Reviews > Television

Into the West

Television | History buffs will have some objections to Steven Spielberg's 12-hour epic of America's westward expansion

Issue: "MS-13: Criminals next door," June 18, 2005

Into the West is Steven Spielberg's major foray into TV, an ambitious 12-hour epic of America's westward expansion. The saga is broken down into six two-hour episodes (each to be repeated on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 8:00 p.m. ET for six weeks on TNT).

This western's main innovation is giving the point of view of the Indians, as well as the settlers. Scenes alternate between a pioneer family and a Lakota family as they struggle with life on this new frontier.

The series is a feast for the eyes. The Western landscapes are magnificent, from the panorama of the plains to the snows of the Sierras, with memorable visuals like a vast herd of buffalo stampeding off a cliff.

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Though the pioneers are portrayed sympathetically, the Indians are the good guys. Dirty, ugly, barbaric whites mock the "savages," who are clean, handsome, and civilized. Being for the Indians-who were certainly ill-used-is legitimate. But sympathy goes too far when the Cheyenne massacre a wagon train of settlers in order to prevent the white men from spreading cholera. They capture a woman whose husband they have killed and make her a warrior's wife. She loves her new husband and new life.

The settlers have their Christianity-they pray and speak of God, only sometimes hypocritically. The religion of the Lakota is presented as real: Their visions and communion with animal spirits yield true prophecies and genuine spiritual guidance.

The series has intense violence, some bad language, and suggestiveness. Characters you come to care about sometimes meet horrible deaths. So Into the West is not for young children. But though history buffs and western fans will have objections, they will like it anyway.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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