Hell on Wheels is one of AMC’ lesser known series, living in the shadow of shows like Breaking Bad and Walking Dead. But this little series that could, about the beginnings of the transcontinental railroad, has been chug-chug-chugging along for four seasons now, and will complete its run with a two-part fifth season beginning in 2015 and ending in 2016. Premiering in 2011, the show, was created by brothers Joe and Tony Gayton, and shepherded to air by Endemol Senior VP of scripted programming Jeremy Gold. The series seasons have followed a sort of real-time representation of history, with the first season starting just after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865, season two moved on to 1866, and the past two seasons have taken place in 1867. The show is named for the mobile encampment which followed the Union Pacific Railroad expansion west and housed the people working on it.
There will be some new faces in the fifth and final season. Joining the cast is Amber Chardae Robinson in her first television role. Byron Mann, a veteran of “Arrow”, and Tzi Ma, who has appeared in “24: Live Another Day”, as well as on “Agents Of SHIELD”, will make debuts this season. Leaving the show in the dust for the final showdown are cast members Common, Tom Noonan, Tayden Marks and Kasha Kropinski.
A major new addition to the story is Stagecoach Mary played by Amber Chardae Robinson. Like many characters on the show, she is inspired by a real person. She was an African-American woman who was the first female mail carrier and drove a stagecoach by herself. In the show, she will drive a stagecoach between two railroads. Another new character, Chang, played by Byron Mann, is named after a Stanford scientist, and will prove himself instrumental to the building of the rail road, and will be an antagonist of our hero Cullen. Viewers also will meet Tao, a former missionary, and his son Fong, who are workers building the tunnel. Characters expected to return include Collis Huntington, played by Tim Guinee, Naomi Bohannon, played by MacKenzie Porter, Doctor Major Augustus Bendix, portrayed by Leon Ingulsrud and fan favorite The Swede.
Season 5 will focus on something that’s never been done before on the show, the building of the tunnel. The plot will revolve heavily around the Chinese immigrants working on the tunnel, as there were close to 15,000 working on the real railroad. The start of the season will be set in Truckee, California, where Cullen is recovering from some sort of emotional trauma. We will also meet the new characters. Among the main characters featured in Season 5 are Eva, Durant, Psalms, Mickey and Louise Ellison, and the old Union Pacific will again be in the spotlight.
EP John Wirth says “When we pick up Cullen at the beginning of the season, he’s taking solace in the work. It’s a pretty common thing for people to escape into work when they are dealing with emotional trauma. I will say this about his journey this season: The Cullen Bohannon we have is someone you probably wouldn’t recognize if you are only familiar with the first season. He’s really evolved.
He adds: “I don’t know if I’ve talked about this before, but we’re working with Stanford University. They are about two or three years into a project about the Chinese contributions to the building of the transcontinental railroad and they’ve been doing some deep research both here and in China to try to uncover who these Chinese people were, what records they left if any, what they did on the railroad, how they got here. We kind of delve in this world a little bit; it’s really fascinating.”
AMC President Charlie Collier proclaims: “With season five of #HellWheels, we are proud to bring our transcontinental journey to conclusion for the large, loyal audience that has traveled with Cullen Bohannon and his crew for so many years,”
Season 5 will pick up with Cullen in Truckee, California, carrying the rails east. He will also travel through Utah. The series will continue to film in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Last season ended with conflict abound for Cullen and the railroad industry. The government, the rails industry, ranchers, businesses, all competing for control of Cheyenne. The Feds prevailed. Meanwhile Cullen found himself having a bit of a struggle adjusting to his new family life. Cullen accepted a power position with Central Pacific. Eva and Mickey headed off further west, and The Swede had his desires fulfilled as well. The most potent seed planted was Cullen agreeing to search after Naomi and his child.
The season premiere airs Saturday, July 18 on AMC Networks, and is now available for streaming on AMC.com. The first half of the season will run 7 episodes through the end of August, and the 7 concluding episodes will air in Summer 2016, which kind of makes it Season 6, not Season 5 Part 2, if you ask me.
The first episode is called “Chinatown” and sets the stage for the plot lines that will be explored n the coming 7 episodes. Cullen, at his new position with Central Pacific, is negotiating the building of the Tunnel with the chinese immigrant labor union, and at the same time receives word that Naomi is in Utah, and he must find a tunneling route through the Sierra Nevada mountains to Ogden, for both the railroads purposes and his own.
The original creators, Joe and Tony Gayton, left the show after season 2, as the network declined to renew their contract. Since then, the show has been guided by EP John Wirth, who will continue this season. He says that scripts for about 12 of the 14 episodes of the final season are finished, and they just have to set themselves to figuring out the final two episodes.
The season premiere has aired, and this show, which re-energized AMC’s Saturday night schedule, is back on track, with a feeling of things really being shaken up. The set photos available on the official website bode well for the excitement and diversity of the coming season.
Seasons 1-4 are all available on Blu-Ray and DVD from the usual suspects, Amazon, et al for a SRP of between $30 and
Have you jumped on the Hell On Wheels bandwagon? Will you tune in this summer and next for the conclusion?
Let us know in the comments below!