The Season Two finale of Hell on Wheels on AMC was a two-hour seismic shift for the plot-lines of this acclaimed Western television series. The show, which has as its framework the construction of the Union Pacific transcontinental railroad, had the “tracks” of story and character severely shook but they still point westward with the person of Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) and those that remain.
Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount)
It is expected – and hoped – that AMC will announce a third season for Hell on Wheels by the end of 2012. In the estimation of this writer, this is not only an entertaining Western drama but an important cultural lens by which a number of significant and contemporary (North) American issues can be examined. The show explores such themes as the impetus for American expansionism and “Manifest Destiny”, Indigenous territorial rights (specifically as Euro-settler governments “claim” areas), race relations and social class. As the instructor of a Westerns film class at the college level, my students have an opportunity to view and then discuss the show both in terms of historical content and contemporary relevance.
Hell on Wheels has often made striking use of a “cut” from the opening scene of an episode into the opening credits and theme music – that cut can occur at the high point of drama for the scene and/or with a particular sound that mixes well into the opening theme. It is worth noting that the theme music for Hell on Wheels, composed by Gustavo Santaolalla, received a nomination at the 2012 Emmy Awards for “Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music”.
The following clip is the full-length version of that theme music – the opening credits for each episode uses only 30 seconds of the song. The power of the theme is further revealed in its full length – accompanied in this clip by images of some of the show’s main characters. For those that have viewed Hell on Wheels in its entirety, the music provides a reflective pause as we consider where the story-lines now stand and await a positive announcement for the show’s renewal by AMC.
Further information about Hell on Wheels can be found at AMC’s official link – Hell on Wheels
(Copyright – Chad Beharriell)