Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What I'm Watching: Hell on Wheels (Season Premiere)

Hell on Wheels: Season 5, Episode 1 “Chinatown” (B-)

I nearly missed the premiere of this show since I didn't even remember that it was coming back, let alone for a final season that's actually going to be spread over the course of two summers. I've always enjoyed this show, though I'm startled by how few original series players are still on the show, with Dominique McElligott, Common, Robin McLeavy, Tom Noonan, Ben Esler, Phil Burke, and Eddie Spears all gone now (though I think that the two of those who are still living may indeed be back later this season). Their absences make the reunion of the Swede and Cullen at the end of the episode all the more fantastic since, after so much time spent being adversaries, they might actually end up being the best of allies. The rest of the episode, on the other hand, didn't exactly move at an exciting pace. The introduction of Chinese immigrants as vital participants in the railroad building process shifts the focus away from other types of outsiders previously involved in the industry and one again reasserts a superior position from which the white men can lord over their underlings and make them feel as if they are lucky to be employed for a fraction of what they would pay someone with a different skin color. Cullen's opening fantasy seemed far too peaceful to be true, and it looks like he's paid a steep price for the path he's taken in terms of his family's well-being. I'm eager to witness his latest competition with lifelong foe Durant and to see who manages to make it across the country first.

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