The natural inclination is to compare AMC’s new Western, “Hell on Wheels,” to “Deadwood,” so let’s address that up front: “Hell on Wheels” is no “Deadwood.”
The show — which premieres Sunday at 10 p.m. — revolves around a travelling town (known as Hell on Wheels) post-Civil War, as newly freed slaves and Union and Confederate soldiers try to rebuild their lives while helping to construct the transcontinental railroad.
One of the soldiers is Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount), a Confederate who says he’s come to Hell on Wheels for a job, but whose true motive is to avenge the murder of his wife.
Bohannon’s actions, and how they tie in with another quest for vengeance by former slave Elam Ferguson (rapper-turned-actor Common), lead to some of the pilot’s bloodiest moments — moments so bloody, in fact, that they seem right in line on a network that also airs “The Walking Dead.”
But mostly, “Hell on Wheels” moves at a slower pace, and without giving viewers a slew of big, bold characters, a la “Deadwood.” In episode two, there’s a character known as The Swede, who’s most likely to become a viewer favorite.
In the pilot, and throughout the first four episodes, though, we come to know Bohannon, Ferguson and blustery businessman Doc Durant (Colm Meaney) in dribs and drabs. It’s more “Mad Men” than “Deadwood,” and definitely requires some viewer patience, as most of the best TV drama does.
"Hell on Wheels" premieres Sunday at 10/9c on AMC.