whole proceeding, I think this show could really be something. I’m surprised it has taken this long for a Western to come to AMC.
B+November 7, 2011 at 1:34 pm #232973
I missed it, too, but the pilot is online, and will also re-air a few more times.
As for AMC, the honeymoon was over for me the minute Rubicon was out, and The Walking Dead was renewed for a second season right after airing the pilot episode. I never watched The Prisoner, so I can’t comment on that, but I hung in there to the bitter end with The Killing. AMC is certainly not infallible. That ship has sailed. But the premise of HoW looks good, so I hope it delivers. So many people thought Rubicon was too slow, and boring as hell. But to me, “slow-paced” and “boring” are not synonymous. If HoW is slow-paced, but builds into something intriguing, that’s fine with me. I’ll give it three or four episodes, to see where it goes.November 8, 2011 at 9:30 pm #232974
I think, if this pilot had come out before the disappointing first season of Walking Dead and the controversial season-ender of The Killing, it would be received in a more positive light. That being said, days later, I still find it a good but not great start to the season.
The full first episode is available on the AMC official website.November 16, 2011 at 3:25 pm #232975
I finally caught up with the first 2 episodes. The pilot was okay. The moments between Anson Mount and Ted Levine were great. Everything else not so much. Colm Meaney’s character is a horrible ripoff of Al Swearengen. I never loved Deadwood but everytime Meaney was onscreen I began to wish I was watching Deadwood instead of this. The native american characters are horribly written, and so far the storyline involving the woman from the surveyor team is so far away from the rest of the storyline that it is annoying.
The second episode was much better. Christopher Heyerdahl was a great addition. He too seemed to be channeling a famous character (Hans Landa) but for some reason I actually liked it. I will deifnitely be sticking with this series for the first season.November 16, 2011 at 8:47 pm #232976
It only makes sense that – since the pilot ended with Johnson being murdered, and Ted Levine falling victim to stunt casting – the second episode revolves around solving the man’s murder. Thinking he is being handed Johnson’s job, Bohannon steps aboard one of the office railcars and finds himself face-to-face with The Swede, the Norwegian head of Durant’s security. Quickly, it becomes apparent that Bohannon has been called in not to receive a promote but to confess to the murder. When he doesn’t, The Swede and his men still throw him in shackles and toss him into, yep, another boxcar. This, I should say, was my favorite part of the episode, Bohannon’s being convicted with Johnson’s death. I like it because, ironically, Bohannon was planning on killing Johnson during his quest for revenge – it just so happens that, this time around, he wasn’t the perpetrator. Likewise, the Swede’s Andersonville speech was good, reminding us that, though victorious, the North faced just as many if not more unjustifiable hardships during the war. The Swede discusses his way of thinking, that he partakes in what he calls immoral mathematics – as long as everything adds up in the end, who cares how you got there?
However, the episode began to deflate once Bohannon escaped the boxcar. That he was able to find a stray nail, use the Swede’s spoon to pry it up, pull up the floorboards just in time, find refuge in the church (where the preacher promptly delivers a sermon meant less to forward the plot and more to give Tom Noonan something to do), gets Elam to knock off the chains (a former slave breaking chains – a bit on-the-nose for me), and then convincing Durant to not only pardon him but give him Johnson’s old job? I might buy one or two of those scenes, but all of them packed together like that? Not so sure. I did like the moment where the Swede has his gun Beauty pointed at Bohannon’s chest, only for the for-now untouchable gunslinger to walk towards him and wink. But I wish we had had more character moments and less of an prison break plot.
Subplots here are starting to falter. Lily Bell on the lam could be great if the writers weren’t having her falling asleep/passing out every time she’s about to do something substantial. She sews her own wound shut, which I think says a lot about her character, but in hindsight, she really didn’t accomplish much this episode. The Americanized Native American (that’s weird to say) Brother John could be a good character later down the line, though I wish he and the other natives were subtitled rather than speaking in the cliched Indian-speaking-the-white-man-tongue English. The Irish brothers with their not-so-subtle Boston backstory (“I thought you said we were never to speak of that”) were underused, which is a shame considering how much humor they could bring. Durant’s scenes were probably the best plot-wise … he has the journalist recreate the massacre of the survey team to help illustrate the work of “the savages,” even shoving arrows back into one of the corpses himself. Also intriguing is his using Lily’s (or, rather, the “fair haired maiden of the West”) disappearance to spark an uproar against the Indians in the area – I like that the show is attempting to connect the subplots through political games of a sort. B-
EDIT: Dropped the grade from “B” to “B-” because I did not buy that Johnson would keep the knitwork of Bohannon’s wife, or that Bohannon wouldn’t have been more surprised finding it in the foreman’s tent.November 17, 2011 at 7:49 am #232977
Wow this was not good. Finally popped up on demand. The very first scene! He just happens to be in the confessional? How did he know he would go into that one? Already off to a horrible start but the end with the Captain from Monk spilling his guts just before being sliced open. Or before that when he makes his horse front kick the thirsty worker. No plans to continue. This was horrible storytelling.November 22, 2011 at 9:41 pm #232978
A lot of Robbypop’s problems with the pilot episode – the coincidences
and so forth – continue to pop up in this latest episode. The first
scene features Bohannon, the new foreman at Hell on Wheels, going
through Johnson’s old possessions looking for any sort of clues as to
who the mysterious Sergeant is that the late foreman spoke of before
getting his slit. And what do you know… Bohannon just happens to find a
wooden box in the bottom of one of the desk drawers, just happens to
notice the secret compartment in the lid of the wooden box, and in this
compartment just happens to be a picture of Johnson and all his
ex-company members. Not only that, but every man in the picture has his
name written underneath himself in the picture. Bohannon looks at each
man in the photo, and recognizes them as men he has killed previously on
his rampage of revenge. The only name he doesn’t recognize? Sargeant
Harper. And what do ya know (again) …. it just so happens that, in the
photo, Harper’s face is blurred. That’s right, folks, after all these
little leaps of logic, the writers find it realistic to make Bohannon’s
target the only man in the photo without discernable facial features.
was aggravating, as you can imagine, especially since I really want to
like this show. One thing that this series sorely lacks are episodic
thematic centers. With Boardwalk Empire, yes, the plot leads
from one episode to the other. On the other hand, each installment (for
the most part) has a particular theme that plays into the actions of the
characters. In “Age of Reason,” for example, the characters are each
dealing with a dilemma that proves time and time again that the ‘age of
reason,’ the time when the Catholic Church claims you’ve gained your
moral compass and ability to think soundly, is nothing more than a
concept stabled to a number. In contrast, Hell of Wheels does
not feature any theme episode-by-episode. Instead, it feel as though
each episode is only building towards the one that follows it, which
will make choosing Emmy tapes (not that this will stand a chance as is)
very difficult. The installments thus far would not stand well on their
But enough of my general overview — let’s talk about what
did and didn’t work in this episode. For starters, it was interesting to
see some of the black railworkers turning against Elam, who they claim
thinks he’s “the white man.” I think it has been hinted earlier that
Elam is in fact biracial; whether that becomes A Thing in a later
episode is hard to tell. When he struts into the camp’s whorehouse,
though, he is reminded that he is anything but “the white man.” And
speaking of whorehouse, a new character is brought into the fold this
week — a prostitute with an odd tattoo on her chin. She has a
sarcastic, saucy side to her that might add to the series in the near
future, if the writers execute it right.
I’m still not sure
about the Irish brothers. Right now, they feel like comedic relief that
just isn’t funny. I think they’re meant to stand in for all immigrants
pursuing the American Dream, but for the likes of me, neither Sean nor
Mickey seem all that interesting at the moment. Bohannon taking Lily
Bell out of Brother Joseph’s hands was a step in the right direction
plot-wise, but his shooting the three men trying to take her back to
camp seemed like the sort of action that was deliberately staged to come
back and haunted our anti-hero later. If there was one thing I did like
about that section of the episode, it was that Bohannon is clearly not
happy about being distracted from his pursuit of Harper and saves Lily
less out of heroism and more out of a need to get her back to camp and
get a move on. I don’t know if we needed as much blatant dialogue
between him and Lily, but it was nice to see the surveyor storyline (one
that the pilot left detached from the rest of the action) finally join
our revenge storyline. In the meantime, Brother Joseph feels bad about
the attack of the survey team, because his brother was the one that led
the massacre, but it remains uninteresting for the time being.
scenes were with Durant. Colm Meaney is doing the rest he can with that
role. Durant is a man who overexpresses or, on some occasions,
monologues to thin air, but Meaney sells it. And though he is the
supposed villain of the show, some viewers believe, when he speaks of
wiping out the savage natives that killed the survey team, or forcing
them to succumb to American culture, you can understand why the men
around him nod their heads in agreement. He is a persuasive speaker.
Meaney’s got a tough role to make work, but somehow he does.
B-December 18, 2011 at 1:07 am #232979
AMC began its venture into dramatic storytelling with a one-two punch. To score Mad Men, a fourpeat Drama Series Emmy-winning television show, is in itself an achievement. To find the gem that is Breaking Bad on top of that was nothing short of divine. One is a critical darling that thousands of people love. The other is … a critical darling that thousands of people love. Oh, but the latter is the best show on television, in case anyone asks. As AMC continued to develop new television series, they found Rubicon, a real thinker of a show that I found fascinating but was a flagship for the newest genre, Slow TV. It, like the bigger-budget Walking Dead that put the cancellation nail in its coffin, was like nothing else on television. Even The Killing, which started as a television event and devolved into a barrel of red herrings with enough plot holes to sink a cruise ship, received a mass amount of coverage, infuriating finale and all.
My point is, even when AMC has put up less-than-quality programming, the shows still got people talking. Which makes me think that Hell on Wheels won’t last past this first season. No, let me rephrase that … at the rate it is going, it doesn’t deserve to last past a season. The show has what I find to be a potentially good premise, as we follow the construction of what was one of the most influential man-made structures at the time. The nation is in transition; suddenly, an entire ethnicity is brought into the fold of those who once owned them — the idea that people who were once your property are now your equal is enough to drive the dramatic tension through the roof. You toss in a revenge plot, a survival story, and the wheelings-and-dealings of a corrupt capitalist, and you have what could’ve been the makings of a great television series. Only, so far, the show hasn’t amounted up to much.
Set aside the hokey dialogue for a second. Set aside the near-useless secondary characters (I’m looking at you, Irish brothers), the unbelievable coincidences (that confessional on that day? How’d he know?), the romantic relationship that is so obviously developing that I’m yelling “Just kiss her already!” at the screen … forget all of that for a second. This show’s biggest flaw is that it just isn’t that interesting. I could get behind a bad show any day of the week. At least then, the discussion on forums like this one would be fueled by the collective “Really?” response of those of us viewing it. In the case of Hell on Wheels, though, no one even seems to care. The show isn’t good, but it isn’t terrible. It is simply uninteresting to talk about. For proof, look no further than this discussion thread. The post before this one? Made three weeks ago. By me.
On a network that prides itself on story mattering, a show like that should not exist for too long. I have watched the first five episodes, and I will continue to watch through the first season, if only to say that I did. The few moments of cleverness that this show features make me wish it had met its potential head-on from the start. But when you follow up dark and intriguing conversations of massacres in Kansas* with exchanges that seem to be pulled straight out of a Creative Writing 101 student’s short story**, the viewers start to lose hope of ever seeing anything more than middling drama.
* Our drunk ex-Confederate protagonist discusses a Union massacre with another man. At one point, the other man tells Bohannon, “You’re lucky you weren’t in Kansas.” To which Bohannon smiles and replies, “No. You’re lucky I wasn’t in Kansas.” My retelling it doesn’t do the conversation justice. It was well-written and well-delivered …
** … which makes exchanges like this one all the more awful. A prostitute just finished sleeping with an angry mulatto ex-slave played by Common. When Common discovers that the prostitute used to be the prisoner of Indians, he asked, “What were they like?” To which she responds, “They were like people. You know how people are.” Wow. The detail overwhelms me.December 19, 2011 at 10:30 am #232980
No one’s watching?? Is it so bad or so boring like that ? ou both? lolDecember 19, 2011 at 10:48 am #232981
I’m watching… but usually while doing other things. It’s hard to stay focused. I LOVED the premise. Thought it had great potential. It’s just not that well done. I don’t like the lead character. Timothy Olyphant would kill it in that role, but he’s perfect just where he is.
It’s too bad. AMC was on a roll there with the first three shows. I haven’t liked anything new since Rubicon. Slow, or not, I adored it. Loved the writing, loved the characters/actors, loved the premise. It deserved a second season.December 20, 2011 at 1:00 am #232982
MadsonMelo, like FrozenBarbie, I have to say that watching it feels more like an obligation than an enjoyment, at this point. If I stick with a series for four episodes, I always make sure to finish that particular season before deciding whether or not I’ll tune in for the next one. I have to disagree with FrozenBarbie on one thing: I actually like the main character. I feel as though Anson Mount is surprisingly sturdy as the lead in the show. His character is being dramatically under-utilized at the moment, but his performance is not to blame.
I’ve almost gotten over the Rubicon cancellation. It was something so new and fresh and those who watched it adored it because it triggered something creatively for its audience that, really, no show has done since. I’ve found myself viewing the first (and only) season as a stand-alone mini-series of sorts, trying to make sense of the season finale as though it were a series finale. But what I’m most peeved about is that it hasn’t been released on DVD yet. What’s up with that? It still stands as one of my favorite television shows, cancellation or not.
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