By Joyce Slaton,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Quality drama about oil-industry family kind of a snooze.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
The show's patriarch and central character prizes money above honor and sometimes even his loved ones -- he's willing to deceive others to get them to go into business with him. The show makes many references to racism, but people of color are given dignified major roles and racist characters often face consequences.
Positive Role Models
Eli McCullough is a complex character who resorts to terrible deeds, including murder, to gain his ends, yet he's frequently kind to his loved ones, especially his granddaughter, Jeannie. Jeannie McCullough is smart and curious; she may take more of a cue from her grandfather's business dealings than her morally conflicted father Pete would prefer. Pete frequently tries to act in a more ethical way than his father, but is often outsmarted by less upright characters.
Violence & Scariness
Characters are killed while their relatives scream in pain and terror, sometimes in prolonged sequences, like when a young boy is slowly stabbed/bludgeoned to death by a man on horseback. Dead bodies are shown, sometimes to horrifying affect: we see the bloated, decomposed face of a man murdered by hanging for stealing cattle (which some characters consider a justified murder). Characters are whipped and hung up to be tortured (an ear is cut off in one lengthy and horrifying scene), we see blood and agonized faces. Guns are frequently brandished and shot, at people and at game: a dead and bloody bird is shown briefly.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Brief references to sex/romance/infidelity, like when a wife hugs her brother in law and says she "married the wrong brother" and a father tells his daughter that she'll have to be more easygoing if she wants to marry someday.
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Cursing and strong language: "ass," "goddamn," "bulls--t," "bastards," "s--t," "hell." Mexican people are called "mexos" and Native Americans often referred to contemptuously as Indians (though sometimes called by their tribal names: Comanche, Apache, etc.).
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A man spikes his drink with liquor to deal with the "bulls--t" he has to "lay down" to would-be business associates at a party, scenes take place at bars and parties with adults drinking whiskey; characters smoke cigars and pipes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Son is a series about a Texas oil family in 1915, and the early life of its patriarch. The series tackles mature subject matter and contains frequent violence: gunplay, shootings, deaths by stabbing/bludgeoning that takes place onscreen, torture (including a horrifying scene where a man's ear is sliced off when his torturers can't get information out of him). A dead man is seen hanging from a tree with his decomposed green face visible; character imply his murder was justified because he's a cattle thief. A family is attacked by Native Americans and the women in the family killed and the house set on fire; family members scream in pain and terror as the deaths occur. Cursing and strong language: "ass," "goddamn," "bulls--t," "bastards," "s--t," "hell." Racial slurs are also frequent: Mexican people are called "mexos" and other archaic names; Native Americans often referred to contemptuously as "Indians"(though sometimes called by tribal names: Comanche, Apache, etc.). Adults drink liquor at parties and bars and talk about drinking to deal with problems. Characters are complex and often act in a less-than-heroic fashion, particularly when profits are on the line.
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What's the Story?
In AMC's multi-generational drama THE SON, Eli McCullough (Pierce Brosnan) is a Texas cattle baron interested in gaining a foothold in the oil industry, and damaged by a past that included being taken captive by local Comanches as a young boy. His son Pete (Henry Garrett) despairs of his father's brutal business practices, particularly when they affect his young daughter, Jeannie (Sydney Lucas); older brother Phineas (David Wilson Barnes) is far more interested in the cash his dad stands to make by taking advantage of their land's oil rights. Meanwhile, the McCullough's neighbors the Garcias are lost in their own dramas. Patriarch Pedro (Carlos Bardem) has already lost one son-in-law to the conflict between Mexican-American Texans and white settlers; he's concerned that fiery son-in-law Cesar Sanchez (Elliot Villar) will soon follow suit. As the McCulloughs, the Garcias, and other locals joust for power, there's only one thing that's clear: There's a lot of money and power at stake, and the family that controls the oil gets both.
Is It Any Good?
Historical conflicts are typically a juicy setting for dramas and this one boasts talented and appealing actors, but unfortunately it's a bit of a high-quality snooze. The problem is mainly the show's leisurely pace -- though the drama hints that the McCulloughs are oil-barons-to-be, the timeline skips back and forth between Eli as a young boy living in semi-slavery with the Comanche, and Eli as a cattle rancher and patriarch. To what end, exactly? It seems that the drama is hinting at parallels between the grown-up Eli who's increasingly worried about local Mexicans intruding on his ranch, and the Comache's attempted extermination of settlers on their land, which resulted in Eli's capture and imprisonment, but it takes an awfully long time to point that out, and meanwhile things stagnate.
There are an awful lot of shots of characters talking in hushed tones in darkened rooms, men squinting into the middle distance with firearms in holsters, horses, cows, fields of corn. It just doesn't add up to a crackling plot, or a grabby one. It's beautifully shot, well-acted, and based on solid source material -- the 2013 book of the same name was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. But The Son just isn't the kind of TV that makes viewers long to know what comes next. Pity.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about The Son's portrayal of a specific historical time period and whether that portrayal seems accurate or exaggerated. What details make what you're seeing seem more realistic? (Think about violence, language, and costuming, to name a few.) How does the show compare with what you know to be true about the American West during that era?
How does the show address the racism of the time period? Whose perspective is the story told from? Do minority characters have much of a voice? How did America's westward expansion affect the lives of Native Americans and Mexican-Americans?
What role did oil play in our nation's growth? Is the discovery and use of fossil fuels truly positive for everyone involved?
- Premiere date: April 8, 2017
- Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Carlos Bardem, Elizabeth Frances
- Network: AMC
- Genre: Drama
- TV rating: TV-MA
- Last updated: February 27, 2023
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