Hell on Wheels: Season 1 (2011 - 2012)

SEASON:

Season 1
Hell on Wheels

Critics Consensus

Its Old West setting and central revenge plot may be overly familiar, but Hell on Wheels holds just enough intrigue to keep things interesting.

61%

TOMATOMETER

Critic Ratings: 36

82%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 169

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Episodes

Air date: Nov 6, 2011

A Western about a former Confederate soldier (Anson Mount) and his quest for revenge on the Union troops who killed his wife. In the premiere episode, he heads west to take a job helping to construct the first transcontinental railroad.

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Air date: Nov 13, 2011

Cullen's deadly actions leave him in a battle for his life; Lily fights to survive her plight in the wilderness; Durant tries to turn a tragedy into a political advantage.

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Air date: Nov 20, 2011

An unexpected obstacle impedes Cullen's search for the sergeant; Durant convenes a search party to track down Lily in the wilderness.

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Air date: Nov 27, 2011

Cullen's search for the sergeant nears its end; Durant keeps to his hidden agenda while assisting in Lily's recuperation.

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Air date: Dec 4, 2011

A bare-knuckle brouhaha between Elam and Cullen is spurred by Durant's latest attempt to deal with the railroad's financial crisis.

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Air date: Dec 11, 2011

Durant challenges the Cheyenne to a competition in an effort to bring a halt to ongoing negotiations. Meanwhile, Elam and Cullen try to prevent bloodshed in town.

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Air date: Dec 18, 2011

Elam's life hangs in the balance, leaving Cullen with a monumental decision to make. Meanwhile, Durant risks his financial fortune, and Lily confronts her late husband's relatives.

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Air date: Jan 1, 2012

Elam and Cullen are assigned a mission of vengeance by Durant. Meanwhile, Lily tries to settle in at the settlement.

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Air date: Jan 8, 2012

A looming railroad deadline throws Cullen and Lily together; Joseph and Elam deal with what their violent mission has wrought.

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Air date: Jan 15, 2012

In the Season 1 finale, Cullen's past and future collide, impacting his life on the railroad.

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Hell on Wheels: Season 1 Photos

Tv Season Info

Former Confederate soldier Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) and his quest for revenge on the Union troops who killed his wife are followed in this Western series. Season 1 sees Cullen head west to take a job helping to construct the first transcontinental railroad, a project spurred by scheming entrepreneur Thomas "Doc" Durant (Colm Meaney). After being hired as a foreman, Cullen meets crewman Elam Ferguson (Common), an emancipated slave who butts heads with Cullen after impeding Cullen's search for his wife's killer. The actions of Lily Bell (Dominique McElligot), the wife of a railroad surveyor killed by the Cheyenne, also play a prominent role in the season.

News & Interviews for Hell on Wheels: Season 1

Critic Reviews for Hell on Wheels Season 1

All Critics (36) | Top Critics (21)

This one's hell by any measure.

Nov 6, 2011 | Full Review…

None of Hell on Wheels' juicy eruptions of pulp or sporadic glimpses of soul impedes the myth-belching progress of a story about the little engine of empire that could.

Nov 6, 2011 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Hell on Wheels is a big and ambitious stab at the genre, with a lot going on and much to recommend.

Nov 6, 2011 | Rating: B | Full Review…
Top Critic

A dark, complex and intense drama about a group of damaged people who come together after the Civil War to help build the Transcontinental Railroad.

Nov 6, 2011 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Solid cast, intriguing premise, and - best of all - the Old West.

Nov 6, 2011 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…
Top Critic

The characters - including Meaney's monster - are promising, the racial tensions are bracing, and the atmosphere is transporting.

Nov 6, 2011 | Rating: A- | Full Review…

Hell on Wheels is a mess of Western cliches and silly characters.

Feb 21, 2020 | Full Review…

The folks who make this show are clearly playing a long game, and I'm unsure if I found myself dazzled throughout the season; entertained, for sure, but not blown away.

Mar 2, 2018 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…

Hell On Wheels might not be groundbreaking, but it is captivating and eager to tell multiple stories of the men and women struggling to find purpose after the end of the Civil War.

Nov 6, 2011 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

It's not original, not witty, and not creative.

Nov 6, 2011 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

May prove to be just interesting enough: justice served Western-style, with a quick draw or sharp knife, as evil men get their due.

Nov 6, 2011 | Rating: 7.2/10 | Full Review…

This ambitious but wildly uneven cable drama is a drearily paced collection of cowboy cliches, saddle-sore plot twists and hackneyed characters with all the appeal of stale oats.

Nov 6, 2011 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Hell on Wheels: Season 1

  • 1d ago
    I really liked the show until the end of the second season when they killed off one of the most important characters. Who does that? That was really dumb! Tony and Joe Gayton, the writers, made a big mistake killing off Lily Bell. I don't feel like watching the remaining seasons. I would give the show 4 or 5 stars for seasons 1 and 2 up until the final episode of season 2. I always thought the idea for TV series was to keep the viewers coming back - I guess that isn't important to the Gayton brothers.
  • Jun 09, 2020
    This first season is not quite as good as the others--the characters aren't very developed yet, and some of the plot progressions don't make very much sense. However, the show is consistently interesting and well-made, the characters are interesting if not compelling, and it paints a beautiful picture of the old west. Worth your time.
  • Mar 18, 2020
    Great story, and love the post-war realism and the complexity it draws out of the characters.
  • Jun 07, 2019
    Three seconds into Season I, Episode I, three lousy freaking seconds, and the whole show is already ruined for me. The caption says "Washington, DC 1865" yet the background is a COMPLETED Capitol dome. Phuck, any history nerd worth his history-nerd badge KNOWS that the work on the Capitol dome was not completed until 1866. So where is the scaffolding?!
  • Dec 27, 2018
    Fantastic characters, both real and not real, help overcome the feeling of "this has been done by other westerns before."
  • Dec 21, 2017
    Cullen Bohannon is a rare character and makes the show.
  • Feb 25, 2017
    Phenomenal show is all I can say. One of the best shows I have watched. Heard speculation that there might be a spin-off or another season and that people have leaned in the direction of the spin-off. Myself personally would LOVE to see another season released. I was pleased with the endingirls although I want to know how life moves on and the final verdict with Durant. Let's get another season!!!
  • Feb 12, 2017
    Brilliant and Fantastic, I love Colm Meaney a great actor and Anson Mount is superb as is the rest of the cast. The era and historical background is brilliantly written and I cannot wait to watch more
  • Aug 05, 2016
    Gritty western with a great and very believable cast.
  • Jul 23, 2016
    Love this show for its audacity to portray the human condition, the grit, and fortitude of the pioneers, rapists, evil-intentioned, good-intentioned, the greedy, the survivalists, and everything else you can think of that dwells in humanity. Something extremely intriguing about the human spirit and its quest for its perceived betterment.

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