As much as I'm a fan of pretty much anything in the Western genre, it's always exciting when someone decides to bring to life one of the real legends who made their mark on the Wild West. One of the most interesting and notorious gunslinging outlaws is Billy the Kid, the center of the new Epix series.
There have been over 50 iterations of the notorious Billy in films and TV shows over the years, but this one is particularly exciting because it feels like they finally nailed the casting. British actor Tom Blythe seems perfect for the young criminal and the first episode of the season, "The Immigrants," really kicked things off well. We first met Billy the Kid long before he earned his legendary nickname; he was just Billy McCarty (historically he was born Henry McCarty). He was just a kid, who had no idea where life would take him in just a few years.
Here are 5 main takeaways from episode 1 of Billy the Kid.
We first meet Billy in El Paso in 1877
The episode opens with Billy in a saloon in 1877, 4 years before he died at the age of 21. He makes his way up to a bounty hunter who doesn't realize who he is at first. Though the majority of the episode flips back to his childhood, we wrap things up with Billy killing the bounty hunter after trying to convince him he doesn't want any trouble.
Billy had a happy family in New York City
After meeting an older Billy, we flashback to his childhood six years prior from the opening scene. His parents are Irish immigrants and his dad Patrick seems skeptical about the promise of a new life out west. Though it seems like they are struggling a bit to make ends meet, Billy's mom feels like it could be a great new start for their family as well as their friends the O'Connors.
With young Billy's help, the McCarty and O'Connor families secure affordable wagons to take them to Coffeyville, Kansas. Though everyone seems excited about their new beginning, Billy's father Patrick remains unsure about the journey and leaving everything they know behind.
Billy's family loses everything on the trail
The show provides a reminder of the harsh realities of life for travelers heading west. The conditions were incredibly difficult and some didn't even make the journey. Sadly, Billy's family loses all of their belongings as their wagon crosses a river. It might seem like its as simple as leading your horses across the water but it was actually incredibly challenging and the current of the water could easily drag everything downstream. Billy's father almost drowns trying to secure their bags from floating away, unwilling to part with the little they brought with them. Billy also nearly doesn't make it and their trail leader has to wade into the water to help him. This seems to be the pivotal moment for Patrick McCarty where his worst nightmares about the journey have come true. He never really recovers.
Billy learns to shoot a gun after a tragedy on the trail
While the McCarty and O'Connor families are huddled around a campfire at night, shooting breaks out nearby. Their trail leader announces that it is horse thieves and runs with some others to stop them from stealing their horses and wagons. Frank O'Connor jumps up to help, grabbing a gun and running into the dark. He comes back a short time later after the thieves have been taken care of with a bullet in the stomach. He falls over dead, much to the dismay of his wife and son as well as the McCarty family.
Shortly after, the trail leader takes Billy aside and teaches him how to shoot a gun. It's the beginning of Billy developing the shooting skills that would serve him years later.
The West is not the promised land the McCarty family dreamed of
It's an unfortunate reality check for the McCarty family when they finally arrive in Kansas. The land is desolate and barren, no one seems happy, and there are very few opportunities if any. In fact, Mary O'Connor and her son Sam decide to face the horrors of the trail and travel back to New York City, unwilling to deal with the rigors of the west without Frank there with them.
As we first saw after the incident on the river, Patrick is still just as broken and has taken ill. It seems that he doesn't really have any fight left in him and is willing to just waste away, completely uninterested in pulling himself together for his family and their new lives. His wife Kathleen is forced to find a job at a boarding house in order to obtain lodging and money for the family, the beginning of a rough road for her since life out west couldn't be more different from what she left in the big city.
READ MORE: Who Played the Best Billy the Kid?
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