Hell on Wheels Season Two Recap

A column article, Shot For Shot by: Amanda Darling

Creators: Joe Gayton, Tony Gayton, John Wirth

Let's recap the second season of what is currently one of my favorite television shows, Hell on Wheels. Back over yonder in the good ole days of mischief and malarkey, with what seems to be a whole lot of whiskey and a whole lot of dirty railroad workers in need of soap. Hell on Wheels is a show that makes you want to play Red Dead Redemption or Call of Duty: Juarez. I can't say I've watched a show better at depicting the western era as authentically as this one. It's always a good thing to see a perspective of history that actually would make sense with what you learned in school, but who even cares about any of that, really! The show is a tussle of conflicting people from different cultures working together to continue to build the railroad through the Rockies. Workers are going to become tired, battles will lead to deaths, and answers will be answered only to inspire more questions.

With the new season starting in just a couple of weeks, I’ve got a hanker’n like crazy to dive back into the gun slinging animosity. AMC is great about producing shows that are exhilarating enough to keep people tuning in every week. They are able to capture the texture of the scenery with their grimy filters and the cultural music. They introduce new likable characters that provide insight into how the community was sustaining itself during that period, and the research that they obviously put into the writing is outstanding. Attention is paid to the tiniest of details that you might not notice except that it truly is an on-the-edge-of-your-seat-type show. It puts a good taste in my mouth about the upcoming third season. All of our favorite characters, whether that’s Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount), the McGinnes brothers, Sean (Ben Esler) and Mickey (Phil Burke), or the Swede (Christopher Heyerdahl), have stories that are enticing enough to keep your interest (as if the overarching storyline wouldn’t be enough).

I love shows where I think I missed something, or even a whole season practically, because everything has changed since the last time we tuned in. Bohannon started the Second Season off as a bad man robbing trains in a gang, bumping into Ferguson (Common) who has been working for Thomas Durant (Colm Meaney). Their constant squabbling partnership, angling to be top dog is really no contest. Ferguson has a motive to do Cullen's job, but is constantly in the need of help by him in the end.

Come on though, Bohannon's the lead! Of course he is the hero! Who, however, doesn't get the girl.

Lily Bell (Dominique McElligott) and Thomas become more acquainted in their travels finishing the railroad, even though she is obviously diggin’ Bohannon. And the fact that I just watched Sean and Mickey McGinnes beat up the butcher with a sledgehammer and feed him to the pigs just makes me even more curious why they keep making remarks about "what happened last time in Boston." It was brutal though. I'll admit that I thoroughly enjoy the realism about all of the killing that would actually happen back then. It was your best day ever to walk around without getting your head blown off or your scalp peeled. The violence though, is sometimes indulgent. 

Miss Ruth (Kasha Kropinski) begins to disappoint her father Reverend Cole (Tom Noonan) with her unholy decision to fornicate with Psalms (Dohn Norwood) The Reverend becomes an even more belligerent drunk and loses his church. With the assistance of his new friend Swede, the Reverend gets the help and support his drowning conscious needed to create havoc and destruction. Guns imported by the Swede aided in their war with the railroad. They hijacked the train going to Chicago with pregnant Eva (Robin McLeavy), wounded Durant, and Cullen’s friend Doc Whitehead (Grainger Hines) aboard.

Psalms ends up stabbing Reverend Cole in the gut - killing him!

The Swede gets arrested for conspiring with Reverend Cole, go figure. He ends up being a sneaky Swede and sabotages a steam-powered winch used to build the bridge for the railroad, he goes around strangling Lily, pissing Cullen off, and then - believe it or not! - that sneaky Swede ends up escaping when Bohannon goes after him! It's always conflicting to me when there is an extremely likable personality in a character, but they end up being horrible villains down the railroad. Still, I like The Swede, but it looks like Cullen will possibly have a new enemy in the upcoming season.

Alas, even the hero has to struggle with themselves every once in a while. Which is exactly what happened in episode 7: "The White Spirit." It's one of the best episodes of the season for showing Bohannon's soft side, so to speak. The stress takes its toll on him to the point where he questions why he's even there. Durant was on his way to Chicago with his wife, but he has this way of snapping out of his head just in time. He confronts Lily about having the choice to leave, and choosing not to.

Bohannon is The Guy, though, and even after he tries to walk away from it all, he always finds a reason to stick around. Lily, being one of them. She states to him that she is happy that he decides to stay, and finally he and Lily Bell find themselves in need of each other’s company when she comes to his room. Emotion and connection is definitely there. You actually see Cullen smile.

A goofy genuine smile.

And that's when you start feeling the joy yourself.

It's the little things, people. The little things.

In other news, The McGinnes brothers are constantly striving to expand their franchise. They are your typical marketing salesmen, but Sean has another agenda on his mind - Ruth. She tells him that it is because of their different religions that they cannot pursue a relationship, so he feels he should change his religion in hopes of having a shot. Only instead, she shuns him. Speaking of being shot down - Eva informs her husband Mr. Toole (Duncan Ollerenshaw) that she’s with child, and that it is indeed Mr. Ferguson’s. In my opinion he took it fairly well.

At first.

Until, after seeing Eva with Elam, he ends up killing himself in front of her. 

From the reviews I’ve read about how the ratings went down drastically for the second season, I have high hopes for the third. Sometimes it takes a season to slow things down to keep the story stronger. In my opinion, the Second Season of Hell on Wheels touched on a lot of questions about the characters that I was asking myself from the First Season. I'm not worried about the ratings, and I don't think they should be either. AMC and all of the characters will be there waiting for us on August 10th for the 2-hour premiere, with the relentless killing, the ridiculously catchy theme song, and one hell of a storyline to keep your spurs shaking with anticipation.

Amanda Darling is a surprise writer and interview transcriptionist for Comics Bulletin at night because of her new acquired taste for coffee. She lives on a farm with her family and takes too many pictures of animals. She is “kind of” in the middle of writing twelve separate unfinished books. She wants to be a comedian. That was the joke. Amanda can be found on Twitter at @mandascaresme

Community Discussion