In 4th season of Hell on Wheels construction of the First Transcontinental Railroad continues westward through the newly established Wyoming territory. Primary conflict reforms into that between federal government, represented by the provisional governor Campbell, and local authorities (relative as they are) controlled by Durant. In that confrontation Cullen Bohannon, who comes back with his mormon wife and child after 4 months of absence, takes sides with Durant, because at least they have a goal in common, while governor’s goal is establishing law and order by any means necessary. Along with this unfolding conflict (in which most of the town supported Durant), life in Cheyenne goes on: Eva tries to survive without Elam Ferguson, who’s gone missing; Louise Ellison keeps depicting what she sees for all of the America to read; Ruth preaches and learns how to be a mother to Ezra, son of late bishop Dutson; Bohannon struggles to preserve his new family; and so on. Swede gets exposed after governing the mormon colony quite successfully for a short time, but manages to survive and even build a career out of it.
Well, I can’t say nothing, but to praise this season, almost in its entirety. Those utterly insignificant discrepancies with previous story (like with Ruth’s story, for example) do not influence anything at all; if anything, I would rather change what was written by the Gaytons than what was told during this season. The overall development is great; the season is very well thought-through, which is especially evident if compare entry episodes to the first part of the Elam’s story (middle of the season). Authenticity remains on an extremely high level, with all the filth, and dirt, and deaths, and limitations, and consequences, making the show realistic and powerful.
Aforementioned story of Elam Ferguson is astonishing, frightening, unsettling, shocking, or, to put it simple, fascinating. Same goes to the way the conflict grows, in the core of which different interests of quite powerful forces sit, the archetype of the federal-local balance that comprises the diversity of the USA life today. Specifically, the way Campbell tries to bring Durant to submission, and the way Bohannon doesn’t let him, and the range of consequences this final aggravation brings, are extremely hard to tear oneself away from. The story of Ruth deserves a separate mention, and not just the contents, although it’s staggering, but also the implementation – execution shown from the perspective of the sentenced person is absolutely mind-boggling.
And those are just the largest stories, they are like trees in the woods; there’s also underbrush – smaller stories and circumstances that determine and form the environment in which everything takes place, and they are implemented in the most brilliant way possible. All in all, Hell on Wheels in its 4th season is delicious and sublime. The 5th is the final one, and I hope this wonderful rise of quality has not been spoiled. Although, considering that John Wirth was still in charge, I’m pretty confident, it hasn’t.
Created by: Joe Gayton and Tony Gayton
Creative force: John Wirth
Directed by: Neil LaBute, Dennie Gordon, David Straiton, Clark Johnson, Rod Lurie, Michael Nankin, Marvin V. Rush, Billy Gierhart, Seith Mann, Roxann Dawson, Adam Davidson
Written by: Mark Richard, John Wirth, Jennifer Cecil, Tom Brady, Max Hurwitz, John Romano, Bruce Marshall Romans, Jami O’Brien, Michael C. Martin, Jimmy Mero
Performed by: Anson Mount, Colm Meaney, Common, Christopher Heyerdahl, Jennifer Ferrin, Robin McLeavy, Phil Burke, Kasha Kropinski, Dohn Norwood, MacKenzie Porter, Jake Weber, David Wilson Barnes, Tayden Marks, Kevin Blatch, Billy Wickman, Kevin Davet, Chelah Horsdal, Peter Benson, James Shanklin, Jonathan Scarfe, Haysam Kadri, Michael Tiernan, Kirsten Robek, Gregg Henry, Christian Sloan, Andrew Howard, Duval Lang, Leon Ingulsrud, Brendan Fletcher, Sara Canning, Tim Guinee, John Lacy, Collin Sutton
Time: 9h18m (a. 13 episodes)
Entertaining quality: 5 out of 5
Art quality: 5 out of 5
Links: (website) | (wiki)