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"What is the difference between murder and justice?"
An outlaw sentenced to hang for killing nine men, Manfred Holt (Charles Bronson! Well, someone like me gets excited about his guest spot, not that you will exactly.), is on the lam, but sworn to get even with the man who fingered him for the murders for which he was die for, is Paladin's next mission: he is to return Holt to Laramie where he is to hang from the noose until dead. But will Paladin be able to convince the sheriff, who lost good deputies to Holt and has the murderer bottled up in the Black Mountains, out of killing him? What proceeds is Paladin seeing that Holt gets to his wife and newly born infant son, settled in a little cabin in the middle of Nowhere Wyoming, with an agreement that Manfred would ride back to Laramie to his appointment with Death. Paladin's main mission is to see that Holt doesn't harm his client, the testifying witness who Manfred considers unmanly and not worthy to live.
Interesting episode has some great storytelling thanks to the performances and script. The idea of humanizing a killer who admits that his nature is to pull his gun instead of fighting with fists to settle matters with other men he just doesn't like I thought was a compelling one. It seems to say that Holt was a creature to his primitive nature, not able to control the killer instinct, such human frailty his undoing. As Paladin correctly establishes in discussions with Holt (their candor and dialogue is the foundation of this episode's quality script), he can't just live by the gun, pulling it on men who aren't as skilled in gunfighting as he is, and get away with it. There's a marvelous scene where Paladin forces Holt to stand by his own rigid brand of "manly ethics" where a man's word is unbreakable, by presenting him with a chance to pull a gun while his back is turned. I think those who claimed Chuck Bronson didn't have "fire in his belly" as an actor should see his performance here because his Holt is a fiery, intense character who wears his emotions on his sleeve, honest about his way of life and thinking, even if it's wrong-headed and destined for tragic consequences. This episode allows us to see Paladin's quick-drawing capabilities, although I like how the show points out that pulling the gun is his last possible option/resort when everything else fails to stop the inevitable. This episode's criminal is not cut-and-dry and is actually likable in some ways, but he's a killer and I don't think the viewer is ever in any doubt that Holt will force Paladin's hand; Paladin, to his credit, is also a man who stands by his word, even duping the sheriff and his posse into leaving wife, Sarah's(Peggy Stewart, plain, but gentle and loyal, even though her husband isn't deserved of her) cabin for a spell so that a man can see his family before meeting his destiny. The episode's highlight gunfight, started when a drop of water falls to ground from a well pump, isn't as much exciting as it is unfortunate: I think that is actually a credit to the script and performance of Bronson that the ending rings melancholy instead of thrills. The film's highlight may very well be when Paladin slips down a rocky cliff allowing Holt to get away if he so chooses, because it tells us a lot about Holt's character, whether his word means anything truly to this man or if it's just a load of hogwash. His explanations about living a life by the gun is presented as a true philosophy according to Holt and credibly established in Bronson's performance: he truly seems sincere that the gun is like water to quench his thirst or food to stuff his starving belly, without it he's not living.
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