The Big Valley

Season 1 Episode 22

The Death Merchant

Aired Monday 9:00 PM Feb 23, 1966 on ABC

Episode Fan Reviews (2)

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out of 10
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  • A man shoots at Audra after she knits him the wrong colored muff

    This a-typical, A+ episode of The Big Valley starts out with scenes of miles of orange groves, and a bumbling, seemingly likable old-timer riding along them on his donkey. Why the sudden citrusy setting, and who's this goofy interloper? These questions draw the viewer in, and set the stage for an hour of grim drama juxtaposed with the humorous ways the stranger has about him, including his dialogues with his mule.

    The history recounted by Heath (by the way, how many wars, misadventures, mining towns, and sweethearts has this young man seen in his young life?) of his disdain for Random is creepy, as is the way that Random coldly chooses his ammunition (buckshot is up in price; fill 'em up with gravel instead!). Sour-faced Royal Dano reprises his western stereotype well as the slightly wacko, uber-religious neighbor who's frustrating the Barkleys' peaceful lifestyle. But James Whitmore positively steals the show in the dichotomy of his role as a comical and affable, yet truly heartless and bloodthirsty killer.

  • The Barkleys discover an old family friend is Satan.

    The Barkleys are in a range war with another family over a a piece of land that was moved by an apparent seismic event. The leader of the rival clan contends that it was an act of God and refuses to let the Barkleys pick fruit on the land, and threatens to have them shot on sight if they do. Enter Handy Random, a man held in high esteem by the Barkleys because he is the man who killed the man who killed Tom Barkley. He visits the Barkley ranch, and along the way has a run-in with members of the rival clan. He also offers to kill them and ensure the Barkleys will be able to pick fruit in safety on the disputed land, but the Barkleys are less than thrilled with his offer. Meanwhile, there is one Barkley who does not hold him in high esteem. Before joining the Barkley household Heath had participated in the Lincoln County Wars, and believed that what he was fighting for was right. Random also fought in those wars, but to him it was all a money making venture, selling his services to the highest bidder. Heath tells the others about his experiences with Random, and they tell Random to leave the ranch. Embittered, he offers his services to the rival clan, and the results are disastrous for both families. As Heath warned, he has no conscience and kills for profit. After the rival clan learns the hard way of his true nature, it is up to Heath and Audra to stop him, and ultimitely bring peace among the two families.

    James Whitmore is superb as the cold-blooded Handy Random, as is Royal Dano as the pious leader of the Barkleys' adversaries.