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Hell On Wheels: The Complete Third Season(TV) (2013)
Set in the 1860s it centers on former confederate soldier Cullen Bohannan, whose quest for vengeance has led him to the Union Pacific Railroad's westward construction of the first Transcontinental Railroad.
For more about Hell On Wheels: The Complete Third Season and the Hell On Wheels: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray release, see Hell On Wheels: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on July 13, 2014 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Anson Mount, Colm Meaney, Common, Christopher Heyerdahl, Tom Noonan, Robin McLeavy
» See full cast & crew
Hell On Wheels: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray Review
The Book of Mormon.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, July 13, 2014
In Blu-ray.com's Hell On Wheels: The Complete First Season Blu-ray review, I mentioned having grown up in Salt Lake City where elementary school kids were guaranteed (at least back in the Dark Ages when I went to school) a field trip to Promontory Point, the place where the vaunted Golden Spike was pounded into a track, symbolically joining the efforts of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific to create the first transcontinental railroad. This third season of Hell on Wheels has another connection to Utah, albeit perhaps not quite as celebratory. While the bulk of the season plays out with several characters still reeling from various crises that exploded over the course of the second season, a fascinating plot arc develops in the season that sees Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) having one particularly bad series of events with Mormons. If the Broadway musical The Book of Mormon poked scabrous if ultimately kind of sweet natured fun at the religion, Hell on Wheels offers a much darker perspective on the pioneers who under Brigham Young's mentorship emigrated west from Illinois to finally land where Brigham himself said "this is the place", the desert valley which would ultimately become known as Salt Lake City. Hell on Wheels has continually attempted to mine the same kind of gritty, angst filled world that informed much of Deadwood, but this particular plot arc is rather notable not just for how potentially offensive it might be to current Latter Day Saints (though there are some at least relatively noble Mormons on hand in the show, too), but also for how it slyly reintroduces a conflict that some fans of the series may have thought was finally over and done with.
While it doesn't take long to get to some Mormons who are hardly saintly (latter day or otherwise), though, the series still has to wend through a typically labyrinthine assortment of various arcs for its large (and in this season, even larger) cast. Hell on Wheels may be alive and kicking as it enters its third season, but as the climax to the second season showed, Hell on Wheels (the town) has lived up to its underworld moniker, becoming a devastated conflagration due to an attack by the Sioux which also involves some machinations on the part of the always scheming character The Swede (Christopher Heyerdahl). That in turn led to what was obviously an ambiguous showdown between Cullen and The Swede which has repercussions later in the third season. While the second season had a major plot arc dealing with the increasing shenanigans of Durant (Colm Meaney), his comeuppance seemed a fait accompli as that season wound down. That of course turns out not to be the case, and while Cullen starts the season in a somewhat stronger position, it should come as no great surprise to find out that Durant does not take his new (imprisoned) state lying down.
Hell on Wheels continues to be rather surprisingly visceral and even touching quite a bit of the time, but there are troubling signs in at least a couple of arenas. While the series tends to repeat ideas (this season, as with the second, ends with a shocking death, or at least what appears to be a shocking death) and situations (how many times are we going to see the power balance between Cullen and Durant shift back and forth?), this season perhaps tries too hard to offer too many new little stories with their attendant characters, something that draws momentum away from several key arcs.
It's probably not much of a spoiler to state that The Swede survives the precipitous fall (jump?) he took at the end of the second season. What is a surprise is what happens to him after his reappearance. There's always been a creepy subtext to this character that hints (and maybe more than merely hints) at him being a psychopath, but as this season moves on, it may not be stretching things to say that the diagnosis might be narrowed down to schizophrenia. Heyerdahl makes the most of the changes his character goes through this season, with an especially nicely done final arc as the season comes to a close.
The other most compelling arc, and not so coincidentally one featuring a longtime recurring character, belongs to the strangely tattooed Eva (Robin McLeavy). Eva has long had a "complicated" relationship with Elam (Common), and her new motherhood only exacerbates that situation. The baby tangentially provides one of the longer arcs of the season which involves both Elam and Cullen. Some other arcs, while interesting, don't quite pack the emotional wallop that was probably intended. Sean's (Ben Esler) long simmering and frustratingly unconsummated affection for Ruth (Kasha Kropinski) kind of crashes and burns (or perhaps more appropriately crashes and drowns after a misguided baptism), but doesn't create much actual drama. Several new characters drift in and out of various episodes, but perhaps the biggest surprise here is the lack of really compelling developments for Durant. Perhaps one time too many, the show plays out a kind of teeter totter ride between Durant and Cullen, and the fact that Durant ends this season on the upswing may feel like this particular train has stopped at this particular station once too often.
Hell On Wheels: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
Hell on Wheels: The Complete Third Season is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Entertainment One with a VC-1 encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. Unlike the really odd if admittedly slight differences in aspect ratio seen on the Hell On Wheels: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray release, all the episodes on this set have a uniform 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The series continues to look fantastic in high definition, with both incredible depth of field in the many outdoor location shots as well as often impeccable fine detail in close-ups. The directors and cinematographers continue to play with various angles and lenses, including things like a fish eye lens that looks up at Cullen through a trough he's about to take a drink from in one episode. This season doesn't quite have the drab, dreary ambience that some of the preceding two seasons have had, but that actually only means that the palette for this season tends to pop a bit more than it has in years past. The change from AVC to VC-1 for this season does not seem to have created any undue issues to discuss.
Hell On Wheels: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
As with previous seasons, Hell on Wheels: The Complete Third Season's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is unusually vibrant for episodic television, almost always utilizing source cues for each episode as well as a rootsy underscore that typically utilizes the surround channels quite well. The series has its fair share of great sound effects, which include everything from the hazards of stormy weather to gunshots to the roaring gallop of horse hooves across the prairie, and that is all presented with quite a bit of force and some might even say bombast at times. Dialogue is clean and clear and this track sports excellent fidelity and an absence of any issues.
Hell On Wheels: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Hell On Wheels: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Make no mistake about it, Hell on Wheels is still viscerally exciting a lot of the time, and there are several really well done plot arcs that are interwoven throughout this season. But there's also just the slight whiff of having been there and seen that as the series tends to trod over content that it has already covered. This season belongs squarely to Christopher Heyerdahl, who emerges as one of the all time creepiest characters ever to inhabit a western. Several other plot arcs have their ups and downs, but the creative staff behind Hell on Wheels had better realize that with a seven year life span (if the series follows actual historical events), they'd better keep moving forward rather than retracing old routes. Technical merits continue to be exceptionally strong on this release, and despite some niggling qualms about what lies ahead, Hell on Wheels comes Recommended.
Hell On Wheels: Other Seasons
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Hell On Wheels: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Hell on Wheels: The Complete Third Season Blu-ray - May 24, 2014
Entertainment One has detailed the Blu-ray release of Hell on Wheels: The Complete Third Season. AMC's post-Civil War series stars Anson Mount, Colm Meaney, Dominique McElligott, Common, Ben Esler, Phil Burke, Christopher Heyerdahl, Eddie Spears and Robin McLeavy, ...
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