I like most of the shows AMC puts out. They’ve had some big time failures but they also have a Breaking Bad and Mad Men, two shows that are high on almost every list that includes them. Hell on Wheels, Turn, Halt & Catch Fire are also in my good graces. Last year they came out with a show called Feed the Beast and it was some of the worst writing I have ever seen. Insanely bad. So I go into all new AMC shows with cautious optimism.
I knew nothing about The Son before watching. All I knew was the title and that it took place in the West in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. That is my favorite period of history. From the Civil War to the first World War America changes immensely. Especially in the west. Hell on Wheels detailed some of that change. I didn’t know what The Son was about going into it but I was excited about it simply because of the time period it takes place in.
We open up with young Eli, out hunting for food in Central Texas in 1849. Played by Jacob Lofland. If you don’t recognize Lofland he has become a go-to actor for any young southern male role. He got his start in Mud. Then had a season arc in the show Justified.
Eli eats dinner with his family. They’re eating the food he hunted for them but they don’t seem to appreciate it much. The sister jokes about him being adopted from a zoo. The brother is too busy writing letters to Ralph Waldo Emerson, the most quoted man in senior yearbook history, to eat. After dinner, the mom plays piano and the sister sings. Everything is good and dandy. The McCulloughs are an all around good family. They have a hunter, they have a piano player, a singer, a kid who writes letters to a guy named Waldo. They inside of their house is very civilized. The outside though… is not, and the outside comes knocking.
A tribe of Comanches kick in the door. Eli shoots that man, then is left weaponless because guns back then sucked. He gets knocked the fuck out and dragged out of the house as his mother and sister get raped in the background. Sucks.
Right when they’ve got us invested in young Eli and the Comanche attack they switch it up and show us Eli 66 years later in 1915. So we know he survives the Comanche attack. We just don’t know how long he was with them for. It was also at this point that I picked up on the title. Eli is ‘the son’. He is the son of Texas. He is in South Texas now. It’s his birthday and he’s got a dead man hanging from a tree on his land.
Old Eli is played by Pierce Brosnan and I kind of hate his accent right off the bat. He’s laying it on thick. It kind of sounds like how an actor would do it in 1960. The Mexican Revolution started in 1910 and ended in 1920 so we are right in the middle of it. Eli not only survived the Comanche attack but he has done well for himself. He’s got a family, including grandchildren and a ranch in his name.
“The era of the cattle baron is over,” Grandpa Eli says. He’s ready to risk losing the ranch in an attempt to find oil and start his fortune.
Eli’s son goes into town with the dead body and does a little detective work to find out who killed him. The bartender at the local watering hole has some information for him. He’s a real creepy dude who implies that Eli had a hand in the hanging.
The dead guy was stealing cattle from the McCulloughs. Eli had the creepy bartender sniff out what was happening, knowing good and well the creepy fucker would hang whoever he found to be responsible.
We’ve got a power struggle between Eli and his son, Pete.
At this point, I am far more interested in the 1849 storyline.
We get a new character, Cesar Sanchez. He is not a fan of the McCulloughs. He knows they were behind the hanging. He also knows the man who hung was innocent because it was him who cut the fence and stole the cattle. He did it in support of the war but it also seems he enjoyed fucking with Eli. He thinks Texas belongs to Mexico and he hates the Americans. He’s a brooding grouchy fucker.
Cesar works for Pedro Garcia. Pedro owns the ranch that sits between the McCulloughs and the Mexican border. He is of Spanish decent but loyal to America. Since his land is on the border his days of being neutral are numbered and he must choose a side.
At Eli’s birthday party there are two Comanche’s sitting on the front porch. I guess Eli doesn’t hold too much resentment against the tribe for killing his family and holding him captive.
Eli’s older son, Phineas comes back into town. He is the business mind of the family. He brought investors to the party in hopes they will invest in the McCullough land. The younger son Pete is against the oil plan. He knows the land holds no oil. He knows that cattle ranching is steady and always will be. It’s a matter of living to live or living to win. Eli wants to start a fortune.
Finally, we get back to the 1849 storyline. Eli and his brother Martin are tied up and hanging out by the river together. Martin is crying his eyes out. The Comanche leader comes and has a talk with them. This character is played by Zahn McClarnon. If you don’t know who Zahn is, he is the go-to actor for every male Native American role these days.
Turns out this comanche indian isn’t as uncivilized as we would like to think. He speaks Spanish, Comanche, some Apache and a little bit of English. His name is Toshaway.
Martin is pretty sure he is going to die so he decides to just get it over with. He gives a nice little speech mocking all the Indians about how they’ll be extinct soon. The Comanche say okay, yeah, we’ll just kill you then.
Because Martin kept getting up Toshaway and his men gain respect for him. They do not scalp him. Toshaway tells Eli that his brother was not a coward, he only acted like one. After this talk, we flash forward to 1915 and old Eli and the Comanche on the porch share a nod. Maybe the old Comanche on the porch is Toshaway?
Pete and Maria Garcia, the daughter of Pedro have a little chat a flirt it up. Pete is married though. Maybe he isn’t such a square peg after all. He may not want to risk losing his money chasing oil but it looks like he may risk losing his marriage chasing Maria.
Old Eli gives a speech to all his guests. His main point is that the fighting amongst all of them is over. It is time for peace and prospect. Pierce Brosnan accent and delivery may be the worst part of this show so far.
Right after his speech about peace, someone blows up one of his oil wells in the distance. The McCullough clan chase after the arsonist. Once they have him in sight. Eli chases him down on his horse and hits him with his gun. The same exact way his brother was killed.
No surprises here, it’s Cesar, the man from the beginning that openly hated the McCulloughs. Eli ties him up, throws him over the back of the horse and takes him away. The same exact thing the Comanche did to him in the beginning of the episode.
I kind of mixed my thoughts into the recap. I think Pierce is the weakest part of the show. He takes me out of the scenes because everyone else are performing as if this is a television show in 2017 and he’s performing like he is in a John Wayne movie. The accent is think. The only way this can be redeemed is if he turns full villain. Then hating him is part of the game.
The Comanche scenes were the saving grace of the first episode. I hope we spend a lot more time with young Eli in the future episodes. It is very interesting that he escaped captivity and went on to prosper. It is even far more interesting that the evilness that he was subject to has led to himself being evil. It was a bit heavy handed at the end of the episode with him hunting down Cesar and slinging him on the horse the same exact way the Comanches did sixty years early. it still served as a great message to the audience. Being held captive did not make him sympathetic to the weak, not in the least bit.
The second episode is already out so I won’t dive too deep. I’ll watch it quickly and post a recap as soon as I can.