Hell on Wheels Season Finale Review: A Time To KillSean McKenna at .
Hell On Wheels has been an enjoyable ride throughout season one, despite certain episodes feeling disconnected or plot lines that were introduced and then rather quickly wrapped up before jumping on to the next. Ultimately, it's been the interesting and entertaining cast of characters that have kept this show going forward by digging deeper into their pasts and exploring the choices that each makes on their particular journeys.
Of course, Cullen Bohannon is the center around which all the others seem to rotate and has been consistently fantastic, whether he's been leading the railroad construction, sweet talking with Lily Bell or pointing a gun and shooting without a blinking eye. He drives the scenes towards the action and Anson Mount (who embodies Bohannon to perfection) delivers emotion and dialogue, making the character more three-dimensional than what his revenge-focused goal initially portrayed him to be.
And while Bohannon has grown further away from his own darkness while at the Hell on Wheels camp, the return of Sergeant Harper snapped him back to his killing thought process. The coldness in his eyes and the determination to get justice for his murdered wife and son became the only thing on his mind and anyone, including Sean McGinnes or The Swede, would not get in his way. Even when Harper tried to plead his case, Bohannon just wouldn't hear it.
I loved Bohannon storming around the camp on his mission, gun drawn, and ready to serve Harper a bullet. Those moments of the episode were the most exciting and certainly tension-filled, especially when Bohannon was running to catch Harper. It was essentially the anticipatory moments of a conclusion the viewer and Bohannon had been waiting for since the start.
I knew there was no way that Sergeant Harper would actually be the Sergeant that was at Meridian, mostly because that would be way too simple, but also because ending Bohannon's revenge journey in season one would eliminate a lot of what drives him as a character for now. Maybe down the road other things might push him in a different direction, but it's wanting to serve vengeance that is his focus. I'm sure that killing an innocent man will weigh on his conscience, though, too.
Interestingly enough, my other favorite character, The Swede, might be on his own journey of revenge when season two rolls around. Not only was he tarred and feathered out of town, (I'm not sure what made Mickey and Sean choose that form of punishment) but he sees Bohannon as the cause of all the disruptions and problems in the camp and for him as well. In addition to his fascination with Bohannon, I have a feeling he is going to continue to hunt for him until one of them is dead. I'm sure The Swede will have plenty more immoral mathematics when the time comes.
Like Mount, Christopher Heyerdahl has created a fascinating character. As the antagonist for Bohannon and pretty much everyone, The Swede can be creepy, menacing, calculating, manipulative, fearful... a wide variety of traits that make him entertaining to watch. Even if he was run out of town, there's no way he'll let Bohannon or even the McGinnes brothers simply go.
Unfortunately, Elam Ferguson's final scenes of the episode involved relationship problems and the continued presence of Mr. Toole (really, why is he even back?) I know his discussions with Eva served to bring some light on to his statements about "property," but they felt forced and sudden. I'm more curious to see how his new position with Durant will make him in the future rather than his connection with Eva. He's definitely gotten better with his gun.
Additionally, Lily Bell and Durant were caught up in their own relationship drama in that Durant wants her but can't have her. Also, Lily bringing up wanting to stick with the railroad didn't feel like anything new. Hadn't she already said that before? I hope Durant doesn't continue to be blinded by his desires to be with her. And does he like her because she is so independent and smart or does the fact that she's the only woman who's not a prostitute make her the only viable option?
I'd be interested to see what would happen if another woman of social standing showed up.
I was pleased that Lily and Bohannon didn't end the episode and season in some long cliched embrace. There may be feelings of something between them, but I'm not sure Bohannon's love for his family or his focus on revenge will make those sparks into anything more. Great look between the two from afar gives thoughts as to what if, but didn't force the issue.
Overall, "God of Chaos" didn't end with the same bang that the show first started out with, but it left the door wide open for plenty of strong possibilities for the future. Time will tell if it can find a certain consistency in its story telling and focus on a season long plot theme or structure, but again, it's the characters that keep me coming back for more. Here's to seeing where those characters are headed when Hell On Wheels returns for season two!
What did you think of the finale? What did you think of the season as a whole? Where is the show headed? Will Cullen ever find revenge? As always, sound off below.
Sean McKenna was a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. He retired in May of 2017. Follow him on Twitter.