To describe the show in one word, mediocre. It is nothing more than I expected from a western AMC series, but at the same time, I’d probably watch the whole season and have a decent time doing so. This wouldn’t be because I’m hooked to the plot and dying to see what happens next but more because I have faith that AMC wouldn’t air a show that didn’t at least have some substantial/entertaining moments.
The intro is horrible. (I know, abrupt change of tone from the first paragraph, but it’s true.) It’s as if the show is trying so hard to make the plot and setting clear that it has severely dumbed it down in the process. The initial church confessional scene is intended to provoke an “OMG, didn’t see that coming” type reaction. However, this scene has been overplayed so many times in the past that it seems like recycled, laziness (Boondock Saints, Machete, etc). The show may as well have started with, “The Civil War is over. Here’s depressed soldier A. Oh, no, someone has a personal vendetta towards depressed soldier A and possibly others, and now this man with a vendetta is going to go kick some ass and get some revenge. Scene 2: Manifest Destiny, let’s expand. The “Indians” are savages, bla, bla. Let’s capitalize on this because I’m immoral and trying to ball out”. Reading a text book about American history would provide similar clarity. An addicting television show, in my opinion, leaves the viewer at least somewhat in the dark and allows room for interpretation and curiosity. This show doesn’t do that. However, this could also be a reason why I want to watch the second episode now. This show is simple and mindless—a great one to put on and have a strong drink after a long day.
I like some of the score a lot. It may be somewhat knocked off from Deadwood, but it entertained me. I thought the costumes and scenery seemed a bit too contrived/cheesy. It felt somewhat like a section of Disney world—too Hollywood.
There is some funny, cute banter such as the train scene conversation between Doc (the badass/out to kill yet moral type) and the two young men (“looking for their fortune”).
I had mixed feelings towards the Cheyanne tribe attack scene. Some of the imagery and cinematography is beautiful (i.e. when the scene switches from within the lovers in the tent to the Native Americans walking through the light, snow-covered bushes preparing to attack. The juxtaposition of the contrasting appearance of the scene within the tent to the tribe approaching really amplified the prettiness of this shot. In addition to the cinematography/imagery, I was somewhat drawn into this brief yet brutal attack scene. I may just be a sucker, but I felt the intensity of Lily Bell’s escape scene with Robert. Lily jumping on top of the Native American after being shot by the arrow and taking control over the situation added to her likability. She established herself as a tough chick. Once again, I may just be a sucker and have not been in a cynical mood when I watched this, but I’ll admit that I was able to empathize with Lily as she kissed Robert and fled the scene.
However, like I said, I had mixed feelings towards this Cheyanne tribe attack scene. I would have liked the show to have immersed me more deeply within the lovers’ relationship and personalities to develop an even stronger connection with them before everything went awry. Also, I’m sure the show will film through the lens of the tribe’s perspective, but like many old westerns, a Native American was turned into the villain within this first episode. I understand the rational third party perspective of the common ignorant portrayal that the show is probably going for, but regardless, it bothered me.