If it’s true that, as Time recently presupposed, America is still fighting the Civil War, then America should be all over the new AMC series Hell On Wheels. Set amid the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad—when former soldiers, freed slaves, and other men trying to shape their destiny spent their days laying track and their off hours whooping it up in the titular traveling camp—it delves deeply into the way the war between the states tore open wounds that are still festering, much like Mad Men still has plenty to say about our national identity, gender politics, and the effectiveness of a good bra shot.
As reported earlier, the show has Deadwood-like aims to paint the Wild West as the lawless, merciless, occasionally hopeless place it really was, all framed around the romantic story of an ex-Confederate (Anson Mount, a long way at last from starring in romantic comedies like In Her Shoes and Britney Spears’ Crossroads) who’s out to avenge the death of his wife at the hands of some Union soldiers. Common also pops up in this just-released trailer to remind us that the show has plenty of racially charged subtext, and then there’s Colm Meaney bloviating as ruthless railroad man Thomas “Doc” Durant to drive home the point that it’s also a story about the still-difficult, occasionally violent task of uniting an uneasy nation.
But if all that sounds a bit dull, it’s not: In fact, take a shot whenever somebody pulls a six-shooter on another guy in this brief preview and you’ll be liquored up in no time. All in all, Hell On Wheels looks as promising as the rest of AMC’s original series (even though, naturally, we expect our country to be sharply divided on that).