Seitz: Hell on Wheels’ Second Season Continues to Show Promise When It’s Not Killing Time

Hell on Wheels, which returns Sunday, August 12 (AMC, 9 p.m. Eastern), is currently No. 1 on my list of Not Quite There shows, ahead of The Borgias, Episodes, Boss, and Scandal. I'm drawn to westerns that attempt to do something — anything — fresh. This drama from Joe and Tony Gayton about the building of the transcontinental railroad fits the bill, or tries to. Most critics instantly wrote it off as a Deadwood wannabe, and not without reason. But as the debut season unreeled, Hell on Wheels started to find its own intriguing if still-unsteady voice. I dug the hippie western incongruity of quasi-mythic posturing, modern pop songs, and unabashedly emotional montages (always any episode's dramatic and aesthetic high point). That the show sometimes seemed to be simultaneously channeling The Outlaw Josey Wales, Buck and the Preacher, Dead Man, and The Last Movie was, for me, at least, more fascinating than annoying. And the characters deepened from week to week, revealing shadings I didn't expect. Read More...


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