Path of the Dead
In episode 2 of The English, Englishman Thomas Trafford receives some bad news at Powder River, Wyoming. All his pregnant cattle have been slaughtered, and he blames the new homesteaders in the land when speaking with Sheriff Robert Marshall at Hoxem.
Meanwhile, Cornelia and Eli continue their ride. When camping, Eli reveals that his people have all taken the “Path of the Dead.” Cornelia marvels at the Milky Way above them, wondering if Eli’s family is trying to send him a message.
Later, they come across three men. Eli warns Cornelia that she may have to put her shooting skills to use. One of the men is Trooper Charlie White, an Indian man who once fought with Eli. He’s with two white men, one of whom is Captain Clegg.
When the men ask for Cornelia’s bags, hands hover over guns. But Cornelia is shooting from her rifle before anyone else can do anything. She hits Charlie’s horse, as Eli instructed, while Eli kills the other two. Eli lets Charlie run away on foot. But Cornelia shoots him with an arrow–straight to the heart.
They then come across a Mennonite couple that had been slaughtered by the three men. While Eli cuts a baby out of the dead pregnant woman, Cornelia discovers another young child hiding in the storage.
Cornelia insists she can’t be their mother when Eli insinuates that the baby could be a replacement for her child. She already is a mother to her own son. And anyway, Eli lost his family too, so why shouldn’t he take on the children?
She then asks about his service in the army. He says he joined up of choice. “Got enemies,” he says by way of an explanation. Most of whom are in other Native American tribes. Some of the animosity was caused by English settlers. But he’s not one to care about blame. He just wants a piece of land.
Cornelia says something similar happened to her father. He was a soldier and was given some land. She lived in a separate part of the grounds with her boy.
Later, Eli admits he can’t read. So, Cornelia promises to tell his story–if they both survive
They then head backwards to look for help with the children in the allotments. There they meet John and Katie Clarke, a Kickapoo man and Cherokee woman. Eli warns Cornelia to keep quiet about her money in front of them. But she doesn’t listen to him, and her mention of payment gives the couple pause.
John tells Eli he has to turn his back on his past if he wants to survive–all Indians do. But this doesn’t stop Eli from wanting to claim his piece of land.
John and Katie tell them about other Mennonites who came through and told them to watch out for a family they had to leave behind. Cornelia wants to bring the children to their people. But they went south, so they’d have to backtrack three days.
Eli says he understands why Cornelia has to return the children to their people, but he can’t go with her. He came through this area once after the government forced him out from Nebraska. He and his wife were heading where the Mennonites are going now, but his wife died with a child on the way. The baby girl died two years later of a fever. He can’t go back.
So, Cornelia will go to Oklahoma alone. She leaves her money behind, and swaps carriages with the Clarkes. Eli then gifts her with a compass he received from the Clarkes. He’s going to stay with them to pay it off. They then part ways, as Eli cries a Pawnee chant.
The Episode Review
Episode 2 of The English patiently builds chemistry between its two leads, which Emily Blunt and Chaske Spencer lean into spectacularly.
It also sets up a complex landscape for examining racial, class, and gender conflict. Nothing is simple or straightforward, with this episode teasing conflict between Native American tribes, between Englishman, and between each other–while hinting at such divides in another land as well: Cornelia carries hurt from having an illegitimate child in England.
The politics of the strife in this land are tangled, dangerous, and unpredictable. It will be intriguing to see how The English unpacks such dynamics when nothing is black and white.
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