“At the House” puts Billy in a predicament after he realizes his new employer is a crook and he has to think very carefully about who he can consider his allies.
This recap of Billy the Kid season 1, episode 7, “At the House”, contains spoilers.
Even for anyone who hasn’t heard of Billy the Kid or the Lincoln County War, there’s an undeniably a sense of foreboding hanging over “At the House”, the penultimate episode of Epix’s retelling of the famed Old West legend. This, it feels, is the end, or something close enough to it that we should start wondering how and when the end might come about. After rescuing Segura last week, Billy arrives in Lincoln, New Mexico, to find the Seven Rivers Gang already established as the muscle of Lawrence Murphy, an Irish Union Army veteran who runs his operation — known as “The House” — out of a big store alongside two capable fellow Irishmen named Johnny Riley and Jim Dolan. Murphy’s willing to pay for a job well done, and to pay extra for the reputation of someone like Billy, whose bounty and outstanding warrants mean his name alone can do a certain amount of heavy lifting.
Billy the Kid season 1, episode 7 recap
Murphy talks a big game, but his House is in disarray. A competitor named John Tunstall, who seems to have hired Murphy’s former attorney McSween, is developing into a legitimate business rival who is bleeding money from Murphy’s operation by… well, it seems like being pretty fair to his clientele. When Billy and Jesse go to shakedown both Tunstall and the farmers whose crops he has been purchasing under Murphy’s nose, it becomes clear — as if it wasn’t already — that Murphy has been ripping them off and Tunstall is offering better deals.
You can see why Murphy is so high on Billy. He has invested money into him and the Seven Rivers Gang in the hopes of stoking enough fear in the region that nobody dares take a deal other than his — even if it’s in their best interests. But Billy isn’t interested in pushing that narrative. In every exchange, he adopts the role of good cop to Jesse’s bad, and his inherent sense of reason and fairness means that nobody is swayed and Tunstall remains the more desirable option. So, Riley goes to Jesse and tells him to tighten the screws.
Jesse is pretty amenable to this sort of thing. He evidently still has a cliched idea of a tough-guy outlaw and wants nothing more than to be one, especially since all the attention remains on Billy, who is being paid more handsomely and is being gifted expensive double-action pistols to show off his gunslinging skills to Murphy’s influential clientele — and his doe-eyed wife — at a soiree. So, Jesse overcompensates when he, Billy, and Pay return to see the farmer, Garcia, and his threats result in the death of the farmer when he tries to shoot Jesse in the back. It’s Pat who pulls the trigger, so it’s Pat who’s taken away to see Sheriff Brady and locked in a cell for the night to appease Lincoln’s large Hispanic community, who are out for blood after the killing.
Billy is predictably remorseful and goes to pay his respects at Garcia’s funeral, where he runs into one of Tunstall’s employees, George Coe, and his associate Charlie Bowdre. They propose Billy meets with Tunstall, but Billy, knowing how much trouble that’d cause, decides against it. But when he sees how Jesse and the rest of the gang are rewarded and encouraged by Dolan, with Pat being sent away to a court where he might be hung in order to appease the Mexican populace, which is all obviously a big ruse, you can see Billy begin to consider the offer. With Tunstall out of town, it’s McSween Billy meets with, in secret, only to be told that his life will change that very night. It’s all very portentous, and nicely sets up a finale in which war will presumably break out in Lincoln County — and I think we know which side Billy will be on.