McCord, the only survivor of the Battle of Bitter Creek, is court-martialed and kicked out of the Army because of his alleged cowardice. Rather than demean the good name of the Army commander who was actually to blame for the massacre, McCord travels the Old West trying to restore his good name and reputation.
Tropes used in Branded include:
- Bedouin Rescue Service: In "Survival", McCord rescues a man named Colbee he finds near death in the Thirsty Desert and the pair strike out together to attempt to make the next town before their water runs out. Colbee a family man with a wife and daughter and his fear of not seeing them again forces him to steal the horse and water and leave Jason in the desert. After he collapse from dehydration, McCord is rescued by a elderly Navajo who takes him to the town so he can have his revenge on Colbee.
- Clear My Name: Subverted when McCord meets the widow of one of his fellow officers, who has proof that McCord is innocent. McCord tells her to burn the letters that would exonerate him, fearing that if the truth came out it would be used by the Army to start another military campaign against Native Americans.
- The Drifter: In the 1880s, Jason McCord travels the country trying to prove he's no coward. He needs to do this because the military career of this West point graduate came to an end when he was thrown out of the army after being accused of cowardice.
- Expository Theme Tune:All but one man died
There at Bitter Creek
And they say he ran away!
Branded! Scorned as the one who ran.
What do you do when you're branded, and you know you're a man?
Wherever you go, for the rest of your life
You must prooooove you're a man.''
- Insignia Rip-Off Ritual: The opening title sequence show the hero going through this ritual, complete with Expository Theme Tune
- Mark of Shame: Jason McCord is (unjustly) dishonorably discharged from the U.S. Army for cowardice; his mark of shame is a broken sabre.
- Reforged Blade: McCord has his broken cavalry saber remade into a long knife.
- The So-Called Coward: The whole series happens because Jason McCord was branded one of these by the Army.
- Sole Survivor: Jason McCord was the sole survivor of the Bitter Creek Massacre.
- Taking the Heat: McCord chose to be marked as a coward rather than dishonor the memory of his commanding officer by admitting he was at fault for the Bitter Creek Massacre.
- Thirsty Desert: In "Survival", McCord is traveling through the desert when he comes upon a dead horse. He follows the trail of footprints and comes across a tired, thirsty man. His name is Colbee and he and McCord strike out together to make the next town before their water runs out. Colbee is a family man with a wife and daughter and his fear of not seeing them again forces him to steal the horse and water and leave McCord in the desert.
- Verbed Title
- Walking the Earth: Jason wanders the frontier helping people because of being drummed out of the Army.
- Wrecked Weapon: As part of the Insignia Rip-Off Ritual, McCord's saber is broken. He takes it and has it remade into a knife.