This The Son review contains spoilers.
The Son Episode 2
The Son season 1, episode 2, “The Plum Tree,” spills blood and oil all over the Lone Star state. It opens in the aftermath of the oil rig dynamite sabotage that led to the premiere’s hanging conclusion. The McCulloughs will dig their way to Hades to recover the lost work before their financiers decide Texas is a little too rough for investment. It’s a hard sell, but Eli is tough enough to show the civilized front of the wild west. No matter how uncivilized he has to be to sell it.
Flashing back to 1849, we see young Eli going through a Comanche hazing. It’s a baptism of fire as the chief watches vigilantly for signs of bravery. The kid’s got no real skills to speak of, so they put him to work in a sweat shop. There’s not nearly enough sweat on this show about Texas heat.
The torture scene is revealing. Not quite as brutal as it would be on a premium cable channel, it is a chance to divide the generations. Father and son play bad cop, worse cop to get Cesar Lopez to give up his revolutionary brothers. Eli will go as far as the circumstances warrant, to mete out the frontier justice, but there is always time to sit on the porch and drink lemonade. The Sheriff is under political scrutiny from the local Tejano voters, the largest bloc, so he has to make it look like he’s putting in an effort, but he’s not going to sweat about it. After all, looking the other way is the best way to raise campaign funds. It’s not only the rigs that get oiled in Texas.
Garcia gives up on his son in law as a casualty of war too easily. There is very little emotional attachment between characters that are a little too cardboard to be wooden. Even as Cesar, the budding Mexican revolutionary, converts his captor Pete McCullough (Henry Garrett), with his warnings that being underestimated is a great weapon, there is no real fire and no real resignation.
Like a lot of westerns, there will be sibling rivalry on the McCullough ranch. It wouldn’t be Texas without a little bit of evening soap thrown in.
Young Eli gives up his plum tree to the lady Comanche with the whip. We saw it coming from the first time she chided him to go faster, faster, though faster usually isn’t better, while treating the skins. Every back bite and sneer is a flirt and that wrassling match in the dirt is pure foreplay. Eli even needs a smoke after, and the young male Comanches accept him as a man.
But as a man, Pierce Brosnan brings all those scars to Eli McCullough. While his son sees the violence as the wave of the past, the father sees it as a natural order. Sure, he will break bread with those who tried to break his spirit, but he’ll break the balls of any man who forgets to cowtow to his needs. The Brits are really plumbing some deep, dark characters on cable. Timothy Dalton’s Sir Malcolm Murray on Penny Dreadful was a right bastard to more than just the vampires on the show. McCullough breaks savage when he doesn’t hear what he wants to hear, and he’s all ears when the levee breaks.
The old man leaves it to Pete to administer frontier justice. The alleged head of the family ranch and reluctant recipient of whatever the rigs dig up does his daddy proud while trying to defy him. Cesar is a true believer and you really shouldn’t sheathe your knife right after you cut off leather bindings. That shit hurts and even the least revolting just might take a swing at you, for the sheer relief. Good thing the McCulloughs never go anywhere without a shovel.
“The Plum Tree” fills in some of the wounds of the west with the beginnings of social life and political jockeying. The town seems to revolve entirely around the McCulloughs. Everyone in town knows what they’re capable of and how far they have to crane their necks avoiding bearing witness.
“The Plum Tree” was directed by Kevin Dowling and written by Daniel C. Connolly.