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.


That finale was terrible. I absolutely love this show and the actors are amazing. Anson is great. However my fear is this finale just lost a ton of viewers. Even I will be hard pressed to follow anymore. I just about quit watching after the writers killed Lilly. That was ridiculous in my mind. I was getting behind Cullen and Lilly and then she was killed. They could have done something else for the rivalry between Cullen and the Swede to intensify than killing Lilly.
Now, Cullen is stuck in a Mormon camp, Durant is in charge of the railroad, and elams character really starts to take shape and he is presumedly killed by a bear. Seriously? That doesn't even make sense. Cullen's character loses all sense of his bravado by being forced into a Mormon camp.
It will be almost impossible for the writers to bring this back. Even, if they do get it back on the rails, it will likely be a bunch of more ridiculous twists.
It's too bad. It's a great, great show and well acted.
I fear this show will now be renewed and it's not because of the actors or the premise of the show, but the writers.
This may be another show I love that will be cancelled. the first being Firefly.


What was a great first 2 seasons this third season took a dive into confusion,scattered plot tidbits with dam little connection.As most others have commented I agree the end was very flat with a poor perspective of gaining ground for a season 4!The mixing of Mormon pioneers, rail road expansion, and the pregnancy issue just were tidbits of what was a challenge of crossing the the west. Dealing with the natives their issues along with the wild weather mixed with wolves etc brought out a great story line.
It seems that the wheels fell of the train and the end just ended!


The show is amazing. Perhaps for more gratifying fare that appeals to the tastes you all seem to have you could camp out in front of your sets on some weekend, tune in the History (H2?) Channel and boogey to a afternoon length marathon of some amazing reality show like 'Bayou Butt Buddies'.
Now that, Mr. DeMille, is entertainment! In the meantime why don't you all shut up, stop watching, and leave this show to those of us who love it?


Completely confused by final episode! I have enjoyed this series and have looked forward to each episode but this was loaded with so many illogical facets. At least one could not complain that it was predictable. I can't wait to see how the writers get back on the right track.


The title should have been called "Behind the Mule out in Left Field". I never understood the coupling between Bohannon and the Mormon girl in the first episode of season 3 and I felt that would be going somewhere. It this was the finale, then it makes sense the girl shows up in the last episode of Season 3 and it says to me that Hell on Wheels will not be renewed. I am so disappointed because this is an excellent series although I will admit there have been some episodes that were very contrived and tedious.


I have LOVED this show until now. Worst season finale ever! Rushed, ill conceived, pointless. Removing from DVR.


I thought this episode sucked. I thought Cullen went totally out of character. So he had sex with the girl once? Why, I have no idea why. But to just accept the kids as his, I just don't see it. And even if true, why would he subject himself to something that can only be called willingly enslaved by a bunch of nuts. Why not take the girl and leave the nuts to themselves?
If this is who he is, Durant is the right man to run the railroad.


I watch three shows...Boardwalk Empire, Homeland and this. I'm not sure if I am going to be anxiously waiting for next season. Definitely flat and uninspired. I really agree with the person who commented "Really?"
It absolutely was... way out of character for Bohannon to get the little Mormon girl in the sack early on in the season. I remember watching that and thinking "what the hell?". The whole thing with the Indians, Elam and the bear was... ridiculously contrived. Did you notice that the hotel that had been shot to heck, all busted up with blood all over the floor, had been miraculously restored in, I'm guessing, what was like a few days at best.......really?!! The whole thing takes the fantasy suspension of reality a little too far and insults the viewer. Sure, it's a great set up for next season, but is this season just about waiting for next season?.....disappointing. Somebody should get fired and they should find some of the writers that wrote Dead Wood to save it. I like Mike Kunkles version a whole lot better.


The worst! ! ! ! I have been a big fan of the show since it started. After that final show. if they do have another season I'm not sure I will watch. Are these the same writers that have been responsible for the first 2 seasons? Who gave the writers the bucket of softballs to throw out there. Such a good show, such a terrible ending.


Brilliant ending. People complain about the odd plot twists. Think on this, the plot is a vehicle to allow us to watch human beings struggle with moral dilemma. The seven deadly sins are ever present and embodied in various characters at various times. The "Hellbound Train" moves ever on and the characters all ride it and wonder how they all came to be in this place. Part religious allegory, part western, this is NOT an action piece per se. It's a deadly reflection on our human flaws and the poison they create. And it's a meditation on how we find grace, redemption and dare I say it - salvation.

@ William

Excellent summation, I agree totally

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