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.


By far the worst season finale to any show ever. It made 0 sense and was totally unsatisfying. This is a stain on Hell On Wheels. They had better renew it and keep it going to make up for this sorry ass episode.


Agreed. This episode was a total let down its so infuriating when writers completely screw up an amazing show.


This show needed to end the season with a bang. Instead we git a whimper. Elam going to rescueBohsnnon alone? Didn't the men say they wanted to help? Cullen married and on a farm? Bad guys ahead at every turn? Nothing exciting. It's likethe interns wrote the finale.


> "What viewers got not only felt tedious in execution, but with wild twists that made no sense at all." Really? Made all the sense in the world in the context of this was a series "on the bubble" with a strong likelihood of not being renewed for a fourth season. If this was the end, then there was resolution (albeit unsatisfactorily) to a number of story threads. Cullen accepts his situation and his responsibility for fathering a child and the Hatch daughter's disgrace. Elam unexpectedly killed on a noble mission to save his friend (why he didn't reload his revolver after the encounter with the war party of native people is inexplicable). And the two great evil men, Durant and "The Swede," are left, as they so often are in real life, to practice their nefarious deeds on everyone... I did think that "The Swede" was a bit too quick a study as the Mormon cleric to have pulled it off as he did. And if AMC does decide to renew for a fifth season or a grand two-hour teleflick, well then, Elam can miraculously recover and retribution can still be visited on Durant and "The Swede."


Whoever thinks the Show, Hell on wheels is not good, needs their head examined! Great show! And I'm not just saying it because I think Anson Mount is hot, every episode was great. It was interesting how they changed things around. Keep doing well amc!


This was the most terrible finale I have ever watched in my life, everything about it didn't make any sense,...they have ruined another great show


I liked it. If in the same situation who wouldn't do what Bohannon did? Durant was placed back in power (I'm certain only temporarily) to continue the struggle between these two. Is Elam really dead? Life in wilderness was tough, so if he's gone he's gone. That's just the way it was folks. The Swede is in control. This just will not do. While Bohannon is no angel the Swede is even more of a bad guy and is now in control. I look forward to how this will play out. The one thing I won't do is over think it. Life is not fair and goes on even if it doesn't seem clear all the time. There's more to come, and I am already looking forward to next season.


this will be the last episode I ever watch. I have never been more disappointed with the season finale in all of my life. The writers of the show have totally let me down!


Terrible finale...


The finale was was big disapoointment they got train in town on time.

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