Hell on Wheels Season Finale Review: A Time To Kill

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Hell On Wheels has been an enjoyable ride throughout season one, despite certain episodes feeling disconnected or plot lines that were introduced and then rather quickly wrapped up before jumping on to the next. Ultimately, it's been the interesting and entertaining cast of characters that have kept this show going forward by digging deeper into their pasts and exploring the choices that each makes on their particular journeys.

Of course, Cullen Bohannon is the center around which all the others seem to rotate and has been consistently fantastic, whether he's been leading the railroad construction, sweet talking with Lily Bell or pointing a gun and shooting without a blinking eye. He drives the scenes towards the action and Anson Mount (who embodies Bohannon to perfection) delivers emotion and dialogue, making the character more three-dimensional than what his revenge-focused goal initially portrayed him to be.

Cullen vs. Sean

And while Bohannon has grown further away from his own darkness while at the Hell on Wheels camp, the return of Sergeant Harper snapped him back to his killing thought process. The coldness in his eyes and the determination to get justice for his murdered wife and son became the only thing on his mind and anyone, including Sean McGinnes or The Swede, would not get in his way. Even when Harper tried to plead his case, Bohannon just wouldn't hear it.

I loved Bohannon storming around the camp on his mission, gun drawn, and ready to serve Harper a bullet. Those moments of the episode were the most exciting and certainly tension-filled, especially when Bohannon was running to catch Harper. It was essentially the anticipatory moments of a conclusion the viewer and Bohannon had been waiting for since the start.

I knew there was no way that Sergeant Harper would actually be the Sergeant that was at Meridian, mostly because that would be way too simple, but also because ending Bohannon's revenge journey in season one would eliminate a lot of what drives him as a character for now. Maybe down the road other things might push him in a different direction, but it's wanting to serve vengeance that is his focus. I'm sure that killing an innocent man will weigh on his conscience, though, too.

Interestingly enough, my other favorite character, The Swede, might be on his own journey of revenge when season two rolls around. Not only was he tarred and feathered out of town, (I'm not sure what made Mickey and Sean choose that form of punishment) but he sees Bohannon as the cause of all the disruptions and problems in the camp and for him as well. In addition to his fascination with Bohannon, I have a feeling he is going to continue to hunt for him until one of them is dead. I'm sure The Swede will have plenty more immoral mathematics when the time comes.

Like Mount, Christopher Heyerdahl has created a fascinating character. As the antagonist for Bohannon and pretty much everyone, The Swede can be creepy, menacing, calculating, manipulative, fearful... a wide variety of traits that make him entertaining to watch. Even if he was run out of town, there's no way he'll let Bohannon or even the McGinnes brothers simply go.

Unfortunately, Elam Ferguson's final scenes of the episode involved relationship problems and the continued presence of Mr. Toole (really, why is he even back?) I know his discussions with Eva served to bring some light on to his statements about "property," but they felt forced and sudden. I'm more curious to see how his new position with Durant will make him in the future rather than his connection with Eva. He's definitely gotten better with his gun.

Additionally, Lily Bell and Durant were caught up in their own relationship drama in that Durant wants her but can't have her. Also, Lily bringing up wanting to stick with the railroad didn't feel like anything new. Hadn't she already said that before? I hope Durant doesn't continue to be blinded by his desires to be with her. And does he like her because she is so independent and smart or does the fact that she's the only woman who's not a prostitute make her the only viable option?

I'd be interested to see what would happen if another woman of social standing showed up.

I was pleased that Lily and Bohannon didn't end the episode and season in some long cliched embrace. There may be feelings of something between them, but I'm not sure Bohannon's love for his family or his focus on revenge will make those sparks into anything more. Great look between the two from afar gives thoughts as to what if, but didn't force the issue.

Overall, "God of Chaos" didn't end with the same bang that the show first started out with, but it left the door wide open for plenty of strong possibilities for the future. Time will tell if it can find a certain consistency in its story telling and focus on a season long plot theme or structure, but again, it's the characters that keep me coming back for more. Here's to seeing where those characters are headed when Hell On Wheels returns for season two!

What did you think of the finale? What did you think of the season as a whole? Where is the show headed? Will Cullen ever find revenge? As always, sound off below.


Editor Rating: 4.1 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.6 / 5.0 (170 Votes)

Sean McKenna is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.


I LOVE THIS SHOW! Its the first series that I actually look forward to each week. Afterall, not every female in the world wants to see those bratty, spoiled housewife shows ya know. I just want to know why it is so hard to find out when the next season starts. Does anyone know? I assume AMC wants us to keep watching...


Is there going to be a second season for this? Yes, to many stories going at once but with some work could be good show. Hope it comes back.


Excellent show !
Sean, Lily is NOT the only woman who's not a prostitute. You forgot the preacher's daughter, Joseph's new girlfriend.


I will never understand people like you. Why do you waste your time on something you don't like? There are so many tv shows, one couldn't watch all of them even if they spent the whole day and night in front of TV. And, moreover, you waste even more time bitching about it on the internet! You are one sick dude!


From my perspective, the best and most telling scene was between Bohannon and the preacher with the preacher telling an allegory with the message being: "Choose hate!"


I've been trying really hard to like this show. It's so disappointing. I feel like the writers were just hoping to avoid getting the pilot to work and never really thought through the overall story arc. This is a Deadwood starter kit at best. The necessary twists that must happen to get Bohannon and The Swede (the most interesting characters by far) will definitely require some serious willingness to suspend disbelief. It's just too bad given all that this story could have provided that the writers have presented us this hollow story arc. I'm surprised it has been renewed for the second season, especially given AMC's high standards for their other dramas. Crap on Wheels if you ask me!


Can't wait for the next season! Awesome show!


I love the subtlety of the meaningful looks exchanged among the main characters in this show. Anson Mount, a highly under-rated actor, can relay more depth in one stare than most actors do in multiple pages of dialogue. I wasn't thrilled with the way he turned a bit monster-like at the end of the final season, more bent on revenge than on living. But it's part of his evolving character. I also like the way his interest in "Lily Bell," and vice versa is not overblown. Like real-life relationships, it's taking its time, dependent upon circumstance. I would like to see them get together in the end but alas, he rode off into the...where'd he go? Guess we'll have to stay tuned to find out. A great cast, great storyline and a true authentic feel to the era. Let's all hope this one returns for another season and the ratings don't blow it away like so much discarded sagebrush.


Sure would like to know the name of the first song (instrumental) and the group playing during the dance sequence of the final episode. Anybody know?


This is the first "Western" that has held my interest; the complexities of the characters and situations in a "brave new world" really make that world come alive. The acting is fantastic - I'm most appreciative!

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Hell on Wheels Season 1 Episode 10 Quotes

That whiskey goes in the dance tent, not in your tent.

Cullen Bohannon

I find it hard to imagine you in a domestic setting.

Lily Bell