The American West: The Big Killing – Then There Were Three (Review)

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As The American West speeds through its recounting of the “heroes” and badmen who became legends, it appears that the list has narrowed down to three. Jesse James, Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid are the last of the myths and icons of the old west to be portrayed. Although, Pat Garrett gets a look in as the guy who brought Billy to justice the first time.

The series has thus far been rather frugal with the truth and neglected to mention major players in the Lincoln County Range War.  It also appears to cater to myth versus irrefutable truth.

At one point in “The Big Killing”  episode we have Billy the Kid Meeting Jesse James who attempts to recruit the “Kid” to join his gang. The “meeting” was included in a frontier doctor’s memoirs but the medico gets no mention and he was the man who introduced the pair.

Arguably most historian’s refute this as apocryphal tale, as Dr. Hoyt’s book was written many years after the fact but Robert Redford, who executive produced the show, has opted to put this doubtful tale in as fact.

The Billy the Kid section is the weakest segment in the last of these three  “legends.’  In another glaring omission of the real participants in the range war and its aftermath,  the infamous escape of Billy  leaves out  more names and facts. The house that Billy, and others (who were not mentioned in the episode) escaped from was that of Andrew McSween who was shot and killed, in the attempt.

There are names and  incidents missing from several vignettes of the legends on offer. Possibly  because the series is restricted to eight episodes.  Or the researchers have opted to use just the internet for information or even relied upon “historians” whose bona fides may be lacking,. There is much about the men they have chosen to focus on that has been ignored or left by the way side.

Certainly the format is meant to give the audience a taste of the west as the new American’s marched resolutely across the land and changed Native American’s lives forever.  In the show’s retelling, only a few men are chosen and it seems that the railroad is the main link.

The history of this huge country is fascinating. None more so that the time period shown in AMCs offering The American West.  Some things have been done correctly. The dichotomy of the East Coast’s industrial revolution for instance. Machinery and  cities that already boasted multistory buildings were in direct contrast to muddy streets and the newly established railroad.

In this episode Wyatt Earp is only just going to Tombstone, invited there by his brother Virgil, and it will be interesting to see if any mention is made of John Henry “Doc” Holliday. The two men were thick as thieves and Doc helped out at the O.K. Corral shootout.

This series was eagerly awaited by many who enjoy American “western” history. However AMC have really let the side down with its tunnel vision version of events. Of course some of the issues here may lie with a limited budget.  For example the preview of next week’s episode shows Billy in a small, single story jail cell.  In reality the building that housed Billy was  the two-story Lincoln county jail that doubled as the court house.

As nice as it is to have reenactments of history presented right after Hell on Wheels, if the show’s producers are going to rely upon such specious information they may as well do a scripted bit of western fiction.

The American West airs Saturdays on AMC.  There are two episodes left.  Worth a look only if the viewer has no idea of western history and wants a good starting point.

CAST:

Narrated by Bert Thomas Morris 

Pretty Little Liars: Don’t Look Now (Review and Recap)

This week’s episode, Don’t Look Now, in Pretty Little Liars we learn about who Charles DiLaurentis was and what happened to him. According to Jason’s and Alison’s father, he was sent to Radley Institution, where Spenser also spent time. Their father assures both kids that the troubled sibling was too dangerous to stay at home and Jason is still upset that he was made to believe that Charles never existed.

The girls are all still reeling from their torturous incarceration with some having flashbacks, although Spenser is having a harder time than the rest since her mom cancelled her anti-anxiety medication and as a result she cannot sleep. Mr. Dilaurentis explains that the family moved to be close to Charles. Ali relates what she learned to the rest of the girls including the fact that the mystery brother is dead, he committed suicide.

Hannah is convinced that DiLaurentis is still lying and Spenser mentions the home movie the girls found in the doll house, they agree to find proof that Charles is dead. Caleb is sticking close to Hannah and Emily is getting pressure from her mother to speak to Dr. Sullivan. Sara is included and does not react well to the news.

All of the doll house survivors are dealing with the incident better than their families. Aria’s father has become paranoid and wants to take her everywhere, Emily’s mother wants her to have therapy and Caleb, with Hannah’s mother’s blessing is smothering the girl with over protection. He even puts a tracker in her car which, understandably, upsets Hannah.

Spenser meets Sabrina, a new baker at the coffee shop and she learns that the new girl takes drugs for her migraines. As the flashbacks increase, Spenser is getting desperate for some relief and her need to sleep is overwhelming. At one point she goes through Aria’s rubbish bin looking for the pills that she threw away. Finally, Spenser goes to Sabrina for drugs. The baker will not sell her anything but does “put together” a box of essentials.

Sara runs from Emily’s home and returns to her mother, only to learn that things have not changed and that she cannot stay there. Spenser call Radley to see what happen to the patient records now that the facility has closed. Finding that the records either went with transferred patients or were sent to be shredded, the girls head off to find proof of Charles’ death.

At the River Hill Data Center the backdoor to the warehouse is left open and Hanna, Spenser, Aria and Emily search until they find a file on Charles. There is no record of his death or any transfer but they learn what medication he was on and that his great-Aunt Carol was one of two regular visitors. The girls grab the file and as they leave the warehouse Caleb is waiting for them outside. This is when Hannah learns about the tracker that he put on her car.

Jason remembers that after Aunt Carol died, he went to stay at her old home; he was hiding out at the time. When he arrived, his mother was already there and would not let him in the house. He could hear someone else in the building and his mother said that it was the wind and that no one else was there.

Aria gets locked in the developing room at the school and just before discovering that she cannot get out, finds a note that referenced a doll house incident, “You are MY doll b*tch – A” and she has a flashback to Charles cutting her hair and threatening to take all of it if she did not dye it. Afterward she opens up to her father about the doll house.

Alison’s dad relates a Rain Man type incident when she was a baby where Charles almost scalded her in the bath. By the end of the episode, it looks like Hannah is not the only one being tracked and it certainly seems that the kidnapper is still free.

This week’s title, Don’t Look Now is an apparent allusion to the iconic 1973 horror film with Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland. In the film, the specter of their drowned daughter fills every frame, even when the sight of a red raincoat clad child is not seen by Sutherland’s character and the camera. In the movie, the “child” turns out not to be the ghost of the dead daughter and it seems that in Pretty Little Liars, it is not Charles who kidnapped the girls.

While this is a bit of a stretch, the fact that the “invisible” sibling of Jason and Ali has been dead, the girls discover his grave and headstone, for quite some time, he is obviously the specter in this show. But whoever “doll house” Charles is and his connection to the DiLaurentis brother is still to be answered. With Caleb being asked to back off and his tracking of Hannah, is he the one who is tracking all the doll house survivors? Pretty Little Liars airs Tuesdays on ABC.

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