Sunday, August 18, 2013

Hell on Wheels 3.3: Talking and Walking

Hell on Wheels 3.3 starts with a great little piece of anonymous media history - Bohannan smashing his finger as he hammers in the electrical connection at the top of a telegraph pole alongside the railroad. Telegraph and rail went up hand in hand in the middle of the 19th century, the partnership between communication and transportation - between walking and talking - that has always characterized our life on this planet.  The smartphone, which allows you to talk anywhere you may walk - or drive, or fly, or train - is but the latest embodiment of this coupling.

The telegraph connection plays a crucial role in Hell on Wheels 3.3.   Bohannan at first thinks Indians were responsible for an attack on his train crew and cattle.  He telegraphs the nearby US cavalry and tells them to hunt down the Indians and how "no mercy".  He later discovers that, actually, the Indians were not to blame.  But the troop commander chooses to ignore the second, correcting telegram that Bohannan sent along.

That commander is one racist piece of work, and speaks for lots that was wrong in America not only back then but today.  He relies on lame pseudo-science to pronounce the Indians sub-human, and even has a cracked theory to explain why the South lost the Civil War.  He's right that America was on its way to dominating the planet, but one wonders if America could have attained such a predominant position - which had the great benefit of defeating the Soviets and as well as Nazis - without the racist underpinnings that still afflict us.

Meanwhile, Bohannan continues to be a much sharper, redefined character in this third season of life and work on the railroad, and I'm looking forward to more.

See also Hell on Wheels 3.1-2: Bohannan in Command

And see also  Hell on Wheels: Blood, Sweat, and Tears on the Track, and the Telegraph ... Hell on Wheels 1.6: Horse vs. Rail ... Hell on Wheels 1.8: Multiple Tracks ... Hell on Wheels 1.9: Historical Inevitable and Unknown ... Hell on Wheels Season One Finale: Greek Tragedy, Western Style


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