This The Son review contains spoilers.
The Son Episode 4
“Death Song,” almost finds comfort in a loud crowd. Eli McCullough (Pierce Brosnan) shows how far Texas has come since the Rangers silenced sounds that soothed the savage breast, and how short that distance is.
Pete McCullough’s (Henry Garrett) ex-significant other tipped him off to a cache of tools left by the banks of a shallow crossing in a river that look suspiciously like the fixings for a good derailment. The last big derailment caused by the rebels cost about a dozen lives so this warrants attention, even though it could also spark the beginnings of a new war.
“I reckon we ought to gather us up a posse,” the sheriff says, and nary a phrase has ever been said that encapsulates what we look for in a western. A sheriff deputizing a bushwhacking gang is a classic setting. From silent train robbery movies, through High Noon and to the bad boy posse Clint Eastwood strung together to pay back a scar that would forever mottle a pretty hooker’s face in Unforgiven, frontier justice is as OK as a corral for a ranch-hand.
The Son looks at what makes up a posse. A group of men brought together for one purpose, but with different motives. Some of the people on that high horse really do want justice. Others are just looking for a chance to kill without consequence. Still others only see the consequences. Pete is one of those. The son of the first son of Texas is kept up nights by the things he did with his father, and this trip into the woods gives him one more reason to need a few more drinks, on the same piano that his daughter Jeannie McCullough (Sydney Lucas) was torturing, to battle his insomnia.
While the posse passes around a colorblind bottle with a Gatling gun-toting Buffalo Soldier, Pete throws water on his son Charles’ (Shane Graham) budding blood lust. The kid monkeys some of the marauding machismo of the entrenched mob and the father wants to stop him from walking into yet another ambush.
“I also want to kill Mexicans,” Charles says, and Pete is pained by how much of his own accepting nature hasn’t gotten through. He’s got enough sins on his conscience, and they add up even as he tries to go past them, without letting another generation compound his time in hell. He’s spent enough time in hell on earth. Forced to marry a devoted wife when the love of his life is the source of his own combat intelligence.
“You always could have said no,” Eli tells Peter, when it comes out that he wanted to marry “that Garcia girl” instead of following family protocol. The scene between the patriarch and his successor is the softest and most revealing yet. Brosnan can’t really hide his inherent niceness behind the gruff eyes of the first son of Texas. Even when he scalped the investor in his savage fantasia last week. His winks belie more than amusement. But here, the character’s concern and the actor’s nature sing the same tune.
Pete is no trust fund kid. He paid his dues in blood and wants to compound that interest with hard work. The war that his own family is starting with Mexico is bad for business, and worse for wear. Graham is believable as a man who will grow into the gravitas it takes to be that father’s son. Brosnan is very accommodating to the actor in their scenes together, throwing a little energy his way but letting the underplaying do most of the work. He looks at his son in admiration, even when, and maybe more so, the son disobeys. Eli gives that same look to his grandson when he crosses the plains against his daddy’s orders. Unlit dynamite. Pure potential, even if he doesn’t say it himself.
But it is the muted admiration he tosses at his son after the reflex-shooting of the former hostage now turned deadly adversary that comes across strongest. Pete had to do it. This is war and that was self-defense, and it is comforting to know that the kid who has your back is quick on draw when the chips start falling.
The battle scene itself is well choreographed. The best part is when someone in the posse gets shot and one of the more battle-proven gunslingers matter-of-factly points out that the enemy shoots back.
The first person to ever shoot Eli was a Texas Ranger. The teenage scout was deep in his Comanche phase at the time and proved himself a brave worthy enough to share a few puffs from Toshaway’s (Zahn McClarnon) pipe in a private moment. The young formerly pathetic white guy earns a feather, but can’t put it in his cap because it couldn’t keep a brother in arms in flight. It is interesting how young Eli rides with the Comanches away from the approaching battalion from his own race. He has been humbled by the concern the Indians showed to wasted carcasses of buffaloes and has yet to make room for his divided loyalties.
“Death Song” was written by Smith Henderson and Philipp Meyer, and directed by Olatunde Osunsanmi.