Recap: Robert Redford's The West Ep 1
What's Your Favourite Western?
What Happened in Episode One?
Civil War Anger
The episode opens with Jesse James, a former Confederate soldier and one of the most notorious characters of the West. James returns to his home in Missouri after the War fragile and disillusioned. This is a man who seems unable to accept the Union victory. Still reeling from his time in battle, James, along with his brother Frank, sets up a gang and begins stealing.
“When you think of Jesse James and those families, they felt they had been stripped of everything after the Civil War,” actor and contributor Keifer Sutherland tells the show. “They were going to come and take what they thought was owed to them.”
We see as James and his motley crew take on the establishment which includes the first ever US bank robbery in which James kills a man he confuses for a Union soldier.
Bringing a Nation Together
While this is going on, we meet Union leader Ulysses S. Grant, a man “trying to heal the nation,” how? By opening the country and offering opportunities in the West. First muted by Abraham Lincoln, the idea was to ease tensions across the nation through the offer of a new start.
The star of the show Robert Redford sums it up, it was “a chance for people to grow and succeed in ways they couldn’t in the overdeveloped East. Also, just the excitement and the challenge of uncharted territory, a little bit of the American way.” This is a frontier with almost 500,000,000 million square miles of land.
But everything is not as it seems. This land isn’t empty, nor is it the governments to give away.
The Lakota People
Settlers moving West are pushing into land occupied by indigenous populations who have lived there for thousands of years.
Enter Crazy Horse, a Lakota leader of determined to defend his land in the Dakotas. In 1866, Crazy Horse takes part in a bloody campaign across his land pushing settlers back.
The government try to fight back but are defeated by Crazy Horse and the Lakota people in the Battle of a Hundred Slain.
Back in Washington Ulysses S. Grant can’t believe it and has no choice but to send in his best commander, General Custer.
Famous for his Civil War Victories, the show portrays Custer as strange and unconventional man with blonde curled hair, outlandish attire and a strange temperament. Legendary actor Burt Reynolds tells us, “a lot of people laughed at him, but not in battle.” The episode ends with Custer heading out West to shut down the trouble that is brewing.
It’s only been three years since the Civil War ended but it seems that America is facing serious problems across the nation. How will Jesse James be dealt with? Can Crazy Horse defend his land? Or will Custer complete his task? Find out next week on Robert Redford's The West.
Best Did You Know Moment
To promote development in The West, the government made the rail companies an unprecedented offer. Millions of acres of free land. Writer, Walter R. Borneman explains, “For every mile of track the railroad would build Congress would provide the company with land either side of the track. The land grabs really are the sweetheart deal of the century.” In total, around 175,000,000 million acres were given to the railroad companies, more land than the entire state of Texas. This land was then sold on to settlers moving West.
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