The Wounded Wolf
In episode 4 of The English, we’re transported back to 1875 at Chalk River, Wyoming. Thomas Trafford has just settled in, about to buy land in order to fill it with cattle.
When the seller of the land tries to cheat him, David Melmont bullies him into staying with the original deal. Melmont is there to manage Trafford’s finances, as he’s lost several fortunes before. But despite working for the man, Melmont doesn’t respect him–and Trafford’s right-hand man Thin Kelly doesn’t like it.
They soon receive company on the newly bought land: A Sergeant Jerome McClintock, Trooper Billy Myers, and Trooper Timothy Flynn. They say they’re looking to execute an Indian man named Running Hawk for the crime of killing Myers’ brother.
Melmont is excited at their bloodlust. He knows where a Native American camp is in Chalk River, and shares this knowledge so he and the soldiers can slaughter them all.
When Trafford tries to stop him, McClintock punches him and briefly knocks him out. Thin has to stop Trafford from protesting more and getting killed himself. They can do no more than report them for this senseless murder.
After the massacre, Eli comes across Melmont and the soldiers. He tells them what they’ve done is none of his business. The war is over, and he’s going home.
15 years later, in the bootleg compound, Kills on Water tells Eli those people were his family. Does he know what happened to the murderers? Or is that none of his business too?
We’re returned to 1875, this time in London. David Melmont pays a visit to Cornelia. He introduces himself and informs her of the sorry news that Trafford is in jail. He then proceeds to make up a story in which Trafford was responsible for the massacre at Chalk River.
However, he wasn’t jailed (in a well, no less) for murder, but for sex with a prostitute. Melmont says Trafford’s awaiting the payment of a fine. That’s why he’s come to her, Trafford’s fiancée.
Cornelia corrects him. He did propose to her, but she didn’t accept. She’s not sure Trafford deserves to be freed, but she did convince her father to invest in his venture. It would not be good for her family if the man didn’t survive. Wanting to process this information, she asks Melmont to return later.
She does gather the money, but she’s also holding a letter from Trafford when Melmont returns. She learns it was Melmont who did all those things, and she refuses to give him the money.
But Melmont needs it in order to buy a stake in a Colorado gold mine for himself and his companion. He shuts the door so he and Cornelia are alone.
Later, we see a cheerful Melmont show himself out. Back in the room, Cornelia lies curled up in a ball on the floor.
Trafford’s letter tells her of the horrors of America, how the devil followed him there. But he has no choice but to stay and work against the evils in the country. Still, he warns Cornelia to never come, but to stay in London to live “in perfect safety.”
Months later, a pregnant Cornelia gazes at a painting of the American West.
The Episode Review
If this episode is slow and meandering, it still packs some interesting twists.
The English did right in the way it only teased the existence of Melmont until this point. We knew him only as the owner of Melmont’s in Hoxem, and the person who purchased graves for the Flynns.
It’s now revealed why the mysterious Melmont would do that for the Flynns–He’s acting contrary to his opponent, Thomas Trafford. And Trafford himself may not be such a bad guy as his cultivated arrogance initially suggested. (He at least reaches the low bar of being against senseless murder.)
The episode could have utilized its protagonists in more interesting ways. Eli is barely present at all, and Cornelia is more victimized ‘object’ than ‘subject’ in the time she’s featured (though the episode thankfully is sensitive in not dwelling on the sexual violence). Despite all this, the instalment largely does well to fill in gaps in the story while still leaving the most suspenseful questions unanswered.