Despite its title, AMC's newest drama Hell on Wheels is not a companion piece to FX's motorcycle-mad Sons of Anarchy. Rather the bloody, mud-spattered costume drama is a companion piece to HBO's Deadwood, a Western set in 1865 Nebraska at the leading edge of the Continental railroad's progress across the plains, in a fetid little pop-up town known as Hell on Wheels ("Population: One less every day"). Immediately postbellum America is a nicely complex and metaphorical moment in which to set a television show: The nation was in the midst of an identity crisis, or as the show's opening title cards more gruesomely put it, "The nation is an open wound," and so were its citizens. What it was to be an an American of any kind — African American, Native American, female, a veteran — meant something different in 1865 than it did just months before. Who are Americans, and their nation, in this brave, new, yet recently morally bankrupt world?