AMC's western series Hell on Wheels returned to television for its second season on Sunday, though its ratings were not as strong as they had been for the show's first season. The second season premiere episode, "Viva La Mexico," nabbed 2.5 million viewers total, with only 793,000 of those in the important 18 to 49 age demographic.
Compare that to viewership for the first season's premiere (4.36 million) and finale (2.84 million). "Viva La Mexico" wasn't a series low, though; that honor still belongs to the season one episode "Pride, Pomp and Circumstance" (2.15 million viewers).
A sophomore slump is never good for a series, though Hell on Wheels had a lot going against it. The premiere episode was the show's first after Dish dropped AMC, meaning that some of those lost viewers just don't have the provider. Add that to the fact that the show was up against NBC's coverage of the 2012 London Olympics closing ceremonies, and that's even more for the show to overcome. There's also the fact that Hell on Wheels was, for the first time, not partnered with AMC's biggest series, The Walking Dead. Hell on Wheels' follow-up for the night, Breaking Bad, while creatively far superior to either show, just doesn't command the same viewership. Heavy competition from fellow westerner Longmire might also have contributed to the ratings drop, though that A&E drama wrapped up its first season on Sunday.
Currently, Hell on Wheels is performing slightly better than Breaking Bad and slightly worse than Mad Men (and far behind The Walking Dead). It's also doing considerably better than AMC's recently canned The Killing, though a continued decline in ratings certainly wouldn't bode well for the series.
The next episode of Hell on Wheels, "Durant, Nebraska," will air August 19 on AMC.