This The Son review contains spoilers.
The Son Episode 9
The Son season 1, episode 9, “The Prophecy,” sends mixed messages. Eli McCullough (Pierce Brosnan) will live up to his potential, but suffer the curse of success as the season and the empire looks to be winding down.
The sins of the father are often passed down to the son, as Pedro Garcia (Carlos Bardem) warns his daughter María (Paola Núñez). Eli was raised by two fathers in two families, one white, the other Comanche. Young Eli has no allegiance to his white father, who beat the kids when he was drunk and made his wife cry over some whore in Austin. But Tiehteti is loyal to the tribe who killed his family and raised him as a brave. It was more than indoctrination that turned Pathetic White Boy into a true Comanche. It was the spirit of Earth itself, which the Comanche respect far more than their civilized brethren.
The Lamina, which is what good Christians call the Comanches, aren’t people to the self-proclaimed divinely in tuned. A few weeks ago, Toshaway (Zahn McClarnon), the chief, admitted that all peoples demonize their enemies to make conquest easier on the conscience. But the mystic missionary who saves young Eli’s life only to chloroform him into captivity is only a Christian warrior, not military. She is charismatic, probably an early member of the Spiritualist movement that carved new frontiers into the psychic wounds the settlers inflicted on the native population.
Spirituality differs greatly between the white Christians and the Comanches. The Native Americans are open about their herbal remedies, but Maggie Phelps keeps her instruments of revelation under her hat. Sucking up the fumes to see the future, Anna Lise Phillips brings a wild eyed glint into her low key madwoman prophet. She wants to save the boy from himself, and probably for herself. Subtle sexual energy rises until she finally drugs the sleeping kid and falls asleep on top of him. That could be as powerful sex magic as the young wannabe renegade’s first love. Between that and the ultimate pain Eli causes, Maggie’s predictions could turn out to be eerily accurate.
Maggie predicts that Eli will go on to be a “great warrior. Everyone will know your name. You will live a long life and prosper beyond your dreams.” She goes on predict that he will marry and have three sons who are strong and handsome. The youngest will be his favorite. That all checks out. The first son of Texas earned that title the hard way. He fought for it. He did indeed marry and have three sons, though not with his intended bride Prairie Flower (Elizabeth Frances). Maggie kind of yada yadas over that, like Elaine yada yadas sex over dinner on Seinfeld. As a prognosticator, she earns top marks.
Young Eli rebels because of Maggie’s fervor. He would have kept to his word. He promises that he never betrays friends, acknowledges the help she gave, and would truly pay her back with interest. That is the character of the man he grows up to be. That’s the man she betrays, with the best intentions, and curses with foresight. She predicts that Eli’s oldest son will die as a child, his middle child will betray him, and the youngest, his favorite, will be lost forever because of something Eli does. By the end of the episode, it looks like her batting average on predictions is secure, we’ll know by season’s end, but all outcomes come out because of the character she helps forge.
The Apache kid that Eli talked about was real, though Phineas always thought he made up that part of the story. Eli is grateful for the assassin showing up when she did. It was a sign, maybe not magical, but fortuitous. It cements the First Son of Texas’s character. Eli never killed a man who didn’t attack him first. Pedro Garcia is his friend, saved his family’s life. While Phineas was off bribing a judge, his father was on the verge of an epiphany. He has to make good on the promises he made to the spirit of his former child gone native, even if it costs him his ranch and his family. He has a karmic debt that he is proud to carry.
Pete McCullough (Henry Garrett) has got a lot to be ashamed of, but not his relationship with Maria. He’s hurt a lot of people. Not just his wife Sally, but everyone whose blood now enriches the soil of his family’s land. He rides off to fulfill some part of the prophecy after his brother burns his allegiance at Justice League leader Niles Gilbert’s (James Parks) bar. This is the most pivotal scene in whole series. It’s an action scene acted in the horrific pain of schism. Eli watches each son move into place to fulfill the prophecy. Neither son knows they’re doing something predetermined, but they know that they are choosing their destinies.
Brosnan is a very generous actor. I saw an interview on Turner Movie Classics with Robert Ryan about working with Spencer Tracy. During the scene they were in together in Bad Day At Black Rock, Ryan wanted to make a mark as an actor with the acting legend. It was his big scene and he had the right to upstage the veteran thespian. Tracy played the scene sitting down and, worse, looking down, underplaying the shit out of it. There was no way to look at anything else. Brosnan doesn’t do that. He underplays, yes. But he allows the other, younger, actors to steal the gravity of a scene whether they want to underplay or be extreme, which they do with restraint. He makes the scenes he’s not even in better. Except for the scenes with young Eli, who is allowed to do it on his own. Sure, there’s bleed-over. There’s always bleed-over on the McCullough ranch.
“The Prophecy” was written by Julia Ruchman, and directed by Tom Vaughan.