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.


Wow !! Such bad reviews. I liked it. The scenes between Bohannan and the Mormon girl were done in a beautiful and sensitive way. The whole thong was plausible except for her age. There is no way an attractive Mormon girl out in the middle of nowhere would not be taken much sooner than her 18th birthday. I think 21 century values were added here so Bohanan wouldn't be a rapist. Ahistorical, bad writing but still overall excellent.. Fergusan, the bear te Norwegian ( not Swede) and all the rest were plausible and well done. There were bears in Wyomong at that time. All and all the series is unique in that it shows the cooperation and the tensipns between all the cultures and nationalities that make up America. I give it a definite thumbs up and am sure it will be continued despite all the nay sayers here.


What has happened to my once great western? Are the writers going through a "cocaine decision" flashback? Sadly, my grief will be short lived is this show isn't renewed for another season. Hopefully, it will return to the form it evidenced in season one and season two.


Hell on Wheels has been really good up until the sporatic writings mid way in Season 3. Not to mention the finale was extremely dissapointing to me! Nothing came together this season at all and Elam being killed by a BEAR... What!! Where did that idea come from?.... There are too many open ended items this season to have horrible finale plot like that one. Time for new writers for Season 4.


You guys don't get it, that is what Cullen is all about.....standing true and being a man. He saved the kid married for his kid and with Elam doing anything to try to save him. Remember your history about Durant (true story u dummies) Cullen will be back and they have 10 ways to do it.


Never should have killed Lily off.


I think this ending only make sense as an inter-season cliff-hanger, assuming that the renewal of this series is a mere unannounced formality. If not, we are left with the image of Bohannan working the Mormon farm and every now and then hearing a train whistle in the distance. We may have to wait until December to find out.


Nooooo, Hell on Wheels cannot end yet. There are too many
loose ends, still more story to be told, and the railroad has to
be completed ! Please don't let it end like this, such a cruel way
to treat a loyal viewer : ( My husband & I have enjoyed every
precious second of Hell on Wheels !!!!


This season has been bad. I realize bad weather in Calgary has put a damper on some of the episodes but the story line hasn't been there all year. It's meandered back and forth and it's comical that now we have a Grizzly Bear in the mix fouling things up. For season 4 I hope the producers get some better writers who know something about continuity and not randomly tied together episodes with the same common plot lines. Why didn't Grant dispatch some troops to find him instead of putting up with Durant? Why did the cop just go back to Boston based on some hearsay from the guy who killed his brother? I think a couple of kids in grade school could write better plot lines, maybe Vince Gilligan will give up a couple of writers for this so Hell on Wheels will be better otherwise Season 4 will be the last.


Maybe Walter White can stumble into the plot.


For some reason I thought this was the finale finale. I thought it a lame finale but then thought geeze, that really would be the American way,Durrant slips through as king of the railroad with his cigar and bourbon. Is common really dead? I cant see it. Hes integral.

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