Hell on Wheels Review: Moving Forward

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After a beatdown, sometimes things just have to slow down.

While Louise Ellison and her narration were nowhere to be found in Hell on Wheels Season 4 Episode 4, the rest of the cast of characters continued to deal with the new changes to their favorite mud-soaked town. And that meant an hour with a few bursts of excitement but ultimately a pace that took its time (sometimes too much).

Clearly, Cullen isn't trying to take things lying down, although him getting picked up at the start of the hour reminded me of the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where the Dead Collector picks up a man who isn't dead yet. "You will be," the man says, but for Cullen? That time isn't yet.

The Kindness of Strangers - Hell on Wheels

It is interesting to see that rather than go after John Campbell and his lawmen, Cullen goes straight back to work. Maybe he calls the unfair fight "even" for his own smackdown in Hell on Wheels Season 4 Episode 3, but his priorities are to his family. He's not fueled with revenge (yet), and he's keen to do whatever he can to get the railroad moving again.

Unfortunately, that means skipping out on church and his wife, who seemed rather passive aggressive with Cullen's new attempts at life. She even brings up his past life, something he has tried to put far behind him. So at least he had good intentions to show up, but no work means no money means no food means he's not doing his job.

Mickey also was met with the swift and rough hand of the law after getting into a brawl in his own bar, all after he learned he was getting the bar taken from him. These so-called law abiding citizens seem to be making up their own rules as they go, right?

You'd think Durant would have helped Mickey out, especially when he too is on the wrong side of John.

Nah, he's interested in helping Eva, who still can't seem to figure out what she wants to do. But apparently she smells really bad, so at least he let her get a bath. And I know that her only vocation has pretty much been a prostitute, but if she's going to be wandering around town, could we at least get her to do something new? Or maybe the show is just taking its time with that.

Ruth still seems rather moody getting into a religious argument with Cullen's wife, and even scaring the kid into thinking he's going to go to hell. At this point, I'm disinterested in Ruth and her sermons, and I would have followed Naomi and walked right out.

I'm holding out that, maybe even if its unconventional for the time period, that we might get a female character that could be a gunslinger. A character who breaks the mold, or someone with the fire, passion and interesting qualities that Lily Bell first carried back in Hell on Wheels Season 1. Maybe when the next train arrives...

Certainly, Hell on Wheels continues to bring a fantastic scenery of its landscape whether its in the town or out. It never feels like a set, but rather the wide open frontier. The same could be said for a scene involving a horse chase with Cullen.

Using real horses, wide shots of the chase and providing that real sense of movement and danger, even if we know Cullen isn't really in danger, adds that authenticity to the series. Plus there's just something about using real versus computer generated graphics.

I'm still waiting for Elam to pop up, but perhaps he truly is dead? I know there's been whispers that Common would return as the character, but perhaps in a flashback scene or a mirage for Cullen? Or maybe his grand return is right around the corner.

And it looks like we'll be getting to follow the Swede's storyline in the Mormon camp a little bit longer. Christopher Heyerdahl is a master with the character he brings to life in that energetic and creepy way, but isn't he much better facing off with Cullen? I'm not sure I really care about a trial, even if it brings in Brigham Young.

Though, like with most of the events in the hour, there seems to be a transition of sorts, that continuing buildup that, even if it does take time, has refreshed itself from Hell on Wheels Season 3 and is hopefully headed towards some major and exciting payoff.

Should Mickey have taken John's offer?


Editor Rating: 3.5 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 (6 Votes)

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


So I'm glad I'm not the only who wishes for another unconventional female lead. I understand in good dramas character do get killed off but I think L.Bell got killed off too soon. It would have been nice to see her work on the railroad a bit before meeting her end. Would have loved to see her "put it to Durant" a bit before dying. Bohannon is a great lead and fun to watch that is why it is frustrating to see him stuck with the Mormon wife as the whole scenario does not really fit. Heck, he never even visited the whores and never made a move on Lily so hard to believe he'd take advantage of a Mormon virgin.Hopefully the writers find a sensible way to undo that union. Being stuck with a child bride takes a little of the bad out of Bohannon's badass-ness. This is a western and if I wanted to see men struggle with their families I'd tune into Parenthood. They do such an awesome job on the scenery and sets I won't give up yet, Ruth is starting to get a lil too weird, not sure why they have her headed that way and it would be nice now to see Elam return. I wanna like the new season, but whereas in season 2 at the end of the episodes I was like-cool. Now I'm like, ok, oh well, maybe next episode things will get fixed. It used to be sooo good. Come on AMC


This show basically breaks down to bohannon is a great lead character, Durant is a really good friend/foe, and nearly everything else is acceptable to boring. Ruth is really boring, I'm really sick of the black people singing, and it'd be nice if something interesting would happen with Cullen's wife. The new government people so far are basically just a nondescript band of bad guys and the leader seems like he could do some really bad things but so far he hasn't really done anything except show that he will basically always get his way. I don't think I'd wanna see Elam come back if it'd just be more constant drama with Eva, and it's obvious the swede is going to get out of the Mormon fort and eventually come try to kill bohannon, next week with Brigham young looks pretty boring, I dunno.


I really liked it. The writers are trying to give us more than another seen-before action-packed shootout at the ok corral. I get what you are saying about Ruth but we know the church was a strong pivotal character during these times. It has to be there. Everyone was expected to attend church and the whole town answered the call of the church bell Sunday morning. Under one roof were the leaders--religious, corporate and government along with the desperate and poor laypeople they try to lead, control, set a bad example to, oppress and benefit from. Perhaps what is missing is to feel the depth of the personal moral conflicts the people constantly had.


I have to agree with Kevin.....very slow.Mickey had to sell to get out of jail. You can't do anything behind bars.I am still waiting for some action from Cullen. Its almost like watching paint dry sometimes....BTW...where is Elam or is he dead???

@ Ronn Mead

Elam was such a big part of the story line. He has to return. This new twist to the storyline is boring.

@ J

I think the kinks in the new plot twists can be fixed but they've already filmed stuff. If the writers leave the end of season 4 with Cullen stilled married, Elam in limbo (or returning with an indian wife), Ruth becoming a harpie, Louise still narrating, it will be a sad day in Cheyenne.


Pretty terrible episode, none of the plotlines were very interesting, and after two episodes I am already tired of Ruth. She doesn't need this much airtime, she isn't a pivotal character, never has been.

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