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The Son - The Prophecy and Scalps (Season 1 Finale) - Double Review

19 Jun 2017

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These two episodes provided a fitting resolution to The Son's at times clumsy, at times impressive debut season. This season has not been perfect, but it has at least been consistent in its ideas about the cyclical nature of violence and the never-ending depths of man's greed. And so it's only natural for it to end with Eli abandoning much of his remaining humanity simply out of a desire for more.

After his epiphany at the end of "Honey Hunt", Eli spent much of "The Prophecy" trying to maintain the small bit of humanity that remained in him after so many years of bloodshed. He realizes that the oil on the Garcia land is vital for his business to survive, but he also realizes that taking it will lead to an unavoidable fracture in his family, particularly in his fraught relationship with Pete, his favourite son (sorry, Phineas). In "The Prophecy" Eli's struggle is paralleled by his attempts to return to the family he found in the Comanche tribe.

In these flashbacks an injured Eli is found by a woman called Maggie Phelps, played with a subtle instability by Anna Lise Phillips, living in a hut in the middle of nowhere by herself. She takes a liking to Eli, and wants to return him to civilization and reunite him with his father, despite Eli's protestations. Both timelines collide thematically as Eli's hand is seemingly forced, and he abandons his humanity, though for different reasons. In the flashbacks Maggie drugs Eli and begins to take him into town, and he gets the upper hand and leaves her for dead. Older Eli's hand is also forced when Phineas takes matters into his own hands and burns down Niles' saloon, thereby ensuring a conflict between his men and the Garcias. However, the show blurs whether Eli really had to do what he did in both instances. Did he really have to leave Maggie to die? Did he really have to go to war with the Garcias?

The flashbacks here also serve as perhaps the inception of the cycle of violence that has been repeated over and over again in the later timeline, with the impending assault on the Garcia ranch just being the latest incarnation of it. Violence, The Son argues, is inherited, and makes ripples large and small through time. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Each sin is the result of countless prior sins, and will birth countless more. While I doubt that Maggie actually cursed Eli, in a way she did, because her fate was Eli's biggest step yet on the path to becoming the man we know he will be, a path that will lead to the splintering of his family.

Whereas in "The Prophecy" the two timelines serve as rough parallels to each other, with one echoing another, "Scalps" sees them serve as contrasts. While Young Eli finds family in the tribe, an older Eli sees his family get destroyed. Not all of it of course - much of it is still intact in the wake of the assault - just the part that matters most to him, that being his relationship with Pete. Young Eli's sins lead to him finding a father figure in Toshoway and reconciling with Charges the Enemy before his death. Older Eli's sins lead to him losing whatever humanity remained in him, with the small comfort of of financial gains.

From the first few episodes The Son has been commenting on Texas' gradual modernization, and while Eli no longer seems to recognize the world he lives in, the show demonstrates that while much has changed, much has stayed the same, from the role of women to how easily violence can erupt and be accepted. There's nothing lawful about the assault on the Garcia ranch, but that doesn't matter. In this finale, the new rules are abandoned in favour of the old, as everyone resorts to baser instincts. No matter how much the world changes, it will always be built atop the suffering of others.

Perhaps more than anyone, this idea is represented by Pete, a man who, in one way, is caught between these two worlds - emphasized by him getting caught in the middle of the episode's central conflict - but is also discomforted by his own past misdeeds. Pete has never been comfortable in his father's world, but he is competent in it, and that's the key. The nature of man never truly changes. And so it's fitting that the season concludes with Eli and Toshoway watching a wave of white settlers come, ready to declare the Comanche land for themselves. They represent a new world, but that new world doesn't seem too different from the old one.

Episode Grade: A-
Season Grade: B