Hell on Wheels Review: Pride and Prejudice
If you happen to have any connection to the murder of Cullen Bohannon's wife, you're going to get a bullet to the body. No excuses. No free rides. Only death.
I love that Bohannon has a one track mind. It's all about revenge (he and Emily VanCamp have something in common) and he never looked so good doing it. Maybe it's the variety of camera angles or maybe it's the fierce gaze of no redemption, but Bohannon shooting a gun brings out that classic western feel of coolness and a cold attitude you can't help but enjoy.
Yet, even as his focus remains on finding Sergeant Frank Harper, Bohannon is still able to reveal acts of humanity and consideration to those around him. Letting Ferguson attempt to prove himself by taking over the white men's work, rescuing Lily Bell and protecting her, and even preventing Joseph Black Moon from becoming the scapegoat people were looking for, they all showed a side still clinging to a sense of goodness.
Sure, he can roll his eyes and even say that he doesn't care, but his simple actions and deviations from his primary goal are proof that this is a man with a good heart. He's not the bad guy, just someone who is willing to make bad choices.
I can't imagine anyone else but Anson Mount filling the role of Bohannon. He carries the show and the character in a way that draws out the grit and the style to perfection. He brings the Western to life, especially for a genre that's faded to the background in recent years.
Ferguson is gradually rounding out as a character and continues to attempt to prove himself an equal. He's willing to do more work just to demonstrate it. Even when another black man accuses Ferguson of wanting to be white, he simply takes up his tool and starts working in the cut. He doesn't want to be white, he just wants to be recognized for being hard working and worthy as a man. He's diligent in his endeavors no matter how many times he gets pushed back down.
It's great that he can boldly say that he isn't afraid of white men or fear the possibility of being hanged. Venturing right into the whore house (tents?) was an attempt to express his deserved equality, but it was surprising that he was turned down by a prostitute. It really says something of the times and prejudice when a prostitute can easily laugh at Ferguson and scoff at the mere notion of sleeping with a black man. That surprised look on Ferguson only appeared for a split second, but it was clear that as much as he paces and roars out to be heard, he isn't immune to the sting of white suppression.
Joseph Black Moon received more screen time and a chance to struggle with being stuck between two diverse worlds. Not only was he overwrought with grief that his family made the killings of Bell and his crew, but he can't understand why he'd be the scapegoat. Cutting his hair symbolized his movement away from his Cheyenne heritage, but whether anyone else recognizes it is another thing.
At least Durant is on top of the world, but its obvious that he is lonely. How often does he spend time by himself? I wonder if his lack of a loved one is the reason for his intense focus on money, power, and the railroad. And did anyone notice that the cleaner you are, the richer you are?
But why does he have to talk to himself all the time? Even his drawn out monologues, which are befitting of his character, go on for a bit too long and pull me out of certain dramatic moments. It's no doubt that his words are manipulative and full of spin (the railroad being the birth of freedom? Who at Hell on Wheels is really free?) and he can't help but try and stir the crowd. It's in his nature, though at times, less would be better than more.
The final moments of "A New Birth of Freedom" were classic Western with Bohannon riding away on horseback. And was anyone surprised that he didn't take the bounty? Lily Bell was certainly perplexed by this man and I sense a budding relationship between the two.
Hell On Wheels continues to chug along and unfold its grand scale filled with revenge, new beginnings, loyalty, and the perfect melting pot of men searching for purpose. The journey is still worth the ride.
Hell on Wheels: "A New Birth of Freedom"
Sean McKenna is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.