Hell on Wheels Review: Who Didn't Survive?
With Tony Gayton and Tom Brady (no, not the football superstar) writing "Purged Away With Blood" and Joe Gayton directing, this Hell on Wheels episode was clearly meant to be a pivotal turning point on Season 2.
With the show's creators at the helm, everything had to be great, right? Sort of. In plenty of respects, the sixth episode did do a lot well.
Tom Noonan gave an outstanding performance as the Reverend. Noonan has always done a solid job portraying the man through his drunk tirades, his crazy beheadings and general outlandish actions, despite the character teetering around in the background.
The episode put him front and center, eliminating his alcohol abuse, cranking up the crazy and revealing a menacingly determined character that was supremely underestimated. Whether he's glaring at Bohannon or breaking down in front of his daughter, Noonan is top notch.
Sadly, his death (was it the only way to stop him?) means that we won't be seeing his stock of manifesto madness anymore, but his swan song was a commanding one.
And I enjoyed that for a show steeped within history, we got references to abolitionist John Brown and John Wilkes Booth. It not only reminds us of the era we're watching, but the significance of men willing to spill blood for the cause.
Of course, with a man like Bohannon, whose skill with the gun has given him many a death count, he had to add one more: the death of his friend, Doc.
That final moment between him and Doc was also a powerful portion of the hour, illuminating the uncomfortable situation for the gunslinger and the somber choice to pull the trigger. Fantastic acting from Anson Mount, yet again, to add another layer to the developed character.
Even the general stand off between Bohannon and Elam versus the Reverend and his Sioux soldiers was tense laden with some great low lighting to add to the grim outlook. Of course, the setting is always picturesque on this show, from the sprawling landscape to the filthy town itself.
So why did the episode also leave me with some head scratchers? For some great moments, some aspects just didn't make sense to me.
Why was Eva chosen to go with Durant? Was she the only one in the entire town to give him comfort or just one of the main characters placed in the situation so she could be in harms way to affect Common's decision? And what was she saying when she was stabbing that one Sioux warrior?
Also, Since when has Lily overly cared for Durant? I know she's been sleeping with him (gross) and maybe she's found a way to become emotionally attached, but I thought it was about manipulation not compassion? You'd think there was a true love story between him with the way she sat by his bedside.
And how has Durant not died? He seemed wounded, but not on his deathbed. Surely that much time should have been crucial?
In addition, why was the Reverend dilemma started and wrapped up in one episode? Sometimes I wish that significant storylines like that span a few episodes, not necessarily dragged out mind you, but explored further.
Similarly, I know the episode was a set up for a future showdown with the Swede, an inevitable confrontation with the Sioux and characters heading down different paths, but I feel like we've been setting things up for a while now. It's time to start taking it all and moving forward. I know things happen each episode, obviously, but I keep waiting for it to be continued and expounded upon.
All the ingredients are there, now it's time to mix them together and turn them into something larger.
The episode may have been a mixed bag with first rate performances and story decisions that left me puzzled, but I'm hoping that for the final stretch of episodes, Hell on Wheels finds one track and rides it brilliantly to the end. The outcome should be an explosive one.
What did you think of the episode? Love it? Hate it? Shocked by the deaths? Excited for what's to come? Sound off below!
Hell on Wheels: "Purged Away With Blood"
Sean McKenna is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.