May 13, 2012

Filthy Review - Hell on Wheels: Season 1

Hell on Wheels: Season 1 (2011)

Review by Jude Felton

When it comes to the best in television shows I firmly believe that the majestic Game of Thrones rules the roost. However, that show is on HBO which is a premium channel that requires a subscription in order to watch it, and that price is well worth it in my humble opinion. However, if paying a subscription isn’t your thing you could do a lot worse than to check out some of the shows on AMC.

Now, I don’t watch every show that AMC produce, having  never watched Mad Men and only caught the odd episode of Breaking Bad, which from what I saw looks very good indeed, but I have been blessed to have followed a couple from start to finish. At the time of writing this Season 2 of The Walking Dead has completed its run, and has already established itself as a class act. Based on the comic book of the same name, it has stayed true to its source whilst still gaining its own identity by not following the original story religiously.

The other show, which is currently in the midst of Season 2, is the Seattle based series The Killing. Once again, this is a terrific show and as in the case of The Walking Dead has stepped up to produce a superior second season. Based on the Danish show Forbrydelsen it has turned into a well-crafted and quite cerebral show. AMC have really been on the ball of late, and they aren’t finished yet.

A show that went a little under the radar to some was the gritty Hell on Wheels, which is a down and dirty Western that pulls no punches and kept me coming back for more. Well, season 1 has come and gone from the airwaves, however it will return for season 2 I am happy to say, but fear ye not as you now get the chance to check out the entire first season on this terrific Blu-ray release.

Hang on though, I am four paragraphs in and I have yet to tell you anything about the show, aside from it being a Western. Well ok then, here we go. First off, this isn’t your Cowboys and Indians, good guys where white kind of Western. Instead it is more akin to something along the lines of Clint Eastwood’s The Unforgiven. The main thrust of the show, which does have many strands as you might expect, follows Cullen Bohannon who is a former Confederate soldier. He is out looking for vengeance, and his quest leads to him to take up work on the railroad that is being constructed to take the good folk of the USA west.

The Hell on Wheels of the title is the town that ups root and moves with the progress of the railroad, taking along with it a wild group of characters. Aside from the main theme of vengeance, there are many other themes contained within the 10 episodes that go together to make up this season. The Native Americans, Black Slavery, political corruption, religion and immigration are just a few of them, and they all melt together in this fascinating tale set during a time of great change and violence in this nation.

Where would a great show be without a great cast? Who knows, but there is no need to worry about that with Hell on Wheels, as the creators have assembled a cast of familiar and not-so familiar faces. Colm Meaney, Common, Tom Noonan, Anson Mount (as Cullen), Dominique McElligott and Christopher Heyerdahl, who plays the terrific character named The Swede, are just a few of the cast, all of whom are absolutely fantastic in their respective roles.

The show was filmed in Canada, and it looks fantastic, the production values being most impressive and the blood, dirt and grime all looks terrific in Hi-Def. It is a violent show, surprisingly so in places, and some of the language might surprise one of two viewers. But this is a raw and gritty show about a violent time, so where would the point be in softening it up?

Included on the Blu-ray release, which comes on 3 discs, are all 10 episodes, Recreating the Past: The Making of Hell on Wheels, Crashing a Train: From Concept to Camera, a total of 24 featurettes and some Behind the Scenes footage, all of which make it a packed release.

I was already a fan of this terrific show, and revisiting it I found myself liking it even more. It may not be quite up there with Game of Thrones but it is still an excellent show, and I highly recommend you grab a copy of this season one release.

Hell on Wheels: Season 1 is released on Blu-ray and DVD on May 15th by Entertainment One.

No comments: