This The Son review contains spoilers.
The Son Episode 7
The Son season 1, episode 7, “Marriage Bond,” is a more introspective offering from the Wild West series. Set after a lethal crime that followed a murderous crime, the First Son of Texas and his apparent heir want to stop the cycle of death that is eating away at their home. The family is as divided as the Texas border town and the historical arc corresponds with what looks like the promise of unity.
Eli McCullough (Pierce Brosnan) has come a long way, on a hard road, and slept on an even harder mattress. Raised in the wild, he is as ruthless a businessman as he is a pioneer frontiersman. He is notoriously violent, and it would appear that he is also given to the area’s prejudicial hangings. He is not. It is only somewhat of a surprise. His son Pete McCullough (Henry Garrett) comes to him to help mend the broken fences. He gets no resistance from the proud first son of Texas. A Mexican neighbor, a personal enemy to the family themselves, is dead from a vigilante mob’s rope, and the generations agree that accounts will be balanced.
Pete is worried about how this is being passed through to the next generation. He learned about the lynching from ranch-hands while they are giving him notice. He fully understands, more than they know. They fill in the missing link he needs to break. His son was late, drunk and hiding something when he came home, and that is a lot to swallow. Garret flashes the entire understanding in a skillfully underplayed moment and a half. His son Charles is in agony, and Shane Graham plays him with barely contained restraint. His face looks like it could pop any moment, but he holds it like he’s holding his breath under water. He’d better, or his sister Jeannie McCullough (Sydney Lucas), will tar his feathers.
No family dynamic is complete without dysfunction. Pete and Sally’s (Jess Weixler) marriage is breaking under the rustic weight of the dynastic family home with so many bodies buried around it. She escapes to the city of Austin, which is much more forgiving. There is some obvious flirtation, and longing for the more stable, confident brother. Phineas says he’s not confident, but he’s brave enough to take her to the more risqué parts of town. Gay bars in early turn of the century Texas? Life is a cabaret in the big city. Sally makes a complete fool of herself, and the plainly progressive Phineas loves her for it. Pete is a little bit jealous when he first hits the city, but he’s probably feeling his own guilt.
Young Eli is dealing with his own guilt. The young woman he forced into slavery wants to kill herself, and Prairie Flower (Elizabeth Frances) thinks that might be such a bad idea. Times are tough in the 1850 Texas Panhandle. Times are always tough. They are also always equally complicated and simple. Pathetic White Boy can make a play for marriage against rising warrior Charges The Enemy (Tatanka Means), and even get the full support of the chief, Toshaway (Zahn McClarnon), but can he really get the white girl Dirty Hair out of his guilt.
The scene where Charges the Enemy and Eli are about to throw down, but opt to go after horses, is one example of why I like the flashbacks over the more modern setting. There are three little surprises in a row in that scene, but the middle surprise, is that no personal battle comes before a good hunt. Or at least in that moment. They could toss aside their rivalry to work together. But Charges the Enemy cuts the treacle superbly. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to feel sorry for Eli, but it’s more fun to giggle as he tumbles over into the wild horses. Chief’s pet Pathetic White Boy does start to make good on his down payment on Prairie Flower and the game continues.
The most informative scenes on The Son are played out in silence. The music and looks tell the story. When María García (Paola Núñez) is defiant in the face of the Law and Order League, there are no spoken threats. The threat comes in silently from behind as the league closes rank. We get the feeling that Pete and Maria would close ranks from the moment we learned about trouble on the homefront.
“Marriage Bond” reveals a lot. The expanse of the McCullough dynasty looks vast under the classically focused cameras. But it is much smaller than it used to be. The Son is bigger tonight when the cameras are intimate. The episode is unrushed, but leaves us with a feeling that gun has just been cocked.
“Marriage Bond” was written by Kevin Murphy and Julia Ruchman, and directed by Jeremy Webb.