Billy the Kid, the famous real-life character from American history, finally gets a modern face through the Epix series produced by MGM Studios. A historical drama that takes the viewers through the life of this man who goes on to become a gunman for hire and creates a legacy for himself based on the crimes he committed throughout his life. Billy the Kid Season 1 was released last year, and the second installment will be out soon. It will expand on the life of William H. Bonney, who seems to have taken some major life-changing decisions by the end of the first season.
What was Billy’s childhood like?
Billy the Kid season one is set in the 1870s and is an eight-episode-long show that covers the life of this gunman whose family were Irish immigrants. His mother Kathleen and father Paddy initially lived in New York City and later moved to Coffeyville, Kansas, to seek better job prospects. The entire family went through an ordeal to survive the trip from the city to rural Kansas that promised a better future as per the advertisement they received. His father lost his friend on this journey, and they also lost a lot of their luggage after their wagon capsized in a river. The boy’s real name was Billy McCarty. He had seen a lot of the problems his family had gone through, from their days in Ireland to their journey to the USA and their subsequent lives as well.
The kid had a tough life, but his mother, Kathleen, was his only source of comfort. She was determined to provide her family with a secure life in the countryside now that New York was not offering any jobs to immigrants. There is a lot of focus on the discrimination from the locals towards Billy’s community, the Irish, as well as the Indians and Mexicans. Since the show is set in 1871, which is six years after the civil war ended, there was animosity that could not be ignored. Billy and his family do not achieve much success in Coffeyville, Kansas, as his father eventually dies of depression. It was interesting to watch the makers talk about illness of the mind and how it slowly led to the eventual demise of the person Billy was closest to after his mother.
Why was a young Billy adamant on helping his mother?
Billy, along with his mother and brother Joe, constantly moved around and could not ignore the male gaze his mother faced. Her need to be independent and desire to be a business owner were emphasized a lot. Yet in the male-dominated world, she had to walk on eggshells to make sure no one harassed her. To avoid any further scrutiny, she married Henry Antrim, a local rich man in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to make sure she and her kids had a roof over their heads.
Billy McCarty changed his surname to Antrim out of respect for his mother. As a kid, he learned the art of gunslinging from a wagon driver who helped his family reach Kansas years ago. His ability to hold the gun without any fear from a young age created a sense of fright amongst many men around them, including his good-for-nothing stepfather. Billy was protective of his mother, and he went out of his way to provide all kinds of help so that she wouldn’t have to depend on her second husband, a womanizer who was under a lot of debt. Billy had the quality of his mother, which was to stay strong even in the worst of the situation.
What was Billy’s game plan?
Fate was never on Billy’s side because he ended up losing all the members of his family. His brother and mother passed away from consumption, which is another name for tuberculosis. Billy became an orphan at a young age, and it pushed him to work with Jesse Evans, who was the leader of the Seven Rivers Gang. This was a group of gunmen that worked on a contractual basis. Billy had no choice but to restrict himself to such work because it gave him some money and improved his experience as a sharpshooter. This was when he committed his first crime, but he somehow managed to escape prison. His journey led him to another town, where he accidentally killed someone.
Billy suddenly became a man who was being hunted, and there was a bounty on his head in two states of America. The makers tried to portray Billy as someone who accidentally got into this field of crime. He was old enough to make his own choices. Amidst all of this, journalist Upson was investigating the Santa Fe ring, which consisted of many rich and influential businessmen who controlled the local legislature and bureaucracy, which helped them hold a monopoly over several businesses.
Billy, on the other hand, developed sympathy for the Mexican community after his small trip to the country. This trip allowed him to see this community with a sympathetic eye and made him realize that a lot of assumptions people have about Mexicans are based on prejudices. Something that he and the family also faced during their initial stay in New York City. Billy did fall in love with a woman named Barbara Jones, who was Jesse’s lover as well. Jesse was the one who freed her from captivity. Once Barbara was free, she promised herself she wouldn’t attach herself to any man, and worked towards being an independent woman. Barbara neither chose Billy nor Jesse. She went on to become a teacher at a school in another town. It is gratifying to watch women take responsibility for their lives and move on to become financially and emotionally independent.
How did Billy get involved in this war between two businessmen?
Billy joins Jesse’s Seven Rivers Gang after his trip back from Mexico, and suddenly he is the talk of the town. After carrying out several robberies with the gang, the only name that emerged in the newspapers was William H. Bonney, Billy’s new alias. This new name had become his identity, which created an atmosphere of fear across counties and states. Billy began owning up to the name and was pleasantly surprised at powerful people approaching Jesse’s gang just because he was a part of it.
The last two episodes of Billy the Kid Season 1 were about the infamous Lincoln County Wars between the English businessman John Tunstall and the corrupt Lawrence Murphy. Lawrence Murphy hired Jesse’s gang to threaten the farmers to stop supplying their produce to John Tunstall as a way to stall their business. Tunstall’s flourishing business had become a fierce competition for Murphy’s line of work. During one of the visits, a certain farmer is killed by Jesse’s men. The whole exercise reeked of arrogance and prejudice people had towards the farming community.
Murphy, in many instances, was called a crook by many farmers and the people working for John Tunstall. Billy had a change of heart after learning everything about Murphy and his corrupt practices. He also learns that Murphy is a part of the infamous Santa Fe ring, which gave him a lot of power to influence local and state law and order. Billy agrees to listen to John Tunstall and the team, who nicely state that he is here to carry out a steady business that would benefit everyone. Billy was sympathetic toward the farmer’s death. Talking with Tunstall allowed him to see the whole arrangement with Murphy as immoral.
Will Billy join John Tunstall’s cause?
John Tunstall also realized that they could not win this war legally and would have to hire gunmen like Murphy had done. This will be a do-or-die situation for both groups. To Tunstall’s surprise, Billy joined his group when the former offered to get rid of all his priors once this war was won. As tempting as the offer was, John probably wanted to live a normal life once all of this was behind them. He joined Tunstall’s cause because he was convinced that Murphy was an awful person who only thrived on offering bribes and never cared about the farmers. Many farmers were killed by Jesse’s gang, as instructed by Murphy.
Billy the Kid season one ended with a drunk Murphy instructing his associates to pin the attack on John Tunstall. Since Murphy was the oldest businessman in the town, people believed his words. Meanwhile, Billy informed Jesse and the gang about his decision to switch sides and work for John Tunstall going forward. Billy was proud of this decision because he thought he was doing the right thing. Jesse, on the other hand, was initially angry, but he was glad that his friend told him about his decision instead of backstabbing all of them.
Billy the Kid Season one’s ending helps the viewer understand what the second season could be about. This is just the beginning of the Lincoln County Wars, and it will be interesting to watch Billy’s role in this historic event.