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.


Editor Rating: 2.4 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 3.0 / 5.0 (465 Votes)

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


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.


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.


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


Frustrating and dissapointing final. What were the writers thinking. I'm guessing there will be a season 4. And hopefully it goes back to it's darker roots. With more menacing characters and less Mormon wifey


Boy, am I so glad I tuned out after the end of Season 2, because this sounds terrible. So basically, this show is just a defeatist, nihilistic wallow in the Pure Evil of The Swede who got away scott free with the MURDER of Lily Bell, the only truly courageous, intelligent and resourceful female character on the entire show. With that heinous crime unavenged while the surviving women are either helpless (Eva), Shrewish (MRS. Durant), or insufferably pious Fundies (Ruth), that sends a very bad message that Evil will ALWAYS be rewarded while any woman who doesn't KNOW HER PLACE and even attempts to rise about her station will be punished with a brutal, senseless death. And that so-called "heroes" like Cullen are just incompetent, wishy-washy, pompous posers who will always fail. How utterly Depressing.


I LOVE this series! The finale was a bit disappointing but it will get back on track! Not as riveting as hoped but bring on Season 4....

Tommy bee

Where are the writers coming from? Mormons TOTALLY misrepresented - any thinking person who knows ANYTHING about Mormons should be OFFENDED by this rubbish. I enjoyed HOW for many reasons but as soon as the Mormons (and the indians) came on the scene I lost interest. SADNESS - i had high hopes but now dashed on the rocks of idiot writers - Great characters WRONG turn - on to the next show.... ho hum....


this whole series is down the crapper


Wow. Absolutely riveting TV. Let's watch a dude be a morman. Simply awesome!


Very disapointed with the season finally. It will not make me anxious for
the next season to start. They have killed off the wrong people. I miss Lily Bell.

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