The Wild West lives again on the AMC original series, “Hell on Wheels,” now on Netflix. The show’s title made me say, “Huh?”, but I’m so glad I checked it out anyway.
The show takes place at the tail end of the Civil War. There’s a race to be the first finished railroad to link East to West, and the transcontinental railroad aims to win it. The men and women following the railroad west live in a mobile town called “Hell on Wheels.”
Our main characters are Southerner Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount ) and Elam Ferguson (Common), a newly emancipated slave born of a white master and slave mother. The two wouldn’t dream of being friends, but events tie them together — chief among them being Bohannon’s secret mission to avenge the murder of his wife by picking off the perpetrators.
Other show principals include Thomas “Doc” Durant (Colm Meaney), the railroad’s driving force; Lily Bell (Dominique McElligott), a city girl grappling with the perils of the West; and The Swede (Christopher Heyerdahl), a unique sort of lawman who is one of the best-written characters in the series; Eva (Robin McLeavy), a prostitute whose face was tattooed during capture by Native Americans; Rev. Cole (Tom Noonan); the brothers McGinnes (Ben Esler and Philip Burke), two entrepreneurs from Ireland; and Joseph Black Moon (Eddie Spears), the converted and baptized son of a local tribe’s chief.
Bohannon may be a clichéd anti-hero type on paper, but Mount makes his gloomy, brooding nature interesting enough, with thanks, too, to the colorful supporting cast. With a name like Anson Mount, it would seem the actor was born to play this role. In fact, according to an AMC network Q&A, Mount’s great-great-great-grandfather was a Confederate cavalry colonel.
It’s safe to say that I’m a fan!
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