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Any "Hell on Wheels" watchers?
http://www.heinleinsociety.org/thsnexus/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=1302
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Author:  JamesGifford [ Tue Aug 21, 2012 9:24 am ]
Post subject:  Any "Hell on Wheels" watchers?

I watched the first season of "Hell on Wheels" with decreasing interest and left off with a profound 'meh.' After watching the first two episodes of the new season, I'm done. What a strangely misguided show.

They have great actors... who are given very little to do except populate thinly drawn characters. They have some potentially compelling characters... who have a limited range of action and only the most constricted interaction with others. They have the first fresh take on a western setting in decades... and handle it with a weird mix of absolute authenticity and tee-vee silliness. And they have the possibility of many, many fresh stories... but stay with a repetitive cycle of predictable, erratically written vignettes.

Anson Mount is not one of the great actors - he's a wooden parody of The Man With No Name, reduced in most episodes (much like Tim Olyphant was in the third season of "Deadwood") to fierce grimaces and threatening stances. (Often while pig-filthy and disgusting to look at.)

I can't bring to mind a single episode that told a clear, progressing story. Things tend to happen in the in-betweens... it's as if the eps were shot at two hours and butchered down to an hour, leaving the story, action and continuity somewhere on the cutting room floor. Some sequences and episodes are positively surreal, especially when they back them with a strange modern/Western/R&B/rock score.

The overall setting of a mobile town moving with the westward march of the railroad has faded into the background as far as a sitcom father's job - it's just a vague backdrop and we haven't seen so much as a working crew for several episodes.

And then we have the tropes, too many to list. The steely-eyed Man with a Past. The evil, bloated capitalist pig boss. The Damsel who is Stronger Than She Looks. Even, gawdelpus, the Hooker with a Heart of Gold. Add in that Government Is Irredeemably Evil - everyone in Washington is corrupt, vindictive or both. The Union troops are stormtroopers. But of course... the ex-Confederates are all True Gen'l'men at heart and the South was HORRIBLY Oppressed. And they can't seem to make up their minds whether the natives are bloodthirsty savages or noble red men (it sometimes changes in the midst of a conversation).

If the story every made sense, over an episode, an arc, or a season, I could overlook a lot of the faults. But the show is such a confused mess of elements, coming from nowhere, going nowhere and not doing much while it's where it's at, that I can't bother with it any more. I'm just puzzled that such a big budget operation with a vast stockpile of fresh material could go so pointlessly wrong.

Author:  DanHenderson [ Wed Aug 22, 2012 10:51 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Any "Hell on Wheels" watchers?

I've been watching it and enjoying it (perhaps marginally) more than you, but I can't fault any of your specific criticisms. When you talked about its potential as the first really good Western in decades, it made me think of my favorite Western movie of all time, 2005's The Proposition, with Ray Winstone and Guy Pearce. I found it a wonderfully gritty and engaging Western, even though the West they're talking about is in Australia and the Injuns are Aborigines. The scene where a stagecoach pulled by four camels rolls through town is startling.

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