There is perhaps no figure from the America West more famous or mythologized than Billy the Kid. Over the years, audiences have seen a multitude of portrayals of the famous gunslinger. Each offers a different version of the famous outlaw. This Billy the Kid story is deliberate and focuses on the events that lead Billy down the darker path. The new original series from Epix, Billy the Kid, by creator and executive producer Michael Hirst (Vikings) premieres on April 24. Keep reading for my thoughts on Season 1 and a look at the official trailer.
‘BILLY THE KID’ S1
The various films that focus on Billy the Kid often take different approaches to the famous outlaw. This time around begins with Billy at a young age as his family makes the decision to leave New York City and head West for a new life. I won’t get into too many details to avoid spoiling anything. But the family quickly realizes not all is as they were promised. Over the first episodes, the audience will witness the events that ultimately push Billy towards the life of an outlaw. It is clear that Billy was not born to be an outlaw, but is instead shaped by the world he found himself in. Bily is someone that we know ultimately becomes an outlaw and a killer. But the series shows Billy in such a way that he becomes a more sympathetic and relatable character.
If you come into the series expecting a fast and frenetic pace of non-stop gunslinging action, you will be disappointed. The episodes take their time and focus on the character development of Billy. Which is for the betterment of the entire season. With the 8 hour-long episodes that make up the first season, the writers are able to dive deeper into topics that would otherwise be glossed over. Themes of depression, loss, and grief are touched on and used to develop the narrative of the story. I felt the way these themes were handled was done delicately and in an appropriate manner.
One area in particular that benefits from the focused storytelling are the relationship of Billy with his mother Kathleen (Eileen O’Higgins). O’Higgins does an excellent job in her role as a strong woman and mother faced with difficult circumstances in the West. This relationship is a strong thread throughout the first part of the season.
BECOMING AN OUTLAW
It is no surprise when Billy ultimately rides the path of an outlaw, after his meeting with Jesse Evans (Daniel Webster). As we see Billy drift towards that darker life, the audience is able to understand why. The series does a great job of hitting marks during the season to connect the dots on how Billy ends up in the place that he is. This is not to say that Billy is simply a helpless victim of his circumstances. He clearly has made choices, but the development that is shown, helps the viewer understand more why those choices are made. Billy the Kid is not a saint nor a sinner, the character lies somewhere in the gray between. Because of this, it makes Billy a much more interesting character in this series.
Billy the Kid is an epic romantic adventure based on the life of famous American outlaw Billy the Kid (Tom Blyth), also known as William H. Bonney — from his humble Irish roots to his early days as a cowboy and gunslinger in the American frontier, to his pivotal role in the Lincoln County War and beyond. Daniel Webber will play Jesse Evans, another famous outlaw, and leader of the Seven Rivers Gang. When they meet, Jesse has already embraced a life of crime: robbing stores and cattle rustling. Billy is attracted to his wild and reckless character and becomes Billy’s doppelganger of sorts — his shadow self, forever inviting him over to the dark side of life.
Billy the Kid is another strong entry in the modern resurgence of the Western. Shows like Yellowstone, 1883, That Dirty Black Bag, and others have set a standard in what to expect from Westerns. We’ve seen Billy the Kid in countless films, so it’s easy to come to a new series like this with a degree of skepticism. I myself wondered if I’d see anything new when starting the series. After the first several minutes of the first episode, I realized this was a much different approach than I was expecting. It was refreshing to see the show take its time in building up the “why” of Billy and not diving right into the “what” Bily became, an outlaw and killer. If you are a fan of Westerns or character-focused dramas, you will don’t be disappointed with Billy the Kid.