REVIEW: AMC’s The Son is a new Western full of potential
It’s been a long time since a new Western has really grabbed the imagination of television viewers. Thankfully, new series ‘The Son‘ looks set to do just that. Premiering on AMC just three weeks after its debut in the US and starring Pierce Brosnan, The Son is a grand project filled with promise.
The Son starts with a bang. It tells the story of Eli McCullough as a boy in flashbacks to 1849, when his home was ransacked by Comanches and his family murdered. He is taken captive alongside a brother Martin, who is later executed for being defiant as Eli watches. Alongside these scenes we meet Eli again in 1915, an extremely successful cattle baron with an interest in expanding into the oil industry. How did this Eli get to where he is now, we wonder – and what have his experiences done to shape the person he has become?
The character of Eli is one of the most interesting aspects of the premiere. The Son introduces his tragic backstory from the off, creating a sense of sympathy for the character – and then instantly disarms the audience with grown-up Eli’s ruthlessness. We don’t know whether Eli is a character to root for or not. We don’t know what happened to Eli after his capture by the Comanches (I’m excited to find out) and how that has shaped his personality. The character is complex – an enigma that I would love to explore.
While it’s only early days, we don’t learn a great deal about the other members of Eli’s family in the premiere. We know he has a son, Pete, who rightfully questions his father’s conscience and morals. We know he has a granddaughter. The same issue exists for some of the supporting characters, such as the neighbouring Garcia family. We know they are questioning Eli McCullough’s true allegiances, but not a great deal else. It is something the show will need to bring into focus quickly to keep the story fresh and give the characters motives.
The grand scale of The Son is apparent from the off. The show is visually wonderful and has clearly been crafted with care. It is a show where the details count – and the use of lighting beautifully illustrates the change in tone and Eli’s fortunes both in the present and the past. The pilot also comes full circle in a way that is satisfying storytelling and also leaves one eager to watch more.
All in all, The Son has a great deal of potential as it unravels the complex family dynamics of the McCullough family and their complex personal history. The grand scale of the pilot makes one hope that the series will deliver on its promise.