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Billy the Kid: Epix’s origin story is a predictable journey West

This evaluation of Billy the Kid Season 1 will not reveal any plot details and will only cover the first three episodes. Coverage on a weekly basis will carry on from this point forward. On May 24, 2022, episodes 1, 2, and 3 of Billy the Kid, titled “The Immigrants,” “The Rattler,” and “Antrim,” respectively, were broadcast for the first time.

The legend of Billy the Kid lives on, despite the fact that he was brutally murdered at the tender age of 21. In the years thereafter, his mythology has spread throughout the media, from the dime novels that first idealised him to the Epix’s new eight-part origin narrative, the first three episodes of which began on May 24, 2022. As Billy develops into a competent but extremely typical western, it is plagued by one of the most poorly-advised openings in recent memory.

Nevertheless, that premiere. It’s bookended by its lone fascinating sequence, in which a more mature Billy faces a bounty hunter who’s seeking to cash in on the reward on his head, while the rest of “The Immigrants” is like seeing a sped-up version of 1883. Billy (played as a child by Jonah Collier) leaves the slums of New York with his Irish mother, Kathleen (Eileen O’Higgins), his father, and his brother, Joe (Leif Nystrom), travelling West on the waggons of a one-eyed horseman. The swollen rivers obliterate their caravan and scatter all of their valuables, horse thieves kill their comrades with wayward bullets, and McCarty Senior falls into a profound despair. Before long, little Billy has lost nearly everything and everyone he loves.

In the middle of the second episode, Billy transforms into Tom Blyth, a considerably more interesting character shaped by his experiences, which include every male they’ve seen in the preceding five years attempting to rape his mother. While Kathleen works herself to death and Joe hacks up his lungs with tuberculosis, Billy gets involved with gambling dens, cattle rustling, and a conspiracy explained to him by a journalist named Ash Upson (Ryan Kennedy) about several secret cabals called “rings” puppeteering the development of the frontier.

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A significant portion of this adaptation of Billy the Kid is based on actual events, albeit with essential alterations. The Santa Fe Ring was a real group of attorneys and land speculators who amassed great influence and wealth through political corruption and fraudulent land deals, and much of Billy’s story has been filtered through this lens, with many incidents that Billy is known for – including the attempted burglary of a Chinese laundry and a prison escape – being portrayed as punishment for his relationship with Upson. The intention is definitely to portray Billy as a sympathetic man who is compelled to commit crime by his circumstances. While this method may not be historically accurate, it creates a more engaging and sympathetic protagonist. It remains to be seen how the show’s examination of secret organisations will mesh with its depiction of Billy’s emergence as a criminal, but it’s not a terrible concept.

However, Billy the Kid also lacks a plethora of creative thoughts. Even after the five-year time jump, the most of them are ones it has borrowed from other sources, and it feels as though it is retreading very familiar terrain. Blyth does a fantastic job portraying a young man who has been hardened by enormous loss and adversity, but he is increasingly conforming to the conventional cowboy archetype. In order to create a character fascinating and distinctive enough to live up to his lofty reputation, further episodes will need to dig into his hesitation as an outlaw and how that clashes with his talents as a marksman.