We gave it an A-
ABC’s Son of the Morning Star (Feb. 3 and 4, 9-11 p.m.) is a big, chancy, expensive miniseries, the kind of first-rate filmmaking for TV that hasn’t been done since — well, since Lonesome Dove first aired in February 1989.
I’ll bet your reservations are the same ones I had, so let me allay them:
Q. Custer and the Little Bighorn-hasn’t that been done to death?
A. Yes it has, but this version, based on Evan S. Connell’s 1984 best-seller of the same name, attempts to do right by the Indians. We learn a lot more about the plight of Native Americans in the late 19th century than we have in any other telling of the Custer legend.
Q. Come on: Gary Cole as Custer?
A. Believe me, I know what you mean. Week after week on Midnight Caller, Cole’s self-righteous drone as a heroic radio talk-show host has been alienating and absurd. Yet Cole proves to be a thoroughly appropriate choice; his haughty glare and dead voice convey Custer’s aloof arrogance. Besides, he has a lot of colorful support here, including Rodney A. Grant and David Strathairn (The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd) as Capt. Frederick Benteen, an officer under Custer’s command who challenged him on his suicidal military strategy.
Q. The miniseries has not one but two narrators — isn’t that confusing?
A. No. It is, in fact, Morning Star‘s great stroke of stylistic originality. Custer’s wife, Libbie (Arquette), and a Native American named Kate Bighead (the voice of folksinger Buffy Sainte-Marie) tell both sides: Arquette explains her husband’s point of view, while Sainte-Marie offers the other. Each woman’s narration complements — and often contradicts — the other’s. The pain in their voices dramatizes the agony of this period in our history as effectively as everything on the screen. A-