Reasons to watch “The Magnificent Seven” TV show, for picspammy's Challenge 19, Second Chances: Reasons To. Vague plot spoilers, but mostly just character description and personal opinion.
Reasons to watch “The Magnificent Seven” TV series
1998-2000 / 2 seasons / 23 episodes
I love period pieces and this era of the American West especially, but aside from the historical aspect, what entertains me the most and what is my no. 1 reason for even watching this show in the first place, is that feeling that the characters are out in the unknown, in danger, always having to be self-sufficient. Sheer survival is a struggle. I feel like this kind of story is far more dramatic and interesting than many things set in modern day, because everything is so much more difficult to achieve, making successes all the more amazing. The seven men alone would be reason enough to watch this show, but there's so much more going on, as I'll go through in my reasons! This show’s town is near the Mexican border, a growing settlement mostly inhabited by men – wanderers, desperados, reprobates, criminals, poor farmers, and greedy businessmen. It’s an entirely lawless place as our story begins, its people at the mercy of all manner of ill-intentioned folk. That is, until our magnificent seven are hired to put them down...
The gang is mostly filled out with brilliant working actors you may have seen other things but just couldn’t quite name. James Cameron darling Michael Biehn (yes, the Kyle Reese) as the main character Chris is the most recognisable star, along with Ron Perlman, one of my absolute favourite actors (hello Hellboy and Vincent!). As fans of them, they were a major draw for me, but I grew to enjoy the other actors just as much. Biehn as Chris cuts what you’d call a ‘fine figure’, a really iconic silhouette, dressed all in black, tall and extremely slim, lithe and quick on his feet. Perlman constantly surprises me – his previous characters have been kickass, violent, soulful, or romantic, and I’d venture to say his Josiah is all of these things. Dale Midkiff is pure comedy as Buck, funny and charming, and really working that moustache. Anthony Starke’s Ezra is all pomp and circumstance, a cad one minute, a gentleman the next, but always charismatic. Andrew Kavovit could have played JD as the predictable newbie, all flailing and spazzy, but Kavovit adds a headstrong streak to that youthful enthusiasm. Eric Close’s Vin is steely and even-tempered, quite reminiscent of Dr Quinn’s Sully to me in many ways. I really like Rick Worthy’s Nathan, perhaps giving the most sincere and effortless performance out of them all at times. Laurie Holden co-stars as Chris’s foil, very self-assured as widow, mother and newspaper woman Mrs. Mary Travis. And this is just them individually – put them together and it’s gold. All seven of the men have utterly unaffected chemistry together, despite how many of them there are. This really is one of those lucky incidences when the entire cast is wonderful in my opinion.
(Never shoots a man in the back. And do not call him a cowboy.)
Chris is driven, to say the least. The pain of his wife and son’s murder helps him maintain this constant default level of energy and fury that makes him ready for anything all the time. He looks perversely gleeful at the prospect of confrontation and has this awesome self-satisfied smile he saves just for goading an adversary. My particular favourite aspect of him is how vicious and untiring he is in fights – he’s truly fearless in gun battles, and frequently said to be one of the fastest shots in the West. He’s been beaten to a pulp and yet still stands up and takes more with a bad attitude and a smirk on his face (oh, that smirk). And see that intense gaze? Sitting pretty in those eyes is his own special brand of crazy, for all the world to see. That slightly unhinged look suggests that he is capable of anything, and he definitely shows as much with the stunts he pulls. My favourite of the seven men – though the others are all close behind.
(If there’s an angle to work, he will find it.)
It’s a testament to Starke’s entirely delightful portrayal of Ezra that I went from hating the character to loving him. Ezra is just plain fun. He’s a refined Southern gentleman, with a Scarlett O’Hara accent, lofty aspirations, a penchant for frilly shirts... and a complete lack of ethics. But underneath the gambling and swindling, there’s a streak of chivalry and compassion in him that comes out in the face of the downtrodden people the seven help. He’s at his best when sparring with his mother, the woman who brought him up to lie and cheat as if his life depended on it. I really enjoy Ezra’s good-natured disdain and snarky putdowns over the other men’s lack of sophistication. I think you can sum Ezra up in his own words really - “I may be a scoundrel, but I’m still a gentleman.”
(Lock up your daughters!)
Chris’s friend of many years. Buck is a highlight for me – witty, vivacious and mischievous. He takes JD on as a protégée of sorts, with comical results. He’s a complete ladies’ man but deeply respectful of women though, given his upbringing surrounded by them in a whore house where his mother worked. Midkiff’s reactions are so natural I sometimes just like to rewind to catch a priceless facial expression again. As smart-mouthed as Ezra is, Buck has his own way with words too, and you just have to admire how easily he enchants the ladies. Must be the moustache...
(No matter how well you cover your tracks, he will find you.)
A talented tracker who has recently been framed for murder and is on the run. What I like about Vin is how respectful he is of everyone, including other races and cultures, and that he’s lived with Indians in the past. He’s also just an all round nice guy - calm, collected, even-handed, fair. Vin’s a complex guy though, and the bounty on his head makes him skittish and wary, and lends some unpredictability to the character.
(Slice you up in battle, then sow you up in surgery.)
Nathan has a really rich back story: once a slave, then a medic on the Civil War battlefields, then a town doctor, before dividing his time between doctoring and being a lawman with the seven. There’s something about Nathan that grounds the show for me, probably owing to Worthy’s portrayal – he’s just a down-to-earth, genuine and unpretentious character, which is nice set against how flamboyant Ezra and Buck are. Plus I love that his ‘thing’ is knives rather than guns, it sets him apart from the other guys.
(A Bible in one hand, a gun in the other.)
Josiah is quirky, inscrutable and wonderfully enigmatic. I love his droll, wise little comments to the boys. Despite being a preacher, he accepts the religions and gods of countless other cultures, always willing to learn more. Josiah’s also fond of ruminating alone in the middle of nowhere, seeing it as his calling to figure out the meaning of life. He’s prone to becoming doe-eyed and breathless over the ladies as well, which Perlman plays so hilariously. I mostly just love that he’s a preacher who is righteously shooting down evil-doers one moment, and sitting in a church pew lending sage advice the next.
(Doesn’t need his ‘big brothers’ to save him.)
I like JD’s vibrancy, and that it is never dulled by the teasing he gets from the other guys. It’s obvious he looks up to Chris, and I keep expecting Chris to get irritated by him, but he just smiles indulgently and takes JD’s naiveté and smart mouth in his stride, which is fun to watch. JD and Buck are a hilarious team as well, JD never quite being able to pull off the suave air that Buck can. He’s also an east coaster, his bowler hat and prissy chequered suits setting him apart from the other guys, along with his complete lack of a poker face. He learns fast though, and he’s not as green as you’d expect the youngest of the group to be.
Mary was very austere in the beginning and I just couldn’t warm to her, but she was impossible not to admire because of how strong she was – in 1x01 she’s the only one who tries to stop the rednecks from hanging Nathan until Chris and Vin intercept. She’s also an upper class, eastern woman who remained alone in this extremely dangerous town even after her husband was murdered, so she could keep his hard work at the town newspaper going. So I knew she was a damn gutsy lady at least, and I grew to love her as I saw more of her. She’s stunningly beautiful, outspoken, campaigning for all sorts of causes, a career woman and a mother, and just as kick ass as the men in the plans and stunts she helps them pull off. And she’s very handy with a shot gun.
I love every one of these men not only for how badass they are as lawmen, but because they are also kind and sensitive. You’d expect characters like these to be racist, misogynistic, brutish, and other horrible things, but they’re simply not. They all have this moral centre guiding them, but get on the wrong side of them, and they will end you. All seven of them. Simultaneously. They dole out justice the only way they know how... cut to: bullets flying, blood gushing, daring ruses, and epic slow-motion gunfights. As much as I love that, my squeeful little heart melts when I see their softer sides, like their deeply ingrained chivalry, their respect for other races, Chris’s bond with Mary’s little boy Billy, their various romantic forays and their general care and compassion as they put their lives on the line for others.
I’m biased since this is one of my favourite eras, but I love seeing the glimpse of the West this show gives us. Wide shots of the landscape, of horses galloping, a view over the busy, dusty town, the close-ups on the beaten up wooden buildings... There’s just the feeling that you’re stepping to a fully rounded world here. (And yes, there's an accidentally repeated image in there!)
Mary often helps the seven or they help her, and she shares their sense of justice as well. Through this partnership, something unspoken crops up between her and Chris. I think she's drawn to how forthright and daring Chris is. For Chris, though he’s still dealing with the deaths of his wife and son, despite himself, this woman’s steeliness and fortitude (and dazzling beauty!) catch his attention. It’s all in his long gazes and the eye sex with these two. Biehn is often at his most natural and charismatic in his scenes with Laurie Holden. Most of the smiles he’s giving in his picspam above are not genuine ones, they’re the crazy-eyed, threatening ones that he’s giving an adversary, but with Mary his smiles are just so spontaneous and endearing, that it’s difficult not love seeing them together. With the men Chris has got a no nonsense vibe, man on a mission type stuff, with the typical coarse or boyish teasing going on coupled with the occasional manly heart to heart. With Mary though he goes from having quite an abrasive relationship, to being all with the gentle eyes and soft voice, stepping up as a confidante and a protector. I just really enjoy their interactions, especially considering the abundance of testosterone flying around the screen with seven very manly hired guns doing very manly things in every episode.
Our seven are the unconventional lawmen of a very dangerous town, so every episode has a fight of some sort but it never gets boring, because of how inventive and unpredictable the men are. They are almost always outnumbered which makes it doubly entertaining as they set up cunning schemes to get ahead. We’ve got everything here: gun fights, explosions, sieges, bank robberies, kidnappings, murders, sword fights, and good old-fashioned fisticuffs. Never mind the many high-octane stunts they pull. Most of the men have physically taken down horses and riders. All of them have been shot or stabbed or both. And how about Ezra jumping on a fortified carriage and dropping a bottle of liquor down the chimney, causing a massive explosion, all the while being shot at from multiple directions? Chris enduring weeks of hard labour and torture when he’s wrongly imprisoned? Vin being blown to hell by dynamite and tumbling down a hillside? Buck getting stabbed over and over in an epic death match? My God, I love these boys and their devil-may-care exploits.
This is just a big old prairie bromance. I love the camaraderie between the men. Because there are so many of them, they’re often split into sub groups, with each combination getting a go at least once. All of the men get along with each other in different ways – JD and Buck raising hell, Nathan and Josiah having meaningful talks, Chris silently and willingly listening as one of his men pours out his troubles. Chris has an iron fist, and does not take betrayal or disloyalty lightly in his men. They respect him and his leadership, and in return, he’s always there for them when they need him.
So, here endeth the lesson in gunslinging awesomeness and frontier man love. Go forth and be heartily entertained!
And remember ladies, Buck loves ya!