Per Matt
The wild, wild West has always fascinated me. I’ve enjoyed all sorts of Western tales throughout the years, with True Grit and 3:10 to Yuma being a couple of favorites (along with their remakes), as well as Eastwood’s Spaghetti Westerns, but Tombstone is probably my favorite. Hot on the heels of the award-winning The Power of the Dog and The Harder They Fall (which, I absolutely loved, BTW), EPIX has premiered Billy the Kid, a historical drama that digs deep into the past of the outlaw.

Maybe the true-life character was a little more complicated than we had previously assumed.

“The Immigrants” opens in 1877, which then flashes back to New York, six years earlier. As Billy’s childhood backstory expands, his family ventures out West to the “Land of Opportunity,” aka Coffeyville, Kansas. Too bad the frontier village isn’t all it’s made out to be — “it’s a shithole.” But as soon as his mother promises that everything will be all right, it clearly is not.

An overturned wagon empties all of the family’s belongings down a river and his father’s deteriorating mental health is worse than the wound inflicted by would-be horse thieves. The dangers of their six-week journey are great and with his passing, Billy realizes the importance of guns. Fast-forward to his present-day confrontation with a bounty hunter.

“You really don’t stand a chance…”

Tom Blyth is Billy the Kid. Photo Courtesy: EPIX.

The greatest influence of Creator Michael Hirst seems to be Quentin Tarantino, as the storyline jumps back and forth with ferocity as it unfolds — too many times per episode, if you ask me.

Vigilante justice seems to be the theme to Episode 2, “The Rattler.” A grown-up Billy is introduced to a secret society of rich people who control the world (An early Illuminati perhaps?). Paired with the unfair death of Billy’s young friend, he hopes to expose the evil in order to clean up the legal system with the assistance of a journalist.

“True justice doesn’t usually come out of the barrel of a gun…”

Venturing out into the unknown with his family as pioneers, Billy has not become “the Kid” just yet. While his journey as a settler brings many setbacks, he has not become an outlaw so far. Apparently, that won’t be true for much longer. Together, these two episodes have laid the roots for what is yet to come. And by the looks of the previews, that will come sooner rather than later.

This story quickly has me hooked. Actor Tom Blyth has brought a lot of inner turmoil to Billy through two episodes, more than just a one-note performance for his character. I can feel what will soon come for him, all the while he tries to keep that pent-up revenge pushed deep within his soul for the sake of keeping his family together.  

The real-life Billy has become a sympathetic character many years later and I reserve the right to change that opinion after watching the rest of Season 1 (even though this is actually historical fiction).

Said Hirst, “Billy the Kid has always been a hero of mine since I was – well, a kid! I grew up in the North of England, but it made no difference! Billy was a special kind of outlaw. For a start he was so young, and for another thing, he wasn’t a psychopath who enjoyed killing, nor a criminal who robbed for material gain. He was an outlaw most of his life, but he never wanted to be. Born into a poor Irish family of immigrants, he always wanted to go straight, to be a ‘new American,’ but he was never allowed to.”

It’s safe to say that Billy the Kid is premiering at a great time for fans of Westerns. And the only way to witness this immigrant cowboy becoming an outlaw in the lawless, violent West is to subscribe to EPIX.