Alright, Hell On Wheels, here we go. Tonight’s episode “Revelations” was a good one, not as good as my favorite episode “Bread and Circuses” but it had elements that I enjoyed in so far as the scope of the show. That being said, I’d rather that this episode was called “FRIENDSHIP!” but I suppose that’s a little strong. What this episode excelled at was the process of trimming the fat (particularly the majority of major assh*les that occupy the camp) that I believed Hell On Wheels got a little strong on in the first episodes.
So after tonight, Hell On Wheels will be gone from the airwaves for three weeks, then come back, guns a-blazin’, for its three concluding episodes, which I am hoping to Christ nobody in AMC’s promotional department tries to get away with referring to as a “trilogy.” For a show that gave a rat’s ass about narrative momentum, this would qualify as unfortunate. As it is, it makes “Revelations” a sort of holiday, year’s-end episode by default.
After last week we know that Elam is some major trouble. The Irish grumpus Mr. Toole finally had it up to here with Elam (substantial reasons not needed) and set out to hang him. Of course, Cullen comes in to save Elam, and shooting some hapless fellow in the head while doing it. Cullen and Elam set out for the wilderness– wait, where are they going?– and the Swede gives Mr. Toole permission to track them and kill them, or bring them back.
Sure, the same could be said for Bohannon and his revenge focused mind, but he, and the others, have slowly grown into something more. They’ve become characters with a certain depth and as viewers we get to see further glimpses into their lives and the little things that make them tick. Of course, we may not like certain characters, things that they say, or things that they do, but the bottom line is that Hell on Wheels is character invested.
Watch Hell on Wheels – Revelations Online
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Hell on Wheels S01E07: Revelations
Thanks in part to the self-amused acting and the Wal-Mart-photo-department-backdrop quality of the plantation house itself, the scene manages to be less subtle and sophisticated in its take on the relationship between slave and slaveholder than the one in Mandingo where Massa James Mason, as a recommended cure for rheumatism, sits in his favorite chair pressing his bare feet into the tummy of a black child lying on the floor, who is surreptitiously stealing sips from the glass of wine he keeps laying near his head.
The other friendship side was the terrific growth of Doc and Lily’s relationship. Doc reminds me a lot of Buddy Garrity from Friday Night Lights. At first, we are somewhat turned off by both’s obsessive nature, but later we are charmed by their vunerability. Buddy had football, Doc has money. While Buddy was spurred into righteousness by Coach Taylor, I expect that Lily will act as Doc’s influential angel. Not in the sense of complete righteousness (like switching from Dillon to East Dillon) but in the sense of success. Lily had a great episode, and not just because she slapped a beeyotch, but because she’s finally stepping into more secure roles– be it friend of Doc, possible lover of Doc, independent woman, rail road tycoon. Of course, I never disliked Lily and I’ve thought that she was the most consistant character of the season.
There’s also a shootout in the woods after Irish Steve the Drunk, who I’m very happy to say will be expostulating no more on this particular stage, and his fellow would-be badasses, make the lethal mistake of catching up with Bohannon and Common.
One of the best moments of “Revelations” was Bohannon opening up at the campfire. Yes, there was a little bit of liquid courage perhaps making it easier, but there was a quiet yet sincere understanding of what has turned him so cold, so alone, and so vengeful. He’s not only seeking to kill for the murder of his wife, but also the death of his son.
Yet, that hint of past home life extended further to reveal that Bohannon was raised by a slave, Bethel, after his mother died. Even so, it still made him pissed off about paying his slaves for their services. It took that tragic and horrible event, seeing Bethel wrapped around his son, protecting him and burned together, to truly open his eyes. It really is funny how the world works sometimes.
That’s not all, though: the black retainer who’d raised him had held the boy in his last moments, as if trying to shield his body from the flames. Bohannon admits now that he hadn’t understood when his wife persuaded him to free his slaves before the war–it “pissed me off,” he says, but “Mary had a way of talking me into things”–but that he experienced an epiphany as he stared at what was left of his white son and his black protector. “You couldn’t really tell where one ended and one began,” all black and ashy and fused together the way they were, almost as if skin color don’t rightly matter. The punch line: “I just remember standin’ there, and I’m thinkin’ to myself, God’s got a funny way of teaching you things.” (There’s a true grace note at the very end of the scene, when Bohannon looks at the impassive, poker-faced Common and says, “I wouldn’t give a shit if I was you, either.”)
And despite the Swede not taking any real action of his own, he creeps me out in a wonderful way. From his sing song voice that attempts to come across as pleasant, but we know it’s not, to the inflection change into a nasty snarl makes him a true character to watch out for. When he quickly stabbed Mr. Toole with that fork, I was ready for him to kill him with it. Yet, what’s great is the Swede is calculating and clearly manipulative. I just hope that there’s more of an episode devoted to him and a larger confrontation with Bohannon. I’m sure the Swede will want to deal with him after he finds out all of the people who were recently killed.
Still, to me, this was the first episode that mostly looked like a movie, and I think the reviewer is stretching things to go for easy laughs or something. Tonight was actually the first night where I remembered the name Elam, because of the first scene (it doubled the use of it for the whole season I think) and the reviewer makes a big deal about calling the guy Common all of a sudden? And by the way, Common did a great job in this episode. I agree the show’s set up several interesting storylines and finally seems to be paying some of them off and while we may have wandered a bit in getting to some of them at least the table-setting had some purpose and established pretty well the world of HoW.
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