Leftridge: TV Time: Hell on Wheels Makes the Most of Racial Epithets, Violence & Whore Talk

If you’re easily offended by the gratuitous use of racial epithets, lots of hot whore talk, or violence perpetuated with frightful indifference, Hell on Wheels may not be the show for you. If, however, you’re cool with “injun,” and the occasional n-bomb, find nothing indecent about tattooed-faced ladies of the night sleeping with black men and you think it’s cool to watch dudes get shot in the mouth at close range (the smoke seeping out of his mouth as he lay dying was a particularly devilish touch), then climb aboard AMC’s gritty offering about burgeoning life in a brave new world.

Though Hell on Wheels is about the westward expansion of the Transcontinental railroad in 1865, that’s only a small part of the wide picture the program is meant to paint.

First and foremost, it’s the tale of Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount), a former Confederate soldier bad-ass heading out West to track down the Union soldiers who murdered his wife. Along the way, he demonstrates an awkward brand of flirting with the sexy British chick (Dominique McElligott ) whose husband was plotting a path through the Rockies, saves a recently freed slave (Common) from an unwarranted hanging and butts heads with both his boss (Colm Meany) and the railroad camp’s head of security (Christopher Heyerdahl), a terrifying man with a penchant for violence known simply as “the Swede.”
 

The Swede was two minutes away from killing Bohannon in the first few hours of the show.

The Swede stuck a fork in a man’s face in a recent episode.

Swede is way bad.
 

In addition to the Swede, Hell on Wheels features a cast of compelling recurring characters who provide a rich depth to the proceedings.

The kind-hearted preacher (Tom Noonan) who abandoned his daughter in a previous life. The former savage (Eddie Spears) who found Christ under the tutelage of the preacher. The McGinnes brothers (Ben Esler and Phil Burke), Irish lads hoping to find their fortune by showing slideshows for a pittance.

The greatest talent, however, is in the primary cast.
 

Common—the civic-minded rapper who is popular with white, backpacking crowds of hip-hop fans and real black guys alike—is a revelation as Elam, a former slave who finds himself as Bohannon’s “cut-boss,” in charge of the other black workers. He fills his screen-time with extraordinary passion and believability. (That’s why I was a little freaked out when, after a recent episode, they debuted one of his new music videos. Suddenly, there was the calculated, passionate Elam in a tuxedo, dancing and rapping at some swanky party. That was… weird, AMC.)

Colm Meany
is brilliant as Thomas “Doc” Durant, the egocentric, driven, utterly selfish tycoon in charge of the project. Best known for his roles on the Star Treks, (Next Generation and Deep Space Nine), I finally figured out why I thought I knew him: he could play Albert Brooks if they ever made the movie "Albert Brooks: Being Albert Brooks". Dead ringer. His character—who made his fortune by taking any available opportunity, ethically sound, or not—is an almost-perfect villain. He’s compelling, and when he appears on the screen, you find yourself torn between punching your television and staring intently.

The real star of the lot is Anson Adams Mount IV, a real life southerner (fun fact: and real descendent of a confederate soldier, too!) who plays the protagonist. Though his words are few, their impact is bountiful, and Mount—who’s been in a lot, but probably nothing you’ve seen—delivers it all with an Eastwood-like cold-bloodedness. He’s handsome, though not distractingly so, and has enough of an occasional smirk that he’s not completely boring.

It’ll be interesting to see where this role leads, as he’s so perfect as Bohannon, it’s almost impossible to see him playing anything other than a murderous, outlaw frontiersman with a heart of… well, at least copper (gold’s stretching it… dude shoots and kills a lot of people).
 

 In reality, and with all flowery, grand allusions aside, this is simply a good old-fashioned western, beautifully shot and with just the right amount of drama and violence. The Indians are terrifying– as they should be– people are drinking constantly at all hours of the day, and there’s enough racial tension between the Irish and the blacks and the blacks and the Americans that the viewer demands that things keep going.

Hell on Wheels was recently picked up for a second season, and we’re all lucky to be in on the ground floor.
 

And if you haven’t seen an episode yet? Just check AMC. That channel runs so many marathons of their original programming, it’s like you’d think they were proud of it, or something.
 

Sundays, AMC, 9pm CT. 
 

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18 Responses to Leftridge: TV Time: Hell on Wheels Makes the Most of Racial Epithets, Violence & Whore Talk

  1. kcfred says:

    Excellent
    I hope this is better than what happened to “Deadwood”. The first two seasons were great and then…WTF? David Milch once said, we knew what we were doing the first three seasons and then we made it up from there. No shit. I hope this show meets a better fate. Thanks for the tip.

  2. Orphan of the Road says:

    Guilty here
    Loved it from the first scene, getting your quarry when he comes into the confessional. Shades of Josey Wales!

    The Swede may be the most cunning and evil man ever. His ability to think creatively in his bookkeeping and his penchant for mayhem make his character a real scene chewer. “But I’m Norweigian”, said after Durant applies a verbal beatdown of The Swede was a perfect non-sequitur.

    I’m hooked.

  3. Donald Draper says:

    H.O.W.? NO…… MAD MEN?YES YES YES OH YES
    I watched this on one of those AMC back to back to back things they do, saw the first 3-4 episodes and it is a poor mans Deadwood. I stopped watching never went back…..ON THE OTHER HAND…….

    AMC’S Mad Men caught me like an spider to a fly….. I caught it when AMC started showing reruns on Sunday from the frist ep… WOW!!.What a great soap opera. I consider it a guilty pleasure becasue it is absolute rubbish, but for some reason I keep watching it.

    AMC is doing 3-5 episodes every Sunday morning leading up to when it comes back after skipping a year. I had heard everyone rave about Mad Men for a couple of years… then it was gone for a year… so i was glad I didnt watch… now with it coming back…and being able to watch it in huge pieces (3-4 eps at a time) it is a lot of fun. Imean who doesnt want to be Donald Draper?? Selling ads to the world….. drinking at noon…… and screwing every hot woman he desires, all while having perfect lil Betty back at home taking care of the perfect nuclear family……. although I hear trouble is brewing on the horizon for the Draper household.

  4. haw haw says:

    “If you

  5. Smartman says:

    Don Draper is Gay
    When REAL women wanna know, WHERE’S THE BEEF, they go lookin’ for Hank Moody not some poof-boy like Don Draper. Don Draper is so annoying that if I ever see Jon Hamm in public I’ll beat the shit out of him just because. Worst case is 30 days and some face time on TMZ.

  6. chuck says:

    I like ok it Lefty, but I loved Deadwood.
    kcfred, come on man, Deadwood was great right down to the last episode.

    smartman, Mad Men is worth the price of admission just to see the fuckin props. All the old toasters and coffee cups et al. I will admit smartman, Seth Bullock would whip fuckin knots on Don Drapers head.

    AMC’s “The Killing” is also a winner imo.

    I am completely out of the closet on the “The Good Wife”. Best writers, best show on TV.

    smartman will kill me on that one, but its better to step up and take my punishment like a man right now, than to have this come out later.

    I think I lost an earring.

  7. paulwilsonkc says:

    Chuck, I have new found respect for you, brother
    Here’s the earing. It rolled under the chair where I’m having my mani/pedi done.
    Want some of my crawdads?

  8. Orphan of the Road says:

    Pedicures!!!!!!
    Had my first one on my 53rd birthday. All those years of razor blades and acylic acid, who knew?

    Try having your prostate taken. Between chemo and hormone therapy I thought I was going to have my first period.

    Deadwood lost me in Season 3. Tim Olyphant has been great in Justified.

    Excuse me, had beans and now I’ve got the vapors…

  9. BigDub says:

    Chuck is Right
    “The Good Wife” just may be the best show going right now. Must watch TV for the wife and I.

    Watched a bit of “Hell on Wheels” and is definitely not for the weak of heart, which is a perfect fit for me. I’ll have to set the DVR for the next marathon session to get caught up.

  10. Super Dave says:

    Guess I need to peek at this show
    I have not seen it and to be honest this is first I have seen anyone say anything about Hell on Wheels.

    Timing is bad for me to see it unless I set the DVR which I hate to do since I never seem to watch what I record.

    I’m missing HOW because I.m over on Showtime checking out the hotties on Shamless, House of Lies and Californacation.

    Chuck ever sees these shows he won’t post for a week he be so in love with the hotties.

  11. DD says:

    roid rage is sad
    Don Draper is Gay
    Smartman 02:06:14 PM – Thu. Jan 12. 2012

    Don Draper is so annoying that if I ever see Jon Hamm in public I’ll beat the shit out of him just because. Worst case is 30 days and some face time on TMZ.
    ===========================================

    Whoa, sounds like smartman(dumbboy) has been doing some of glazer’s steroids and is ready to go all roid rage too.

    The funniest part even though I been watching the show, I couldnt tell you one actor’s name in the series, yet dumb boy knows all about them and TMZ too? whoa….. sounds like homo love….. sounds like dumb boy wants to do some Don Draper pounding and then do waht ever a hank moody. freekin homos… they are everywhere these days.

    He ydumb boy, have you ever heard of TOO MUCH INFORMATION?

  12. chuck says:

    House of Lies is funny. 🙂
    “Crash” was a great movie.

    Cheadle can carry a flick all by himself.

  13. expat says:

    are we really discussing soap operas
    Mad Men is a great show, it reminds me a lot of the work environment when I first started on Wall Street in the late 90s. John Hamm was in KC about six months ago I guess, my cousin met him and said he’s a really nice upstanding guy.

    Hell on Wheels will run out of story quickly, it was obvious after just a couple episodes.

  14. mark smith says:

    Chuck you are right
    Cheadle is probably the most under rated actor out there. I was surprised to see him take on a comedy series, but it was good. Luck, with Hoffman and Nolte might be another good new one.

  15. chuck says:

    Mark, your right, Luck is gonna kill…
    The trailers look great.

    Remember Hoffman in “Confidence”?

    Kinda like Brooks this year in “Drive”.

    High quality entertainment for an old man like me. 🙂

  16. Smartman says:

    The Good Chuck
    More power to ya. I avoid network TV like it’s the plague. Finding it hard to find anything on cable that is must see tv either. Writing is crap. Character arcs look like Laguna Seca. Don’t need to watch CSI to commit the perfect crime. Pig farms have always been the best place to dispose of a body. When it comes to entertainment tv the Chinese have the right idea. Shut that shit down, which they did, despite a rooting economic interest to maybe sell more tv and other electronics. They aren’t as dumb as we think. But if had the one child rule there would be no Glazer.

  17. Orphan of the Road says:

    Cheadle
    He was on the NBC comedy about the bus station, John Laraquette (SP)was the star. And he was in Picket Fences, not a straight comedy but pretty funny shit.

    One of the best IMHO

    chuck, The Good Wife? OK I watch too, sometimes.

  18. PB says:

    Cheadle
    Is great, but House of Lies blows. Also not feeling Hell On Wheels, but Luck definitely looks like it has some potential.

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