Last Saturday's November 15, 2014 episode of the AMC western drama Hell on Wheels had to have had everyone watching in suspense. Then it happened. The mobile town of Hell on Wheels in Cheyenne had lost a courageous spiritual overseer.
But why did Kasha Kropinski, who played Ruth as preacher of a church on Hell on Wheels, had to leave the show? First, it was not too long ago that Elam died in episode 7. Secondly and shortly after that in episode 10, the young boy Ezra dies. Then now a mere two episodes after that, Ruth dies. And this all happens in this current season 4!
Usually when deaths happens to good regular characters within an ensemble on a TV series, their departures tend to be more spaced out if even within a season. Even when it is on cable TV.
For example in the other AMC drama The Walking Dead, the character Dale played by Jeffrey DeMunn, the moral voice of conscience, dies in Season 2 episode 11. But it's not until next season 3 when T-Dog, played by IronE Singleton, dies while saving Carol, and Lori, played by Sarah Wayne Callies, also dies after complications while giving birth to a baby girl, both happening in episode 4. There's also a well written commentary on November 4, 2012 about this episode by Andy Patrick of titled, "The Walking Dead Recap: An Hour To Die For," on the website TVLine. Then, it's not until twelve episodes later of the same season 3 in episode 16 when Andrea dies, played by Lauren Holden. Then again it's only until next season 4 episode 8 when another moral voice of conscience, Hershel, played by Scott Wilson, also dies.
Of course cable TV shows have shorter seasons compared to regular free network TV shows, making the deaths of regular characters all the more poignant to a faithful viewer. Hell on Wheels has been averaging 10 episodes per season since season 1, although current season 4 will have more. Then there's the previously mentioned AMC drama, The Walking Dead, which has been averaging 16 episodes since season 3. Of course who cannot forget the other AMC drama Breaking Bad? Except for its season 5 finale Breaking Bad was averaging 13 episodes after its first season, finishing also with 16 Primetime Emmy awards (including Creative Arts Emmys). So compare all that to the CBS TV show NCIS: Los Angeles currently in its sixth season, which has been producing 24 episodes ever since its first season.
In a revealing November 15, 2014 interview by Mandi Bierly on the Entertainment Weekly website titled, "Hell on Wheels' star Kasha Kropinski talks Ruth's choice," Ms. Kropinski explains about her discussions with Executive Producer John Wirth. To which she says, "He basically wanted Ruth to have this strong arc, and part of that was her dying." Before that there was the explanation of his concern about the character Ruth perhaps being marginalized. Of course that would explain the story development of her shooting Sidney Snow to avenge Ezra, whom she considered her son. Well it all seems sincere on the face of it. But I don't quite buy it.
Maybe it's just me. But I believe there had been a tension existing between Ruth and Cullen Bohannon, played by Anson Mount, whenever the two would meet in a scene. And that tension was obviously born from affection. Proof of that was in their final moments together as he accompanied her in her jail cell before her imminent death. Which she then asks him not once, but twice, asking, "Do you love me?" To which he answers both times as a yes. Which followed by her saying, "I should've taken you and made you mine." So simply put, the writers could have built on that tension between the two going forward, even with Cullen being married to Naomi.
They could have fleshed out Ruth more, getting her beyond the grief of losing Ezra and therefore be free in opening up more interesting storylines. Which would of course also involve her continued affection for Cullen Bohannon. In short, they could have kept her. At least one person agrees, who was among those commenting to the November 15, 2014 web article by Sean McKenna of TV Fanatic titled, "Hell on Wheels Season 4 Episode 12 Review: Thirteen Steps." For within the ninth comment it states "...why kill off Ruth? Makes no sense..." Although the web article did say the episode earned a high user rating of four out of five stars. Which indeed all did give out good performances.
Well at least we know now that it wasn't Ms. Kropinski's decision to leave the show in episode 12 of the current fourth season. Which in the case of Common, who played Elam Ferguson, it was his decision to leave in the fourth season. Similarly it may have also been in the case of Tayden Marks who played the young Mormon boy Ezra, to leave in the fourth season.
In the September 5, 2014 issue of Entertainment Weekly magazine with The Walking Dead cover story before the show would launch its fifth season, its explained within the lead article stating, "Many actors have bailed from successful shows due to burnout and the desire for a new challenge, but don't look for that to happen here." Indeed, whenever the current actors are interviewed from The Walking Dead they all seem to say the same thing. That they enjoy it so much, they'll leave only when they're written out to die.
So with Hell on Wheels as it continues beyond the fourth season, I'm sure more interesting stories await.