Hell on Wheels: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray Review

     Actors: Anson Mount, Common, Jennifer Ferrin
  • Director: David Von Ancken
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Number of discs: 4
  • Studio: Entertainment One
  • Release Date: August 11, 2015
  • Run Time: 559 minutes



            The longer that “Hell on Wheels” is on air, the more bleak its narrative seems. Since the death of a major character in season two, it was clear that the AMC series was not afraid to switch things up from season to season, and the fourth brings about some of the show’s biggest changes. There are new characters arriving as old ones depart, typically in the most violent ways imaginable. The impact is even greater now that the show has been on for several seasons, making the loss of beloved characters that much more devastating.


            Season three ended on a cliffhanger, allowing for a shift in the season four narrative. Cullen Bohannan (Anson Mount) is held captive by at a Mormon fort, run by the Swede (Christopher Heyerdahl) posing as a Mormon Bishop. Despite his unfortunate situation, Cullen has made a new life for himself with a Mormon wife and newborn son, though he still longs to return to the railroad. When he is finally able to return to Cheyenne, Cullen finds the railroad progress held up by a number of changes. The mountain terrain is causing problems for the advancement of the tracks, but the dynamic of the town is causing even more problems for the railroad run by Thomas Durant (Colm Meaney).


            Durant shifts from being a villain to Cullen’s ally in season four, mostly due to the arrival of government appointed carpetbagger, John Campbell (Jake Weber). Arriving with a group of men to bring order to the chaos, Campbell uses methods of violence even more extreme than those they were sent to stop. The town of Cheyenne becomes a battle for power and control between the citizens, the railroad, and the government appointed officials. Despite only having an interest in the progress of the railroad, Cullen gets pulled into the fight when it threatens those he cares about.


            Matters are complicated even more by the arrival of Sydney Snow (Jonathan Scarfe), a former friend and Confederate soldier from Cullen’s past. He brings chaos to Cheyenne, while Elam Ferguson (Common) is presumed dead after disappearing in a search for Cullen. Rather than building to a typical showdown at the end of the season, the tragedy and violence is peppered throughout the fourth season. It does not end in action like previous seasons, but instead the final episodes are devastatingly emotional, leading the characters to another shift in storyline for season five. There are no real cliffhangers, though not much can remain the same for the fifth season of this spectacularly innovative western series.


            The Blu-ray release includes all thirteen season four episodes on four discs, along with a handful of extras. The production values of this show rival most western movies in recent history, providing fantastic visuals for high definition. The special features are packed with featurettes, for everything from individual episodes to the new characters in season four. There are three on-set featurettes, including two with actors Colm Meaney and newcomer Jake Weber, as well as a tour of the Cheyenne set. There is also an Anson Mount retrospective and an overview of season four.  


    Entertainment Value: 9/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 9/10

    Historical Significance:  7.5/10

    Special Features: 8.5/10

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