Tread Perilously is a podcast in which hosts Erik Amaya and author Justin Robinson watch the “worst” episodes of popular TV shows, attempting to determine if they would continue to watch the series based on the most off-key moments.
This Week: Hell on Wheels‘ “Bear Man”
Tread Perilously concludes its month on the frontier with an episode of Hell on Wheels called “Bear Man.”
When Elam wakes up after having fought a bear and won, he is taken in by a local tribe. They believe his success against the bear means he now has the powers of the bear — a useful thing to have on their side should they attack a Union garrison. For his part, Elam seems to have lost his identity and revels in becoming “Bear Killer” for a time before a fur trapper recognizes him and a white woman taken prisoner by the tribe seeks his aid in her escape.
Erik and Justin discuss how Hell on Wheels tends to be described as “a show you can watch” and the problem of prestige TV production values. Justin points out the lack of series star Anson Mount while Erik suggests the lack of white faces and the usual Hell on Wheels format earned the episode its low IMDb rating. Archie Andrews’ bear mauling also comes up. The use of make-up effects gets praise, as does director Clark Johnson’s eye for action. The pair attempt to figure out what a 19th Century “Karen” would be, and Justin gets to use his history degree for a good purpose.