• Network: AMC
  • Series Premiere Date: Nov 6, 2011
  • Season #: 1 , 2 , 3 , 4
Metascore
63

Generally favorable reviews - based on 28 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 12 out of 28
  2. Negative: 1 out of 28
  1. Reviewed by: Hank Stuever
    Sep 21, 2011
    91
    Though imbued with epic sweep, Hell on Wheels is a western at heart, even if that heart is cold.
  2. Reviewed by: Matthew Gilbert
    Sep 21, 2011
    91
    I don't know if it will catch on - westerns can be a hard sell - but it's another fine AMC choice.
  3. Reviewed by: Tom Gliatto
    Nov 7, 2011
    88
    This drive for revenge is what makes the pilot spark, smoke and go chug-a-chug-chug. [14 Nov 2011, p.45]
  4. Reviewed by: Verne Gay
    Nov 3, 2011
    83
    Solid cast, intriguing premise, and--best of all--the Old West. Should easily be another winner for AMC.
  5. Reviewed by: David Hinckley
    Nov 4, 2011
    80
    Where it diverges [from many trappings of a Western] is the lack of white hats and black hats. The axis of good and bad is constantly shifting, which is part of what makes the story intriguing.
  6. Reviewed by: Lori Rackl
    Nov 4, 2011
    75
    Co-creators Joe and Tony Gayton have turned out a solid series that got stronger with each of the five episodes I watched.
  7. Reviewed by: Ed Bark
    Nov 3, 2011
    75
    Hell on Wheels is a big and ambitious stab at the genre, with a lot going on and much to recommend.
  8. Reviewed by: Linda Stasi
    Nov 3, 2011
    75
    [A] new and intriguing Western.
  9. Reviewed by: Brent McKnight
    Nov 7, 2011
    70
    Stick with it through the second episode: it gets moving quickly in the subsequent episodes, and turns into a grim frontier revenge saga, with intriguing personalities and interconnecting storylines.
  10. Reviewed by: Glenn Garvin
    Nov 7, 2011
    70
    That's a lot of stories to tell, and the sweeping Hell on Wheels does a good job of chopping them into bite-size pieces.
  11. Reviewed by: Nancy DeWolf Smith
    Nov 4, 2011
    70
    As familiar as this tableau may be, Hell on Wheels finds enough beauty, danger and emotion to make some part of every episode seem fresh and worth waiting for.
  12. Reviewed by: Curt Wagner
    Nov 4, 2011
    63
    Most of these characters are by-the-numbers denizens of any Western. Thankfully most of the actors make them more interesting than the sometimes atrocious dialogue should allow.
  13. 60
    Hell on Wheels didn't turn into a great drama, but it settled into a distinctive groove, growing more relaxed and confident by the week.
  14. Reviewed by: David Eckstein
    Nov 7, 2011
    60
    At the end of the day, Hell on Wheels is beautifully-filmed project that offers exceptional attention to detail on everything but the main character.
  15. Reviewed by: James Poniewozik
    Nov 4, 2011
    60
    I found parts of this series I could get invested in. You might find even more. Just don't go in expecting more than heck on wheels.
  16. Reviewed by: Robert Lloyd
    Nov 4, 2011
    60
    Still, for all the unlikely things the Gaytons make happen in order to get their characters into place, and the dogged refusal of a couple of those characters to become interesting at all, the show gathers steam as it goes on.
  17. Reviewed by: Alessandra Stanley
    Nov 3, 2011
    60
    In a way it's as paradoxical as its subject: a big, lusty but surprisingly timid look at the bold pioneers and profiteers who ravaged nature to build a nation.
  18. Reviewed by: Troy Patterson
    Nov 3, 2011
    60
    Not content to exploit their subject's inherent themes, the series' fraternal creators, Joe and Tony Gayton, have adhered them promiscuously, pasting neon Post-it indications of symbolic import in a way that obscures moments of straightforward drama.
  19. Reviewed by: Mark A. Perigard
    Nov 3, 2011
    58
    Hell's greatest sin? It's often laugh-out-loud funny.
  20. Reviewed by: Alan Sepinwall
    Nov 3, 2011
    58
    It's not quite good (other than The Swede), but it's also not especially bad (though it has occasional terrible moments.
  21. Reviewed by: Brian Lowry
    Nov 4, 2011
    50
    While the diverse mix of characters could work to the program's advantage over the long haul, jumping to and fro among them creates a diluted, herky-jerky ride in the early going.
  22. Reviewed by: Ellen Gray
    Nov 4, 2011
    50
    Like Durant's ideal route, the five episodes I've seen of Hell on Wheels tend to meander a bit.
  23. Reviewed by: David Wiegand
    Nov 4, 2011
    50
    The Gaytons have created declamatory cartoons. What they needed was a lot more John Ford and a lot less Cotton Mather.
  24. Reviewed by: Tim Goodman
    Nov 3, 2011
    50
    There's a nagging suspicion that Hell on Wheels, created by Tony and Joe Gayton, doesn't quite know what it wants to be, which may explain why after four hours it seems like a collection of ideas that haven't quite gelled.
  25. Reviewed by: Robert Bianco
    Nov 3, 2011
    50
    It's a sprawling story, and within that sprawl there are evocative scenes, sweeping vistas, and moments that grab you.
  26. Reviewed by: Rob Owen
    Nov 7, 2011
    40
    Hell on Wheels is not a bad show, but it's also not engrossing.
  27. Reviewed by: Matt Roush
    Nov 4, 2011
    40
    AMC's sprawling but heavy-handed attempt to revive and redefine the Western (a newly hot TV-development trend) is solemn business indeed, with precious little wit or originality.
  28. Reviewed by: Maureen Ryan
    Nov 4, 2011
    30
    It's good at being tedious.
User Score
7.9

Generally favorable reviews- based on 150 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 30 out of 39
  2. Negative: 6 out of 39
  1. Nov 6, 2011
    9
    A true masterful old fashioned western. Hell on Wheels packs it in with all the bells and whistles found in only the best of it's genre. I couldnt take my eyes off of the screen. Visually unlike any western Ive seen on cable television and a story told paced naturally with brewing temperament, AMC's done it again with this fine tale of payback and payoffs. Full Review »
  2. Nov 8, 2011
    10
    The best premiere of the year. AMC se ha vuelto a lucir esta vez, respira un aire a Deadwood, espero que la iguale. la auguro un buen futuro a la serie, espero que la AMC la trate bien Full Review »
  3. Jan 21, 2013
    7
    Vampires who don't drink blood, werewolves who kill only game, serial killers who hunt only other killers: lately, TV likes its predators de-fanged, de-clawed, and loaded with conscience. So it was with approval that I watched the hero of AMC's new series, a former Confederate soldier on a mission of vengeance, shoot a man point-blank in a confessional. No kinder, gentler predation here, no sir! And it was with equal dismay that I learned our hero had freed his slaves a year before the war, as though the only way audiences can sympathize with a southern veteran is to give him northern values (and a dead northern wife). I don't know about any of you, but I am weary of TV executives' assumption of moral and intellectual idiocy in the viewing public. Note to Hollywood: our tiny brains can manage to sympathize with a Confederate veteran without immediately wanting to repeal the 13th Amendment. "Hell on Wheels" would be a lot better if it stopped dividing characters into bad guys who never met a racist slur they didn't like and good guys who could, after a bath and a week in detox, teach ethnic studies at UCLA. Things were much more muddled right after the Civil War, as former enemies, former slaves and former masters, immigrants, beleaguered natives, fortune-hunters, and scoundrels dealt with new social realities. Fortunately, not much more is needed to make "Hell on Wheels" genuinely compelling. Visually, it's breathtaking, contrasting the unspoiled landscape all around with the local human squalor of the camp. It has a range of compelling characters played by competent (or better) actors. Though scripts still seem a little unfocused, the story of the transcontinental railway, as well as the individual stories of its builders, supporters, and detractors, are unusually promising for a new series. I'll be watching and hoping that the many critical comparisons to "Deadwood" turn out to be apt. Full Review »