Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Comanche Moon


There is so much plot here that it would be crazy for me to try to do it justice, so I’ll just mention some highlights. Val Kilmer is Inish Scull, one of the weirder characters McMurtry ever wrote, and he’s written some weird ones. Woodrow and Gus are in an expedition to find Buffalo Hump (this time played by the great Wes Studi) and Kicking Wolf. They don’t get far when Kicking Wolf steals Scull’s prize horse, and he sets out with only his Kickapoo guide, Famous Shoes, who doesn’t ride but is always there ahead of you. Scull is captured by the sadistic halfbreed Ahumado, who puts him down in a snake pit, expecting him to die. He keeps his sanity (what little he had) by singing and other diversions, frustrating Ahumado. (In the book Ahumado had his torturer cut off Scull’s eyelids. Too intense for TV, I guess.)

There is more of the continuing story of Gus and Clara’s frustrated romance. The Comanche attack Austin, killing lots of people. This actually happened, but at a different date, and it’s not possible to be totally angry about this, since at the beginning of the series we see another actual event. In 1840 the Comanche chiefs had been invited to talk under a flag of truce. But when they showed up, weaponless, they were slaughtered by the Texans in what is known as the Council House Massacre. Buffalo Hump witnessed this. So fuck you, Austin. Burn it down, Hump!

We briefly see the “rescue” of Cynthia Ann Parker, who was kidnapped at the age of nine and lived with the Comanche for 24 years. Naturally, she was more Comanche than white by then, hated being with the whites, tried to escape, and was rescued again. She finally starved herself to death. She was the mother of Quanah Parker, a totally fascinating character who I’d like to see a movie about. I think Cynthia Ann may have been the inspiration for Debbie Edwards (Natalie Wood) in The Searchers. Ethan (John Wayne) aims to kill her when he finds her, as being raised with the redskins is a fate worse than death.

As always in a McMurtry western, things never happen the way they do in a normal western. Gus and Woodrow hardly ever succeed at anything they attempt as Rangers. They never catch Buffalo Hump, he is killed by his son, Blue Duck. Ahumado is never brought to justice, he dies from a spider bite!

The guys are played here by Karl Urban and Steve Zahn, who both do a good job. In addition Elizabeth Banks plays Maggie, the whore who gives birth to Newt, the son that Woodrow will never admit is his own. Clara is Linda Cardellini. It’s kind of fun to see these characters played by four different people as the stories go on. I think this was my second-favorite Lonesome Dove series.