Photography: Van Redin/AMC

Eli and Phineas struggle to raise investment money in Austin.

We’re offering a list of five takeaways from every episode of  The Son aired during the drama’s premiere season on AMC. Warning: There will be spoilers a-plenty in each of these overviews. Here are five takeaways from Episode 103, “Second Empire.”

Takeaway No. 1

Nice to see Eli McCullough appearing a bit more vulnerable and contemplative. Well, more vulnerable and contemplative after he fantasizes about getting all Comanche on that preening rich dude, William A. Philpott Jr. (Brett Rice), during one of the best “Gotcha!” moments we’ve seen in prime-time lately. Pierce Brosnan strikes the perfect balance of furious pride and thoughtful melancholy here, as Eli reveals — to Ingrid (Wendy Crewson), if no one else — just how worried he is about his past sins and future legacy. “I’ve accrued a fair number of black marks against my soul,” Eli says, sounding very much like a man who’s, ahem, underestimating the number of debits in his ledger. Maybe Philpott’s half-jovial, half-condescending remark — “I do not admire the state of your finances!” — left a bruise on his customary self-confidence. In any event, it’s not entirely surprising when Eli winds up agreeing with his son Phineas that they need to sell off some of their land to survive. Nor is surprising when, as soon as he announces his decision, Eli admits he already regrets his decision.

Takeaway No. 2

By the way: Just who is Ingrid? How long has this lady — whose husband is conveniently out of the picture when Eli pays her a call — been a part of Eli’s life? And more important: Can we see more of Brosnan and Wendy Crewson in scenes together? Whether their characters are making love, smoking opium, or trading barbs, they generate terrific chemistry.

Takeaway No. 3

Back in the 1849, Young Eli isn’t exactly distinguishing himself as he struggles for acceptance as a warrior. Indeed, nobody argues the point when Charges the Enemy (Tatanka Means) dubs him “Pathetic White Boy.” And, mind you, that’s before Charges the Enemy discovers that Eli is making whoopee in the teepee with the woman he covets, Prairie Flower. After that, well, no big shock when the jealous warrior doesn’t play nice while Eli is tested in the fine art of arrow-dodging. It actually comes as a relief when the older Eli has a dream in which he’s reunited with Toshaway (Zahn McClarnon), Young Eli’s mentor, and their conversation suggests that, eventually, “Pathetic White Boy” will evolve into something like a badass. By the way: Dream sequences like this one always are tricky things to pull off, but Brosnan and McClarnon do it with no-sweat, matter-of-fact professionalism.

Takeaway No. 4

Did anyone really think Pete, Eli’s sensitive and civilized son,  wouldn’t be troubled by his conscience after his self-defensive killing of Cesar last week? The poor guy barely makes it through a conversation with his friend Maria when she questions him about her brother-in-law’s disappearance. (A nice touch: Pete meets her after he picks up his mail-order copy of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, reading material that indicates Pete is far more progressive than his father.) And it’s always a bad sign when a character in a movie or TV drama starts drinking whiskey straight from the bottle, as Pete does here. Ultimately, Pete decides to dig up Cesar’s body and confess to what he did. But he’s stopped in his tracks — or, more precisely, during his corpse exhuming — by his wife Sally, who’s starting to seem just a teeny bit like Lady Macbeth. Meanwhile, Tom Sullivan (Matthew Posey), a loyal McCullough family employee, demonstrates his worth as a man who knows where all the bodies are buried. Or, in this case, unburied. And Pedro Garcia (Carlos Bardem), Cesar's father-in-law, sure doesn't look like he's as uninvolved in the Mexican-led terrorist attacks as he claimed to be last week.

Takeaway No. 5

Did you notice that long, lingering look exchanged by Phineas and wheeler-dealer Fred Bernhauser (Nick Stevenson) in the lobby of the Diskell Hotel? Eli certainly did. And that may not be the only thing he’s been noticing, judging from his remark to Phineas: “You should be more careful, son!” Speaking of the Driskell: The Austin hotel is still every bit as elegant a place as it appears here. Except that, now, there isn’t a mud street out in front. Indoors, the joint is mucho fancy, and worth a visit next time you visit the capital of the Lone Star State. Just don't try to scalp anyone in the dining room.

 

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