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Hell On Wheels Season 6: Why Was It Canceled?

Hell On Wheels Season 6: Why Was It Canceled?

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Hell on Wheels first premiered back in 2011 with the series coming to an end in 2016 after five seasons. The Western drama follows the development of the first transcontinental railroad in post-Civil War America.

Hell on Wheels quickly became a hit, gaining positive viewer feedback. The series took home multiple awards and received overall positive praise from critics.

After five seasons, many fans were hoping for the return of Hell on Wheels for a sixth season. However, the period piece Western drama ended without renewal for another season.

Why Was Hell On Wheels Canceled?

AMC cancelled Hell on Wheels because the story was reaching an end. It didn’t have to do with ratings, at least according to showrunner John Wirth.

The series premiere garnered 4.4 million viewers, second only to that of The Walking Dead at the time. After a slight dip during season 2 ratings were back to 3.6 million viewers again by season 4.

Main character from Hell on Wheels TV show riding a horse down an old wild west town

By all accounts, Hell on Wheels was a solid performer, given its move to a notoriously difficult timeslot in season 2. In fact, John Wirth says that “the move to Saturday night was a genius move on behalf of the network.”

“[…] It really allowed us to live without being under the pressure of being a Sunday night television show.” Wirth even told Yahoo Entertainment that the bad-ratings rumors “irritated” him.

“[The cancellation] had nothing to do with the ratings in my opinion. We are canceled because we’re at the end of the series, and being on for five years is a good, long run for any television show.”

AMC President Charlie Collier said in a statement, “We are proud to bring our trans-continental journey to a conclusion for the large, loyal audience that has traveled with Cullen Bohannon and his crew for so many years.”

“We look forward to appropriately honoring Hell on Wheels in this final season,” Collier continued. “Enormous thanks to the terrific writers, cast and crew for all they have achieved and for all that lies ahead in the Wild West.”

John Wirth said that he and lead actor Anson Mount felt bittersweet about season 5. While sad that it was ending, Wirth also said, “We all feel gratified that we’ve had this many episodes to tell this story and that we’ll be able to tell it through to the end.”

Will There Be A Season Six Or A Spin-Off For Hell On Wheels?

Season 5 was the final season of Hell on Wheels, and there are currently no plans for a sixth season or a spin-off.

Hell on Wheels ended in 2016, and so far, there’s no continuation of the series. Considering the main plot concerned the transcontinental railroad, it makes sense that the story would conclude once the characters completed the railroad.

Hell on Wheels characters Kasha Kropinski and Anson Mount

The show could carry on in the same universe, of course, possibly following Cullen Bohannon to China with Mei. But it’s unlikely to happen after seven years with no announcements or plans.

John Wirth did say that he’d love to work with Anson Mount again, however. “I’d sign on in a heartbeat because he is just phenomenal to work with and such a great actor.”

Did Hell On Wheels End Its Story?

Season 5 of Hell on Wheels did wrap up the show’s storyline, completing the series.

Hell on Wheels follows the real history of the first transcontinental railroad. So, the writer’s knew where exactly they were bringing their characters, at least in the sense of a timeline.

“I can tell you what the end to the story is,” John Wirth told fans in an AMC Q&A in 2014. “Pounding the golden spike at Promontory.”

Season 5 delivers on that promise, as the railroad is complete. But Cullen Bohannon isn’t as satisfied as he expected after years of hard work and facing corruption. Instead, he finds hope in reuniting with Mei.

Bohannon’s story ends with him getting on a boat to China. Thomas Durant, on the other hand, sticks around, not necessarily by choice. Congress brings Durant up on charges of bribery and fraud.

He defiantly takes credit for the glory of the railroad and what it will do for the future of America. And even Bohannon refuses to condemn him, saying “The Transcontinental Railroad could not have been built without Thomas Durant.”

Why Did Common Leave Hell On Wheels?

Common left Hello on Wheels to focus on his music career. He had a recurring role as Elam Ferguson for the first three seasons.

At the end of season 3, a bear attacks Elam, making the other characters think he’s dead. Elam is absent for the first five episodes of season 4 but returns in episode six.

Common in the Hell on Wheels TV show

He survived the bear attack, but over the next two episodes, it becomes clear that it changed him. Elam’s dangerous behavior forces Cullen to kill Elam in episode seven, bringing Common’s time on the show to an end.

“It pulled at my heart because I really cherish the character Elam,” Common told Deadline about his departure.

“I got to say it wasn’t the easiest thing for me to do,” continued Common. “But I have a lot of aspects to my career that I wasn’t able to nurture being up in Calgary for so long every year filming Hell On Wheels.

Common, whose real name is Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr., left the show to return his focus to his music. “Acting is very, very important to me, but music is very important to me too.”

The show would often film at times when Common would otherwise be touring as a rapper. As showrunner John Wirth put it, “For three years, [Common] had to put his music commitments on hold.”

Common and the showrunners discussed his exit after they wrapped shooting on season 3. At first, the decision “crushed” Wirth, but he said that eventually it “reinvigorated” their storytelling.

As for Common, he loves the way Elam’s story ended. “I thought it was a brilliant way to give Elam an exit.”

“I think it paid honor and respect to him and it is unexpected and it is shocking and it shakes you and rattles you.”