HELL ON WHEELS “Immortal Mathematics” Season 1 Episode 2 – Cullen spends much of this episode in handcuffs, Durant travels to the sight of his surveyors’ massacre and dictates a newspaperarticle, Lily Bell is on the run with a bloody wound and a new character called the Swede is introduced.
There are a few problems with Hell On Wheels. From a technical viewpoint, despite taking place in some of the most beautiful regions in America, it’s not very aesthetically appealing: the cinematography is unexciting and fails to play with the beauty which made Sergio Leone, John Ford and Howard Hawks masters of the genre. The editing, meanwhile, is the typical jerky jumpy type which mars much of television in assuming that audience suffers from severe ADD and needs the screen to be physically moving and cutting in order to mask a lull in forward momentum of a story.
But there are narrative problems. Perhaps none so insulting as the way the Native Americans are portrayed. Hollywood does not have the greatest track record when it comes to portraying any race other than Caucasians, but the Native Americans have been particularly maligned. You’d have hoped that after hundreds of years of genocide, followed by a hundred years of racism on film, that now in the 21st century we could get a look at the American Indian without a prejudice slant. But holy cow, this episode was really racist. From lines like “There was a time when you loved the taste of blood” to “You better find her before I do” there’s just no getting around the laziness of the racism. It’s just bad characterization to have the Natives portrayed as one dimensional villains. Nobody likes a poorly sketched villain. Read More...