21
Nov
2011
Hell on Wheels: Season 1, Episode 3
A New Birth of Freedom
Alex
The trajectory of Hell on Wheels is starting to show its hand in this week's episode. They're filling out their bench of side characters with some very interesting individuals. I'm excited to start digging into their back-stories and understand why and how each one of them chose to come out to the uncivilized Middle America.

Throughout the episode the use of music and monologues to set the tone is very well done. The music in the opening of the episode was complimented with giving us a look into the other men Bohannon killed on his way to revenging his wife. While I certainly would have preferred to see him kill them in more detail than just flashbacks, it is nice to feel like there is an end in sight for Bohannon. The real question then becomes will he feel fulfilled when the deed is done. I'm guessing only slightly.

The monologues feel like they chew on just enough scenery to make them fit into the show. The use of stunning images while they lay on the monologues thick and heavy makes the entire scene a wonder to behold. Many of these monologues were delivered by Durant who is still dazzling in every scene he takes part in. We even learned that he might have a heart and feelings! Or he may just get drunk and manipulate people. Either way, this is the sort of depth f of character a new show needs to develop to take an audience from mildly intrigued into full-blown fans, and Hell on Wheels seems to be doing that necessary work, whether or not it is always successful.

The real undercurrent of the show though is the race relations. Whether it's the newly freed slaves trying to prove their equality to the white man, or a conflicted Native American who is becoming disgusted by his past actions and the actions of his brothers, this is what will really push the show forward. At times, including tonight, it seems like Hell on Wheels is afraid to really delve into the issue of Reconstruction Era race relations in a realistic and honest way. If the show keeps tiptoeing around its true central issue, there might be trouble up ahead. For now, though, Hell on Wheels seems like a show that is finding its way, and taking its time getting there. I'm not minding being along for the ride, even if it is a little bumpy in this early going.

Grade: B
Tags: Hell on Wheels
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