This The Son review contains spoilers.
The Son Season 2 Episode 3
In The Son, season 2, episode 3, “The Blind Tiger,” gets downright Biblical. In the beginning, we see the slaughter of livestock which Pete (Henry Garrett) himself says looks like something out of the Old Testament, and the follow-up scene sets up a scenario borrowed from The Prodigal Son. When it comes to the sons of the First Son of Texas, this kind of roundup could result in a Cain and Abel solution.
Eli McCullough may run his household, and Pierce Brosnan may reign supreme over the series itself, but every character is expertly drawn and the sibling rivalry is fascinating. Phineas (David Wilson Barnes) and Pete respect, admire and like each other. Pete really did take the prodigal son route, heading south with María García (Paola Núñez), the daughter of the family the McCulloughs slaughtered in a land grab. Phineas stayed at home to tend to his daddy’s needs, and is expert at it. He is living a double life as a closeted gay man, but his father doesn’t have a problem with that, so long as it’s kept discrete. So he is at a loss as to why the younger brother gets cut so much slack.
Not that Pete’s a slacker. He is as effective and efficient as his brother in the field. He just prefers to keep his hands dirty, which is probably why Eli favors the younger brother. Both Phineas and Pete have dirt under their fingernails, maybe not quite as much as the Colonel, but it’s there. Neither brother would ever turn back from a fight, quarrel or deal, but one is a little bit wilder. He shows his wild side in a masterful sequence tonight where he teaches a lesson to the fella from Lubbock representing northern interests and slaughtering his cows.
The cattle slaughter also brings out Pete’s tender side. His daughter Jeannie (Sydney Lucas), who may turn out to be the smartest McCullough in the bunch, spots a calf whose mother was killed in the raid. Pete tells her to take care of it and whatever they get from the market is hers. This is a wonderful parental solution to a horrific scene. It gives the daughter something to get her mind off the horrors falling around her and gives her a responsibility which is paired with caring. Part of Pete’s rebellious nature is that he simply really cares.
Eli sees this and some of the best scenes between the two actors are when Pete gives angry recounting, on any subject. Eli prods his son on until Pete ultimately shows his true intent, and never loses the glint in his eye. You get the feeling that if Eli somehow overheard the conversation where Pete swore to Marie he’d kill his father that Eli would laugh and punch his son good humoredly on the shoulder. Pete falls into every trap his old man puts in front of him and Eli looks positively beside himself with happiness, especially when heading into the least happy situations. It is a moment of pride in shared anger.
The fight with Standard Oil is still a chess game, but you can feel the escalation from the earliest veiled threats and holstered pistols. The outsider Buddy Monahan pushes Standard Oil as a Goliath and he’d rather make these Davids rich than deal with sling shots. The Philadelphia parent company and all Getty’s men don’t realize the First Son of Texas can use pretty much anything as a lethal weapon. The McCulloughs rally together because nothing brings a family together than preparing to go on the warpath.
Young Eli’s (Jacob Lofland) Comanches, in the 1852 timeline, are suffering major losses as they move from the area the Apaches have claimed in a bloody land grab of their own. Toshaway (Zahn McClarnon) has to sacrifice a horse, giving the blood to the weakest members of the tribe, and makes a decision to go to a band of Yap-Eater Comanches for assistance through the winter. The group is led by his son, who Tashaway remembers as Sits in the Mud. The Comanche warrior earned the name Fat Wolf when he was still a boy and now that he’s chief he tells young Pathetic White Boy, he will kill Toshaway if he tries to take his leadership. Sons and fathers have complicated relationships regardless of the background.
The Comanche way appears to be well-presented. The language and psychology come across naturally and authentically. We fully believe Prairie Flower’s (Elizabeth Frances) when she says she knows the baby she’s carrying is a girl. We fully believe Pathetic White Boy is becoming the man Eli will be as the First Son of Texas, in spite of their different features. Even as he wonders whether all the scalps he’s amassed gives him the right to get a new name he looks like he should play bass for the Cowsills. But we know better.
We get to know Toshaway a little better as young Eli and Fat Wolf bond over smokes and smoking guns. Between puffs, we hear Toshaway was a translator for the white man at the council house. He translated words from the spirit talk and it got his people shot. Fat Wolf is upfront, bluntly honest with a slight flavor of droll humor. Eli asks if he could speak with him, and Fat Wolf says it looks like you already are. Small things, but they inform him. He makes a good chief. Eli will learn a lot from that whole family.
Pete’s wife Sally (Jess Weixler) sees Maria is in town and immediately goes to the music store to call Phineas. This gives the elder brother ammunition against her husband, and also gives her the chance to cop a joint of mota from the music teacher. This is a stereotype of musicians which will work as foreshadowing. The music in the series is effective in a classic way. Emotive and suspenseful, the soundtrack underscores ulterior motives with on a grand scale.
The Son‘s “The Blind Tiger” moves at a family friendly pace with quick splashes of familiar brutality. As the McCullough family becomes a dynasty, the series refines the crude without losing the grit.
The Son Season 2 airs on Saturdays at 9 p.m. on AMC.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.