For most of you who don't know, Hell on Wheels takes place a few years after the end of the Civil War during the construction of the Continental Railroad. The story follows ex-Confederate Soldier Cullen Bohannon as he travels west with the railroad to track down a band of Union Soldiers responsible for killing his wife. As a History buff who happens to love the old west I had very high expectations for this show... And man did it deliver. The costuming, set design, and acting is phenomenal and whoever is in charge of the art department is doing a great job.
Despite nailing the time period the show also throws you immediately into the plot with the opening sequence having a man shot in a church by the main character. This really helps the audience become interested in the show (if you're into guns that is).
But there is more to this show than great action sequences, costuming, and set design. The acting and dialogue is very well written and feels relative to the time. Which brings me to my newest protagonist on Television, Cullen Bohannon.
We live in the era of the Anti-Hero. Breaking Bad, Dexter, Mad Men, people love to love bad guys with good motives, or good guys with bad motives. I however am more of a fan of the begrudging hero. Characters like Wolverine and the Transporter. Characters who just want to be left alone or don't want to help but end up having to do the right thing. Cullen Bohannon is the epitome of this character type. He is a hard drinking, hard living, gin slingin' country boy who is a man of his word.
The first thing that I thought when the protagonist was going to be a confederate soldier was the issue of slavery. I thought it would be very difficult to make me root for a protagonist who owned slaves, however the show discards this fact early in the episode when Bohannon states that he freed all of his slaves and kept them on with wages the year the war started. Race is a big issue in the film. Many of the workers on the railroad are african american, and even though they have recently been free there is still a lot of racial tension which adds to the show's appeal.
All in all, I would recommend this show to anyone who likes tv and film from historical periods. Hell on Wheels takes place in a commonly covered period but covers a lot more of the social issues of the time period unlike any other shows out there right now.