A Head Weighs Less than a Body
Another AMC exclusive that begins in desert-like terrain: hold your breath! ‘That Dirty Black Bag’s first episode starts off with a menacing-looking man inside a church. As his back turns, we see a sea of bodies on the benches and the floor. The unnamed man walks out of the building to be confronted by another man with a poncho and the works.
He throws a “dirty black bag” down on the ground. A Mexican standoff ensues and the other unnamed man wins the duel. He asks for a person carrying a Bowie knife with an eye written on the handle: he is a bounty hunter. He separates the man’s head from his body and puts it in the bag.
The focus then shifts to a house just outside Greenvale, the Gold City. The place is so called because of the gold rush that brought prospectors to the town. Now, though, the townsfolk are desperate to trade that gold for water. The place hasn’t seen rain for five years. Steve, his wife, and their child, Dorian, live on a small farm. Steve notices his horses missing and ventures into town. He talks with Sherriff McCoy and lets him know about his suspects: the Wilson brothers and Thompson.
The town’s unrest after a certain Quinn’s return is learned by the Sherriff. Steve’s suspicions are right as Thompson gifts the horses to Francis, an arms dealer, who provides him with explosives to look for gold beneath the ground. Sherriff and his deputies visit Quinn’s house. They find the bounty hunter from the first sequence with Quinn’s head in a bag. The hunter, Red Bill. He demands his bounty from the Sherriff who rebuffs his claims.
Steve goes to Thompson’s mansion to get his horses back. The two have a tussle about the latter’s harassment of the former and how Thompson’s greed diverted the river from the town. His intervention took the lives of many and left the town in its current state. Steve vows to never sell his land to Thompson, who reminds him that it is only a matter of when not if. Sherriff and his deputies stumble upon a robbery gone wrong. They kill a robber and find a chest of Bank of Crimson’s Federal Reserve.
Sherriff pays the periodic taxes to Eve, the owner of the Red Lanter, the local brothel. She reveals about the convoy of settlers due to arrive and her plans to talk to the water suppliers. Bill’s search continues and his motives become vaguely clear: he is looking for his mother’s killer. A drunken Sherriff and Deputy Kurt discuss plans to use the money. The former talks about moving to Italy someday.
Bill is seen in town despite orders from the Sherriff to leave. He immediately moves to dismiss Bill, humiliating him in public, taking all his money and his gun, and emptying his canteen of water. Bill retaliates by stealing his horse. Meanwhile, Steve visits Eve to reignite the old romance. The two cannot be together but dream of each other.
Bill continues his search for the Wilson brothers. He comes across a small goat farm and stops for water. The farmer mixes something in his drink and Bill falls unconscious.
When Henry returns to town, Sherriff almost sets off to find Bill. Kurt tells him about Jessie and the other boy who saw the money stash. Bill wakes up to find that the farmer has killed his horse and will keep him captive for some work. Steve keeps the ocean of gold under his feet a secret. The Sherriff and Kurt kill and bury the two boys, and begin their search for Bill.
The Episode Review
From the outset, ‘That Dirty Black Bag’ moves at a brisk pace. The first episode does an impressive job of setting the stage and its players. The Greenvale town in its picturesque surrounding makes for a breath-taking watch. Visually, the episode has many aesthetic shots that can match any big-scale movie production. In terms of story and plot, the characters introduced have an alluring bite that is going to bode well for the upcoming episodes.
The first episode does a great job of setting the tone and pace right. It uses the Western element superbly and in the right amount. The authenticity factor also checks out. Hardly any accent or detailing of the set designs feels out of place. Add to that the ominous background score, and you get a complete package waiting to make your day.
The wild west’s representation is replete with savagery and a skewed moral compass. If this episode is anything to go by, expect no alliances and plenty of betrayals and twists. The season promises to keep you on your toes until the very end. The secrets that the town and its residents harbor will surface gradually and hopefully, with great impact.