• Review: Texas Rising

    Single Issue VII

    ​Texas Rising (2015)

    Texas Rising tells the fascinating history of the formation of the Republic of Texas in the 1830’s. Taking place immediately after the fall of the Alamo all the way to the creation of the Republic, the miniseries covers a fascinating time period in not only the history of Texas but America itself. Following the Texas Rangers, the Mexican army, and regular people who just have to be living in the period and area, and coming from the same team that created the fantastic Hatfield’s and McCoy’s, one would assume that the miniseries would take every opportunity to sell us this period of American History in all of its greatness and sorrows. Unfortunately, the series has a lot of pitfalls, and is not quite the same quality as one would hope.
    Realistically, it is suitable to begin with discussing the negatives of this miniseries. To start simply, the miniseries is far too long, and far too boring. Clocking in at over seven and a half hours, Texas Rising is too bloated and chock full of story for what it is trying to do. The main story is too thin for a miniseries this length, which is why the producers padded the series with needless subplots that honestly go nowhere. I would have been fine if the series had used the length to show the Battle of the Alamo, but this crucial part of the period is omitted to show the events that take place in the weeks and months after the battle. And the biggest sin of all from this is that the series manages to make this exciting event to be incredibly boring. Throughout all ten episodes (five if you count them as double length) they managed to bore me, which is hard to do when it comes to historical fiction. It is perhaps the greatest sin of the miniseries, but it is sadly not the end of them.
    In addition to these two main complaints, there are several other problems that come from watching this miniseries. Much of the acting from the side characters is quite poor, especially in comparison to the leads. The history shown through the lens of this series is quite poor at times, and choices made by the producers in showing this history makes me question whether they even read any books on the period or even basic military tactics before writing these scenes. A glaring example comes from one of the main characters, played by Ray Liotta, is an insane survivor of the Alamo, who never existed in the first place. The writing in general, coupled with the length of the series, is poor as well, and the dialogue at times can be quite cringeworthy. In addition to this, the series paints too broad a picture with the history, with all the Texas characters being stereotypically awesome and heroic while the Mexican characters, especially Santa Anna, as mustache-twirlingly evil. There’s no middle ground or grey area in this story, and as it is already historically inaccurate it just adds to the problems of this series. There are also several unnecessary romances, including ahistorical ones, that just tie into the fact that the series is far too long...it seems as if they were filmed just to add to time. Finally, out of the big issues, there is also how and where they filmed it. Anyone who has ever been to this area of Texas (me included) would say that the series did a terrible job of representing the geography of the area. I understand that they obviously could not film the series in the original locations, but they could have at least gotten the geography better than they did. There are other issues as well, such as awkward music choices, weird editing (especially in ending and beginning episodes), and more, but there are relatively minor in comparison to the main problems.
    Now to discuss the good parts of the miniseries, few as they may be. The cast is great, and the acting in the whole miniseries, at least from the main people, is superb. All of the main actors really brought their best to this production, and it showed. Of particular note is Bill Paxton as Sam Houston, and Brendan Fraser as Billy Anderson provide heartbreaking performances in their respective roles. Jeffrey Dean Morgan also provides a very amazing performance as the role of Deaf Smith, one of the founding members of the Texas Rangers. Unfortunately, though, a lot of the actors are wasted, such as Thomas Jane, on plots that go nowhere. The production value on the show is pretty good, though it is clear they took liberties with clothing and other things. Some of the battle scenes are fun to watch, and are generally well made for TV. The Battle of San Jacinto, with some issues, was the most exciting part of the story, and easily showed where a lot of the budget was spent well. Unfortunately, this is pretty much the end of the good things about the series.
    It is clear that a lot of money was spent on getting good people into this series and making a good looking miniseries. They even had multiple award winning director, Roland Joffe, direct the entire miniseries. Unfortunately, with meandering subplots, a far too long of a story, and other issues meant that a lot of that money went to waste. Way too many fantastic actors were wasted on this with little to do and a thin script and story to work with. Much of that money could have been put to better use by using lesser known (and therefore, cheaper) actors to fill out the roles that were wasted on unimportant roles. Cutting out the lesser subplots and slimming down the miniseries could have also put a lot of money towards creating better battle scenes as well as location shooting, things that were wanting from the miniseries. I still believe that the series would have done well by beginning with the siege of the Alamo, showing the later Goliad Massacre, and then capping off the series with The Battle of San Jacinto and the Texas Independence would have been a much better miniseries. It would have led to a tighter story, a more engaging one, and overall a better miniseries in my opinion.
    It is a shame, as this was from the same team that did the fantastic Hatfield’s and McCoy’s for the History Channel. That miniseries was a near-perfect one, and if they had simply done just as well as that the History Channel would have had another winning miniseries, or at least as good as the watchable Sons of Liberty. The pacing and the story were just too weak compared to its predecessors, and the other issues crippled the narrative that the producers were trying to tell. Because of this, the story of Texas was wasted on this mediocre miniseries that was saved only slightly with its good acting and production values. There was a hint as to a continuation with some of the characters in the future. I hope it happens as I would love to see another crack at this setting, but if it never does nothing of real value will be lost. It was a good effort, but the series ultimately lost its chance at becoming a great miniseries because of its numerous problems, and it is a serious missed opportunity on the part of the producers and the History Channel. Hopefully they will learn their lesson from this series being panned by critics and audiences alike, and make sure it will never happen again. I’ve seen this show twice; once when it aired, and once more to review it. Honestly, I’m not sure I will ever watch it again.
    5/10 (And I feel like this is being generous)

    Enjoyed this review? Why not check out my other reviews of historical fiction shows such as:

    Hatfield's and McCoy's
    Sons of Liberty
    Da Vinci's Demons Season 1

    And if you are interested in joining The Helios to write on topics pertaining to History, why not contact Alwyn?
    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Gigantus's Avatar
      Gigantus -
      Great and in detail review

      The series had a good beginning but as you point out simply went all over the place and was difficult to follow at times. For once not a Alamo opera when it comes to this period of American history - an automatic plus point in my eyes.
    1. TheDarkKnight's Avatar
      TheDarkKnight -
      I just wish that, for the length and the money that they had, they could have at least shown a LITTLE bit of the Alamo.

      Just such a disappointment
    1. Owlparrot3's Avatar
      Owlparrot3 -
      I liked the movie though i watched it in anger .I am on the Mexican side and think that the Texans were worthless terrorist and rebels who deserved their losses .

      Good review man .I liked it .
    1. Alwyn's Avatar
      Alwyn -
      This does sound like a fascinating period in history. It is a shame that the sub-plots didn't develop (were they hoping to make a second series which would have resolved them?). It sounds like a missed opportunity that the history wasn't as authentic as it could have been (the 'broad-brush' presentation of Texan and Mexican characters, the choice of locations and the representation of military engagements all sound like significant issues.)