Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sgt. Tremaine: Noble to the Bitter End

Some postings ago, LuckyLadybug talked about the needless, tragic death of one of Simon’s characters: Captain Caldwell, from Perry Mason.  Not having seen the episode in question, I couldn’t quite grasp what it must have been like, to see that… until I saw a similar needless death befall one of Simon’s other characters: Stg. Austin Tremaine, from The Raiders.  And I found it just as heartbreaking as Ladybug found Caldwell’s death.

Sgt. Tremaine, much like Captain Caldwell, only appeared onscreen for a very little amount of time, but he was an incredible, morally strong and upright character.  He was a former Southern major in the Civil War, but joined the re-unified US Army after the war, apparently not minding too much that he had to be an NCO after being a major.  When one of his old colleagues from the war, Genera McElroy, starts causing trouble by leading a band of Raiders to pillage wagons and trains in Texas, Tremaine makes it clear to McElroy that, under no uncertain terms, he will have to fight against him if ordered to do so, regardless of their mutual past.

This is, of course, what inevitably happens; Tremaine’s acting commander, Captain Benton, soon has enough of McElroy’s raiding ways, and orders Tremaine to set up a deathtrap for McElroy---conceal a Gatling in what appears to be a lumber shipment to fire upon the raiders with.  Though Tremaine knows that McElroy has to be stopped, he is very much against such an underhanded trap, seeing it as murder.  Despite not wanting any part of it, Benton pulls rank on him, forcing him to go along with it.

When the time comes to spring the trap, however, McElroy has a counter-maneuver that will result in the death of everyone on board the train if Tremaine opens fire.  Benton assumes McElroy to be bluffing (he isn’t) and orders Tremaine to fire; Tremaine points out that McElroy did a similar trick during the Civil War, but Benton refuses to believe him and again orders him to fire—this time, at gunpoint.  When Tremaine again refuses to fire upon McElroy and the raiders, Benton cruelly shoots him, killing him on the spot.

Wild Bill Hickok arrives immediately after this to apprehend Benton, declaring him a murderer under no uncertain terms, and both Hickok and McElroy lament that Tremaine’s death was indeed needless, given the circumstances.  And those watching the movie will surely agree with them.  McElroy does stop his raiding ways, but the overall price is that of Tremaine’s life---a heavy price to pay indeed, given how Tremaine’s only thought had been to save the lives of those on the train.

Despite the role being a tragic one, Simon brings Sgt. Tremaine to life just as well as he does with any of his various other characters.  Due to his limited screentime, very little is known about him.  Did he have a family?  Friends?  Plans for the future?  And yet, with what little he has to work with, Simon clearly shows us how good a person Tremaine is---that he probably knew full well that Benton would kill him if he continued to refuse to open fire on McElroy, yet still willing to hold his ground to save the lives of innocents.  Simon also shows us that Tremaine is a man of honor; he was willing to follow orders up until Benton came up with his underhanded scheme, and even then continued to follow orders until the lives of others were at stake.

As needless as Tremaine’s death is, he did what he had set out to do---save those innocent lives.  And after that, McElroy’s raids stopped, restoring calm once again. 

At the very least, then, Tremaine’s sacrifice was not for nothing.

~Crystal Rose

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