I’ve been watching this since the premiere and have enjoyed it throughout, but figured I would give it a bit of time before I commented on it. First of — the series involves the creation of the Union Pacific’s transcontinental railroad and the Credit Mobiliere scandal (although that has yet to become a major feature.) The history is solid, if dramatized, of course; the production values are high and improved by shooting the series in the Midwest of Canada to get the right look. Casting is solid and the acting is as well.

Central is an ex-Cnfederate out to find his wife’s rapist/killers from the Union army, Cullen Bohanan (Anson Mount looking very dirty and dishelved…perfect for the character),  who finds himself on the railroad hunting his quarry. He ends up as one of the rail foremans, which keeps him in the picture. The other lead is Thomas “Doc” Durant — the corrupt bugger that built the railroad and had been a smuggler during the Civil War, running cotton out of Mississippi (although he was a northerner.) He’s played well by Colm Meaney, who still can’t quite shed that Irish brogue. Durant is fighting to keep the money flowing from the Federal government and find a route through the Rockies (this is where the female lead, Irish actress Dominique McElligott comes in — her husand was his surveyor who is killed brutally in the first episode.) There’s a freed slave that become the counterpoint to Bohanan, Elam Ferguson (Common — doing an excellent job.) And there’s the agent provocateur, ‘The Swede” (played by Christopher Heyerdahl — familiar to any SciFi Channel viewer. [And no, I will not call it SyFy.]) who is the black hat for this first season. Tom Noonan, perrenial bad guy, played an alcoholic/wife beating priest who left his family to bring light to the Indians; I keep waiting for him to go crazified and evil, but it hasn’t happened yet.

The first episode had the usual “first episode blues” — a bit shaky and unsure of itself, but by the second episode, it was…on track? AMC has picked the series up for a second season, and we history buffs are better for it.

For the RPG readers, the series gives a good grounding for the sorts of adventures and conflicts one sees in the Reconstruction — good for the Western or Victorian/steampunk campaign.

Advertisements