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Series / Into the West

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"Americans don't belong to any one place. As soon as they get settled, they get restless for something more." - Abraham High-Wolf Wheeler

A critically acclaimed TNT mini-series, produced by Steven Spielberg, that follows a variety of fictional characters as their lives become intertwined with each other and the real historical events of the Westward Expansion of the 1800s.


  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Thunder Heart Woman remarries after she believes Jacob to be dead.
  • Arc Symbol: The wheel, symbol of both the Wheeler family and the Lakota Medicine Wheel, represents the cyclical nature of life and history.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Black Coyote, the deaf Native American seen with Big Foot.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Nearly all of the Lawrence, Kansas arc, other than providing Clara's backstory.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Again, Jacob and Thunder Heart Woman. He barely saw her for a few minutes and decides to duel to the death for her.
  • Going Native: Jacob Wheeler after marrying a Lakota woman. They and their children shift between Native and white society as the series progresses. Jacob's cousin, Naomi, also goes native when she marries a Cheyenne chief, Prairie Fire.
  • Gold Fever: Jethro ends up with a pretty bad case.
  • Heel Realization: The Jerkass newspaper correspondent who hugely exaggerated the warlike nature of the Ghost Dancers is later seen crying quietly in the wreckage of the Wounded Knee camp.
  • Historical Fiction: The series is an impressive example.
  • Important Haircut: The head of the Indian School notes that Native Americans only cut their hair in times of great mourning, which is why the students are so traumatized by their new haircuts. One boy, George Voices That Carry, refuses to let his hair be cut, then cuts it himself in a very obvious demonstration of grief.
  • Magical Native American: Loved by the Buffalo, a medicine man.
  • Noble Savage: They're not exactly glamorized, but the Native Americans are portrayed respectfully and they come across as better than most of the settlers.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The drunk interpreter who basically singlehandedly causes a battle (Based on the Real Life Grattan Massacre) is among the first to die.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The Miniseries.
  • Rescue Romance: After Jacob rescues Thunder Heart Woman from slavery, one thing leads to another.
  • Screaming Birth: Averted by Thunder Heart Woman, who gives birth to their youngest child while they're briefly living with his parents; one of Jacob's cousins is surprised by her stoicism, saying that "She didn't cry out. Not once!"
  • Tone Shift: The first three episodes are, from the white point of view, about the vastness of the west and the challenge of settling it, while the Native American view concerns the first encroachments by white settlers. From the fourth episode onward though, particularly starting with the Sand Creek Massacre, the focus of the series shifts more to the constant conflicts between both sides. Sadly, very much Truth in Television.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: A veteran decides that Native Americans need western-style education in order to survive in the modern world. Not a bad idea, you might say. Except the education involves stripping the students of everything related to their culture and forbidding them from speaking their native language ever again.
  • Wham Line: Even if you know exactly what's coming, it still inspires an Oh, Crap! moment:
    "How far is the camp?"
    "Five miles. The creek called Wounded Knee."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Once the Trans-Continental Railway is complete, Abe Wheeler disappears from the story entirely.