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Hell on Wheels Season Finale Review: Wrong Turn

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"All I want is for this hour to pass so I can return to building my railroad." - Thomas Durant.

It's not often I agree with Durant on any of his schemes or attitudes, but no truer words were spoken in respect to "Get Behind the Mule."

And maybe I could be more forgiving if this was just another episode in the middle of the season, but as the Hell on Wheels Season 3 finale?

Not only did it fall flat, but I'm still a bit confused by the drastic change in direction after everything that's happened up until now.

Cullen's Consequences

Sure, for Season 3, Bohannon got off the revenge path and became focused on the railroad. As in overly focused, and that was fine. The episodes simply brought up a variety of random problems to be quickly solved not so long after, but I still had a sense of hope that through it all, there would be a payoff.

And while the penultimate episode "Fathers and Sins," was cinematically epic and beautiful to look at, it simply added to my concerns about where everything was headed.

What viewers got not only felt tedious in execution, but with wild twists that made no sense at all.

Take Elam Ferguson, who decided to pay his debt to Bohannon finding his child in "Searchers" by heading off to save him. It was a great step for his character, and I enjoyed him talking to Eva one last time before he rode off. There was a sense of determination and drive to do what he felt was right.

So why ruin that journey with pointless attacks on his life in an effort to drum up tension? Yes, it was cool to see him gun battle the Native Americans and a snarling bear, but it felt like a contrived way to put him in danger.

Plus, having Eva wander around in a stupor and shouting "Elam's dead" because she felt his spirit pass wasn't shocking or emotionally jaw dropping. It felt ridiculous, as if the only point was to leave his life in the balance for a cliffhanger.

But the real jumping off the track came when the Mormon girl announced that she was pregnant with Bohannon's baby. That look Bohannan gave when she said it? Yeah, that was my face for most of this episode.

On top of the baby (born from an act that I still feel was out of character for Bohannon in the premiere, "Big Bad Wolf; Eminent Domain") was the marriage between the two. Bet you never saw anything like that coming for this episode.

I guess I was fine that Bohannon was willing to step up and do the right thing by the girl, he's always been pretty much a good guy when it comes to his actions even if he's killed people. But it's frustrating that the series chose to go the direction at all.

Bohannon is such an interesting character and well acted by Anson Mount. He's a fierce force to be reckoned with and to simply put him in this situation disappointed me. With everything that's happened and him trying to be a better person to lead the railroad, to end the season ultimately having nothing to do with the railroad?

What's more, while we finally got the Swede and that great first reaction and confrontation between him and Bohannon, it almost felt like too little too late. The Swede added real menace and tension for their personal battles and yet keeping them apart all season was a waste.

Yes, he's fantastically creepy and one of the best parts of the series, so why avoid using him? Was it because the show wanted to wait until next season to put them together?

The scenes with him and Bohannon made you wonder if they were going to stab or kill each other. And when the Swede brought up Lily Bell? I'm surprised Bohannon didn't take that knife and use it. Each eyebrow raise or gleeful smirk felt spot on, not to mention that last shot of the Swede pouring the water out while Bohannon watched.

The Swede may claim he's a changed man, but we all know that's not the case. It's just unfortunate that most of their time was spent dealing with the Mormon wife and baby issue. It still feels so left field after everything we've been watching and following.

As for Durant, he's back in charge and Louise Ellison is editor of the new newspaper, but do we really care about that? I was even hoping we might get a little more development for Margaret Palmer, owner of the hotel, but she didn't add much besides be Durant's cheerleader in front of General Grant.

And while Mickey is fascinating to watch, and the shots of him eying the girl in his new digs were creep y(maybe he was the real Boston killer and not his brother?), we've never really had time to explore his character behind a few scenes here and there. Oh yeah, and he killed his brother.

It still feels like there should be one more episode or something to follow up and put the show back on railroad track, but this was an unsatisfying finale, even with Bohannon and the Swede as stand outs. I've enjoyed for the most part the first two seasons, and I've liked certain aspects of Hell on Wheels Season 3, but after reaching this final destination with the story taking an absurd turn, it makes me wonder if I even got on the right ride in the first place.

Review

Editor Rating: 2.4 / 5.0
  • 2.4 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.0 / 5.0 (458 Votes)

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

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This whole story was based on real events. There are more than enough
story lines that really happened while building the transcontinental railroad. The writers should try to follow some realty based action that only history buffs know about. Stick to the story of the real Hell on Wheels towns and you would have an even better show. The whole baby thing made me lose interest. Remember, this was supposed to be 1865 to 1869. This is a great chance to show what life was really like.

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The first ten minutes or so right until Cullen attempts to strangle the swede and a few minutes after make you feel like wow this is going to be a good finale , and then they throw it all away , possibly creating one of the worst episodes of the whole show !!

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Season three was terribly written. I like the actors but they were given nothing to work with. The scene where they are saved from dying at the hands of the Indians was pathetic, as was the finale. So many American TV shows lose their way and this is a glaring example. If you have Netflix, watch Spiral (Engrenages) and see how a TV show can not only be brilliantly written, acted and filmed, but how a show can get better and better over four seasons.

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I agree with the Author. I thought having Cullen mess around with the young girl in the first place was so out of character. Remember the episode..maybe Season 1...when he is with this really young prostitute and he was really drunk and he didn't take advantage or her? That character would not go after a young mormon girl!! This season was very fragmented and confusing. Too much random stuff going on. And I'm getting sick of all the Durant stuff...there isn't enough time between when Cullen gets back on track and Durant pulls more devious tricks. I love the Cullen character and I think Anson Mount is amazing in that role. I hope they get it together before Season 4.

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love the show. season 3 finale should have been longer. with all the crap reality shows there should be no reason not to have a season 4

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Don't believe the baby is Cullens as the act didn't seem to be consumated. also, they are not married because it was the Swede who married them. Cullen went along with it so he can get revenge on the Swede.Lily is back in Boston recovering from nearly being strangled to death,I WISH. If the show comes back, PLEASE no more Ruth with Cullen, see no chemistry there. GET NEW WRITERS, PLEASE!!!Watch Chicago Fire, they have great personal story lines while at the same time show wonderful firefighting scenes. A little railroad building would be great.

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THE BEGINNING OF SEASON III HAD CULLEN ACTING OUT OF CHARACTER. FOR EXAMPLE, FOOLING AROUND AND ALMOST GETTING CAUGHT WITH THE MORMON'S DAUGHTER WHEN HE WAS A GUEST IN HIS HOUSE, TOTALLY UNBELIEVABLE. LILLY HAD BE THE AGGRESSOR AND SEDUCE CULLEN IN SEASON II AND, THIS WAS AFTER HE WAS IN LOVE WITH HER. ALSO, IN SEASON III CULLEN HANGING OUT WITH WITH THE WHORES, WOULDN'T HAPPEN. I WILL KEEP WATCHING BECAUSE I LOVE THE CHARACTERS AND THE ACTING BUT, GET NEW WRITERS, THIS SHOW HAS SOOOOOO MUCH POTENTIAL. ALSO CULLEN'S HAIR IS GETTING GRAY PLEASE COLOR IT.

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I was devastated when Lily was killed by the swede. Cullen doesn't look too cool after getting an 17 year old pregnate. Still my favorite show. Please made season 4 make sense of season 3 finally.

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My husband and I have anticipated and enjoyed watching this show very much, every week. Have loved the actors/actresses. The first and second season's plot's were fantastic. This last season??? My husband said to me, "Are the writers purposefully trying to destroy this show? Do they want it cancelled?" It's not the actors, its the writers. We will be very disappointed if this show doesn't return. BUT, it HAS to be with better writers. Writers who understand and see the vision on what this show is really about. It's as if things were going great, and then...what the heck happened. 3rd season is like it's a different show. I agree, they have killed off the wrong people. But I would like to see swede get his. There is always a new good bad guy that comes along you love to hate. But keep the good guys/gals for most of it. I agree with just about everyones posting on this. I hate to see this go to the graveyard. Again, Love the actors/actresses.

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Really disappointed in the finale. Shouldn't have a season 4.