AMC’s new Western series, “The Son” has finally touched down, its two-hour premiere airing Saturday (April 8). Adapted from Philipp Meyer’s best-selling novel, the series explores the legacy of the McCullough family throughout multiple Texas timelines.
There’s a lot to take in here, but the main focus in the season’s first two episodes tap into what make Eli McCullough (Pierce Brosnan) tick: Exploring his childhood in 1849 and his adult life in 1915.
A traumatic childhood experience thrusts young Eli (Jacob Lofland) into a strange and violent new world: Not long after he returns from a hunt, his entire family is attacked by a tribe of Comanches. They rape and murder his mother and sister, kill his father and take him and his brother hostage. Needless to say, these jarring events set Eli on his way to becoming the McCullough family’s cold-hearted patriarch.
There’s a raw stillness to the violence that plays out in these flashback sequences, which see young Eli steadily finding his place within this chaotic environment. But as crazy as it all feels, the cutaways to 1915 Texas leave multiple storylines feeling a bit lost under the weight of the show’s fragmented narrative.
As we follow adult Eli, a conflict between the McCulloughs and neighboring Mexican family, the Garcias, escalates quickly. Obviously, there’s a war brewing between the two factions, and these present-day events set up that future drama well enough, and Eli’s differing relationships with his sons — the empathetic Pete McCullough (Henry Garrett) and managerial Phineas (David Wilson Barnes) — provide conscience and perspective to a story that might otherwise get lost under Eli’s id.
McCullough’s violent nature is on full display as the family reacts to an unexpected attack on their land, and this is where the pending war begins to take shape: A member of the Garcia family sabotages Eli’s new oil rig, blowing up a portion of the man’s property. We know there are dark times ahead for both families — that part is clear. And it’s plain to see how his childhood trauma shaped Eli into the heartless adult we see before us. But so far, his journeys with Toshaway (Zahn McLarnon) and the rest of young Eli’s new Comanche family remains riveting in a way the 1915 sequences have yet to match.
We don’t know how far adult Eli will go to keep his family safe, but we can’t help but wonder if the attack on his family all those years ago are what really turned him into this man. If his formative years went another way, would he be a different now? As they progress, the flashbacks find young Eli adapting a bit too easily to his new life. Maybe this dark side was always there, waiting for the right time to take hold.
In any case, we’re hopeful the series will find a nice balance between all the plotlines as they unfold — the story’s heart is Eli McCullough, and we can’t wait to see all his complex layers exposed.
“The Son” airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC.