Last time! Asa came home! Coal people are coming! Elon was shot! Big Foster smothered his mother into a coma! Farrell Wine made a kid murderous!
Wade takes a statement from the hallucinating murderer, Tyler who says he can’t remember much after being at a party. He admits he was drinking moonshine, but Wade is trying to angle it towards drugs and not Farrell wine. Tyler and the lawyer insist it wasn’t drugs, and Wade is like, ‘Yeah but … sounds pretty druggish’, especially when Tyler says he got the moonshine from, you know, a drug dealer.
Poor Tyler is genuinely struggling with his guilt and says he loved his father, which reminds Wade to be maybe a little less harsh while he scrambles around trying to cover for the Farrells. As Wade leaves, Tyler finally admits that when he stabbed his father, he thought he was stabbing the devil.
Outside, the Sheriff has heard it all and is starting to accept drugs were involved. Wade, of course, still looks anxious, even when things are sort of going his way. Because he’s Wade.
Up the mountain, Lady Ray is still poorly. Asa attends his first dinner since being allowed back but no one lets him sit with them, because this is literally a high school cafeteria.
Case in point, Lil Fos, who is entirely Team Big at this stage, points Asa out to his father and suggests teaching a lesson to the other man.
Big Fos lumbers over, threatens Asa some more and knocks Asa’s lunch out of his hands to spurn the younger man into finally leaving.
Asa goes off to find Gwen working in her greenhouse, but she’s still cold shouldering him. He casually drops in how vague and ostensibly distantly they are related, which, thanks? Lil Fos walks in with almost the singular intent of looming and being giant near Asa. Asa tries to make nice but Lil is just as cold and a hungry Asa is thrown out. To do something with his time, later on he hikes through the woods and finds an old shack in pretty decent condition that he can live in.
In the evening, Gwen and Lil talk about Asa and then Lady Ray, and Gwen wants a circle called to get rid of Asa. Lil pretends he doesn’t know why as she huffs off. I mean, Gwen claims it’s to save Asa but it’s as much about their history, and if she thinks people can’t see that, Gwen! Girl!
The next morning Lil has floated the idea to Big, but pretends it was his idea and not Gwen’s. Lil has already spoken to the Elders about a circle, and is trying to coax Big into ‘proving’ his status as Bren’in by doing it right, and getting rid of Asa. Big is as easily played as he so often tries to play, so he’s all the way in.
The Circle begins when Lil bellows everyone into silence because he is a giant man you don’t just ignore, damn it.
Big rises and scores some early points by praying to the Gods for their blessings over the Clan. Then he waffles about how he was holding his poor dear mother as she fell ill (around the face, nose and mouth, with his giant bear paw hand), when she just happened to call him by his right name ‘Bren’in’.
You can see the unspoken ‘Oh, bullshit’ in the looks the Elders throw around.
Big, who has previously condemned his mothers ‘powers’, lies about believing them, and says that believing Asa is in fact … the demon they so often fear. He calls for Asa’s banishment, to murmurs of agreement from the crowd.
Asa looks hurt, but he rises and speaks. He talks about some of his adventures, living in apartments, earning money to spend on women and drugs, hanging out with people who claimed to be holy but were just assholes. So, he was a regular person?
He compares that to the wonderful, Eden-like world they live in, and talks down the Lostie way of life.
He reminds them of the dangers of the coal people, and how he knows he’s meant to be here now, and gets a single clap from an older Farrell.
Big comes back with the idea it’s Asa’s fault about Elon, but he fails to offer any explanation as to how or why, and no one demands one either. Come on, you guys! Even you by now know Big is a frigging lunatic.
The Elders make their decision and point out that Lady Ray’s rule stands, as she’s still Bren’in and this whole thing is just a fight between kin.
They try to leave, but Gwen pops up and calls for a Pit Fight between Asa and Lil. If Asa loses he has to go.
It’s a chance for some healthy violence so, naturally, everyone is all the way in.
Down the hill, Tyler’s father is buried. We see Hayley for the first time, as she offers condolences to the widow and catches up with Ned, one of the coal company men and a friend of the murdered father.
They talk strategy, and the men want to slow down a little on progress and Hayley, in that smiling demon way she has, shoots that right down and ‘suggests’ they stick to schedule.
She reminds them the Farrell have a lot more local popularity than the coal company would like, with a lot of people thinking they have a right to stay on their mountain.
Yeah, Big will fix that sharpish, don’t worry.
Up the mountain Asa is trying to borrow a bike or ATV for the pit fight; a wise older Farrell asks him why he wants to die, and laughs about how much of an ass-kicking Asa is going to get. He’s not wrong, but still … Rude.
Asa runs off to yell at Gwen for suggesting a pit fight which he’s absolutely certain to lose, and she’s disappointingly immature and snide about it. Then, she claims his losing and being sent away is better than Big just killing him in his sleep, which … okay, sure, a very valid threat, but she does understand he could die during this pit fight? They’re brawling while riding dirt bikes, Gwen! This isn’t a better option!
Hayley has lunch with the Sheriff and mentions the Farrell wine link to the murder, to his obvious shock. Hayley doesn’t mince words and explains that the Farrell are well liked so the Sheriff’s PR will plummet when he starts taking the clan off the mountain. Unless, she says, their moonshine makes teenagers kill their parents. She pretty much tells him to link the wine to the murder to make the Farrell look bad and when she reminds him he’s an elected official, he looks ready to follow her into hell. Later on, the Sheriff finds Wade. He pretends Hayley’s idea was his own and has decided Wade will find the mysterious moonshine Tyler spoke of and use it against the Farrell. Wade simmers.
Back on the ranch, Hasil is struggling to adapt to losing two fingers, struggling to carve new wooden birds. His bandages are gross and yellowed from the obvious infections in the wounds, but thankfully Krake has arrived to apologise for snitching. To make amends he helps Hasil wash the wounds in a special batch of Farrell wine. I suspect that shit would kill MRSA but alas, we’ll never know.
Apparently on a mission of all around goodwill, Krake next visits with a jumpy Asa, but he’s coming in peace. He used to know Asa’s folks and remembers Asa a little. (You still know his dad, bro, just saying).
Krake shows Asa to a secret he has, an old ATV that Asa can probably get working for the pit fight.
Despite the all around excitement about the pit fights, Asa seems clueless about how to actually have one. I mean, he must have seen some, right? And, after a quick training montage of about ten seconds, apparently … he’s ready.
Later when he goes back to his little cabin, someone has left him a basket of vegetables and two skinned rabbits for him to eat.
Lil is warming up in the pit and calls for Big’s attention like a little kid. But this is Big and he blows, so he suggests one of the cousins be The Guy instead, even while everyone agrees Lil is the best choice. Big sits around like the asshole king he thinks he is, and Lil looks forlorn and sad.
Hasil has walked back down to see Sally Anne and explains how he managed to make some money but got robbed. She’s pretty taken with him and they walk together until he, genuinely obliviously, refers to her neighbourhood by an old and profoundly racist nickname.
She’s exactly as pissed as she has every right to be, but in telling him off, she realises that he truly has no idea why it’s a problem. To him that’s just what the place is called. D’aaaaw.
Later they walk home, and flirt a little. She asks about life up there, doctors, schools and stuff like that, and he talks about learning to read.
Hasil doubles down on being adorable and because she is a sensible person with functioning eyes, Sally-Ann is smitten, though she leaves Hasil hanging when he asks for a date.
Up the hill, Lil goes to see Big and asks to be the one to fight Asa. He reminds Big that he’s his ‘only’ son now and swears to win for Elon. Of course, now we know that’s not true, and so does Big, but here he is, regardless. For a man clearly so broken over the the children he does lose, he’s awfully ready to push away the ones he has left.
Back in town Wade meets with the teen girl who threw the party, and she mentions the moonshine, too. The family is horrified by what happened, but Wade just wants to get outside and go through their trash.
He does and to his immense relief finds the jug with its last traces of moonshine. Shifty as you like, he sneaks away.
In The Pit, Lil and Asa ready for their battle, donning actual body armour, or the best approximation they can piece together from scraps. Lil has a badass customised helmet with jaws bones, and smiles while Asa makes do with a catcher’s mask. He sees Gwen watching him and shows her he made a necklace from the foot of one of the rabbits she gave him.
It’s like Appalachian Mad Max, I love it. The rule is simple, get knocked off and you lose. The fight begins as Lil and Asa effectively joust, trying to club each other as they pass. Lil lands a massive hit on Asa that basically just bursts open a cut in his ribs, then a second pass destroys Asa’s club weapon, while a third is able to cut his oil lines and kill his bike.
Asa is stranded and trapped as Lil circles around on his bike. They spot Asa’s leaking fuel and Lil pauses to get his club lit up like a flaming torch. If Asa doesn’t jump clear he’ll be killed and to chants of ‘Torch the Lostie!’, Lil advances. Dang, crowd!
But this is Asa, and he’s literally never as vulnerable as he looks. As Lil advances, Asa whips out a thin steel rod and jams it into Lil’s spokes.
His bike locks and flips and he’s thrown dangerously over the handle bars. Asa has won and crosses to help Lil to his feet, but Lil has his eyes on his dad. Furious, Big is storming off.
Asa is leaving too, so Lil chases and tackles him. They get into a vicious fight that highlights their difference in height and fighting styles ,until they’re broken up, and storm off like the bitter siblings they don’t know they are.
Asa eats alone at his hut and Gwen turns up to tend to the Lil-inflicted wound on his side. They angry flirt again, some more, Asa asking if she and Lil are married, Gwen asking if Asa was a gigolo. Ah, young love.
Wade has followed Butch home and invites himself indoors without a warrant, raging about the Farrell wine. His totally illegal search uncovers Butch’s weed stash, and then he even more super-illegally destroys Frida’s phone when she tries to record him. Wade promises that if Butch even looks at a Farrell again he’ll plant drugs in the apartment and send them both to prison forever. He leaves them spooked, but misses the Farrell jar concealed over in a corner. I can’t tell yet if it’s full or not.
Gwen arrives home from tending Asa and finds Lil waiting. He’s sad but very ready for the idea Gwen wants to be with Asa if she wants to. Gwen reassures him that’s not the case, telling Lil he’s a good man, and they get all loved up and physical.
At the Farrell graveyard, Big Foster is by Elon’s grave, drinking and grieving. Like he later will with Asa, he smears dirt from the grave across his face.
He returns to the settlement and glowers at it, for perhaps the only time ever, a calm and relaxed looking Asa hanging out with some of the clan.
Wade has driven deep into the woods with the bottle and a baseball bat. He takes a looooong smell of the potent brew but pours out the remains before he swings the bat and smashes it into glass powder.
I had forgotten how much of Asa’s hard won return to the clan is kind of … repeated with Big Foster in season 2. Everyone hates him, but he makes his case that he’s the leader they need and even if he’s not perfect, a lot of people agree. It works much better for Asa, who is terrifying and psychotic when he needs to be, but a far more sympathetic figure than Big will ever manage to be.
It’s also interesting how much more grounded things are this season around. The Mountain Magic is there of course, but it’s much more toned down and subtle. Even when Big starts to see Elon’s ghost in later episodes it could be seen as hallucinations. Season 1 doesn’t feel like a show where a woman’s cancer would be cured by the ghost of a dead mountain child, or where Asa could be torn to pieces by angry mountain avatars in the form of wolves.
That said, season 2 still feels like a natural advancement of what’s here and it’s nice to see how it’s playing out. It’s as if at the start of season 1, the magic is present but semi-dormant. The need of Clan stirs it up and by 2, there is much more strangeness around. I’d like that to be intentional.
Tune in next time, Ged Ged Yah!