Wars for Oil and Personal Vendettas Grow More Intense in Season 2 of ‘The Son’

AMC’s “The Son” returns for a second and final season to remind us that men of industry have always been pretty ruthless. Powerful families also tend to have fascinating backstories and the fictional McCulloughs of this saga are no exception. Last season introduced us to darkly charismatic patriarch Eli McCullough (Pierce Brosnan), a Texas cattle baron desperate to tap into that black gold known as oil. McCullough’s story is told in three sections, one set in 1915, another set years before in the 1850s and a final section set in the 20th century with his granddaughter. It’s quite ambitious, but undeniably entertaining television. Season two opens with the revelation that McCullough’s own heirs may be the biggest threat to his ambitions.

We open on a group of chained prisoners doing some digging as Mexican soldiers look on. McCullough soon arrives with his own men. It turns out one of the prisoners is McCullough’s son, Pete (Henry Garrett), who last season had run away to Mexico with Maria Garcia (Paola Núñez) after dad slaughtered her own family to get their land. But now it seems all is forgiven and Pete can come back home. Of course McCullough has not slowed down his plans and is bent on exploiting the land he’s grabbed, even as the Mexican Revolution rages across the border. Cut to 1988 when an aged Jeanne McCullough (Lois Smith) celebrates her birthday and has a chat with a Mexican worker named Ulises (Alex Hernandez), who offers to help run her stables. She warns him that if he injures any of her mares he’ll get shipped back home. We then cut back in time to 1851, where a young Eli (Jacob Lofland) rides around with the Comanches that have raised him. Now with a raiding party he witnesses some terrible bloodshed as Comanche warriors raid a family home in Coahuila, Mexico, killing everyone. But revenge will be swift and Eli will find himself having to face threats to his tribe, while Eli in 1915 faces threats to his dreams of enterprise.

“The Son” can be seen as part of the ongoing series of TV shows which focus on powerful, wealthy families and their dark corners. But like last year’s “Yellowstone,” this is also a grand update of the episodic western. The season two premiere, “Numunuu,” has everything from Indian raids to near shootouts with Mexican soldiers. This material demands we get some “Legends of the Fall”-style melodramatics, which we did get last season with the Pete and Maria escape. In this episode it becomes clear great tension will keep building fathers and sons. McCullough grows frustrated because Pete has no idea where Maria has gone, which means she could still pose a threat to his expansionist plans. Later Pete will try to hang himself, but pulls back from finishing the deed. While his father’s dark intentions are too much to bare he would rather stay alive to fight another day. Pete’s wife Sally (Jess Weixler) has no illusions and calls Eli a vicious, selfish old man. Pete’s daughter Jeanne (Sydney Lucas) also doesn’t believe the family cover story, it being that her father was in Mexico chasing bandits. The son tries to put on a good act and even helps chop down a tree for Christmas.

Pierce Brosnan is again the true center of this show. The former 90s James Bond is now a silver-haired baron, smoking his cigars and coldly watching as others accuse him of dastardly deeds. What he did to the Garcias was cruel, but he has no time for a conscience, he needs to start digging into their land to get that oil. He’s not a total blank slate though, and the flashbacks to the 1850s, as he witnesses another massacre as a young man, and then sees his village also ransacked by Mexican marauders, help explain why his heart turned to stone. By the episode’s final moments Chief Toshaway (Zahn McClarnon) has been seriously injured, no doubt in retaliation for the earlier killing of the family in Coahuila. Eli is being groomed for leadership, and the pressure mounts from his Comanche bride, the lovingly-named Prairie Flower (Elizabeth Frances), who barely escapes the violent assault on the village.

This season premiere ends with a tense silence as Pete tries to take his life, but it points to a larger conflict to come. McCullough wants to build his empire, but his greatest threats might come from within. “The Son” remains intriguing not only because of its multi-era format, but because the drive to power is used to explore how children are followed by the sins of the father.

The Son” season 2 premieres April 27 and airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.