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The Son - Second Empire - Review

17 Apr 2017

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In 1915, Eli McCullough is worried about his legacy. And why wouldn't he be? An aging patriarch of a powerful Texas family, he sees that the world has passed him by, and has become one he no longer recognises. In response, he's made a perhaps foolish attempt to move his family into the oil business, amid tense race relations, in a final bid to cement his legacy, to ensure that his influence lives on.

Of course, the desperados burning down the oil rig last week has disrupted those plans, and that, combined with safety concerns and the fact that there is no proof that oil is to be found on the McCullough property, has made it difficult for Eli to find investors. In one of the episode's strongest scenes, Eli and Charles make their way to Austin, where a potential investor instead offers to buy some of their land. Eli, a man with an intimidating reputation, is forced to swallow his pride, as he must consider sacrificing some of the land he's worked his whole life for to ensure the survival of the family business, a decision he begrudgingly makes by episode's end.

Eli's not the only character in 1915 who finds himself in a tough position. Pedro Garcia, a man who has fought his whole life to become somewhat respected in spite of his skin colour and name, is conflicted, wanting to help fight for the rights of his people, but uncomfortable with the violent methods that his son-in-law and his fellow desperados have been using. Much to the frustration of of his eldest daughter Maria, he appeases the desperados, deciding to aid them in their efforts. Surely this won't end badly for the Garcia family, right?

Eli's Mexican acquaintance/rival Pedro isn't the only one with a decision to make, as his son Pete continues to struggle with his conscience in the aftermath of Cesar's murder. Doing his best to hide his inner torment from his wife and daughter, the guilt eats away at him from the inside. Sullivan, who works on the family ranch, tries to assuage Pete of the guilt, arguing that the body count he and men like him have accumulated is merely a product of the times in which they live. But Pete knows that, unlike Sullivan or the Colonel, he isn't a product of those times, but is in fact a harbinger of a more lawful future.

While the Colonel has Ingrid to whom he can share his inner struggles, Pete doesn't let anyone in aside from Sullivan, whose words hardly put him at ease. The episode concludes with him no longer fighting his guilt and deciding to dig up the body, but Sally and Sullivan arrive to stop him. Unlike the rest of his family, Pete doesn't belong in this world, but can he survive the transition to the next one?

Eli, on the other hand, longs for a world that is long gone and unlikely to return, as he fondly remembers his time among the Comanche. The scene between the Eli of 1915 and Toshoway is poignant and dreamlike, and the first time the series has used its epic scope to convey something emotionally resonant. While the 1849 timeline continues to move along at a nice clip, and is effective in its simplicity, at times the show has failed to convince that the aging McCullough patriarch is the same person as the boy we see in the flashbacks.

But in an episode where young Eli is growing more accustomed to the highs and lows of Comanche life, from his romance with Prairie Flower to getting shot at with arrows, it's fitting that the Eli of 1915 longs for those simpler times. In the scene between him and Toshoway, he expresses his concerns about his legacy, using Toshoway and his fellow Comanche as an example of a people lost to history, the world after them not giving them a second's thought. But perhaps what's most important is not how you are remembered by the world, but how you are remembered by those you love, their memory of you all that truly lives on.

Grade: B+