NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy

Wichita Falls, TX, 1870 – Former confederate Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks) has taken up a job reading news in various towns to inform them of the world outside their homes. He tells a group of people that a pandemic has affected the country over the last couple of months, claiming over 90 lives in that time.

The following morning, Kidd goes out to find his next location when he discovers an overturned wagon. He finds the lynched body of a black man, along with a feral girl (Helena Zengel) from the Kiowa tribe. Kidd finds her papers and sees that her name is Johanna Leonberger. Moments later, a Union patrol approaches Kidd, where he deduces that the lynched man must have been transporting Johanna. After burying the man, Kidd takes Johanna with him for the night and gives her food and shelter.

The next day, Kidd takes Johanna to a Union checkpoint to have Johanna be escorted to surviving family members in Castroville. The officer that speaks to Kidd tells him that the agent from the Bureau for Indian Affairs is unavailable for three months. Kidd leaves Johanna in the care of a local couple, Simon and Doris Boudlin (Ray Kinnon and Mare Winningham), as he plans to wait it out for the agent to arrive. He travels to tell the news to a group of people in Red River who are vocally irritated at President Ulysses S. Grant’s movement to abolish slavery and repay war debts.

When Kidd returns to the Boudlins, they inform him that Johanna has run off in the storm. Kidd finds her calling out to a traveling Kiowa tribe, hoping that they will take her with them, but Kidd pulls her away from the cliffside before she hurts herself. Realizing she cannot stay in town, Kidd decides to take it upon himself to deliver Johanna to her family himself.

Kidd sets off on the road with Johanna. He has a hard time communicating with her because she only speaks Kiowa. After a day on the road, they stop in Dallas where Kidd sees a friend, Mrs. Gannett (Elizabeth Marvel), who gives them food and a place to stay. As they share a meal, Johanna eats with no manners even as Kidd tries to teach her how to properly eat. Mrs. Gannett then reveals she can speak Kiowa and learns from Johanna that she didn’t know her biological parents since she was raised by the Kiowa, but that family was murdered by soldiers that raided their home.

Later that night, Kidd goes to read the news and is afterward approached by three ex-confederate soldiers, led by Mr. Almay (Michael Angelo Covino). They soon make their intention known to Kidd that they want to buy Johanna from him for trafficking purposes, but Kidd protects the girl. He gets into a brief scuffle with Almay until Union soldiers come to break it up.

Upon returning to the road in the morning, Kidd and Johanna are pursued by Almay and his men on horses. Kidd pulls over and hides with Johanna. A shootout ensues, where Kidd manages to shoot and kill one of the men, but he is left with nothing but birdshot, which wouldn’t be as lethal. Johanna then comes up with an idea to use coins to fill in the casings. After Almay tries to trick Kidd into a truce by sending one of his men, the man tries to draw his weapon on Kidd until Kidd fires back with the rifle. He then takes Johanna down to a nearby cave to hide as Almay pursues. Kidd manages to distract Almay long enough to shoot and kill him.

Continuing their travels, Kidd and Johanna start to learn more from each other, with Johanna teaching Kidd some Kiowa words while he gives her English words, and he learns that she knows a little Deutsch. They near a place called Erath County when they are stopped by a group of men led by Mr. Farley (Thomas Francis Murphy) who are performing an ethnic cleansing in their area, bragging about killing off Mexicans, Natives, and African Americans. After learning that Kidd tells the news, Farley invites him to their town to read news. Kidd notices that the conditions in the town aren’t very well. He reads the news to a crowd that is too familiar with Farley and his group’s efforts, so Kidd then tells them a story of miners who survived a fire, which causes the crowd to get excited. Afterward, Farley and his men confront Kidd at gunpoint for not doing what they told him to do. Johanna shoots one man, but before she can turn the gun on Farley, he is shot and killed by a local man named John Calley (Fred Hechinger).

Calley guides Kidd and Johanna on a wagon train before he parts ways with them, but he leaves them with an extra gun for protection. On the way, Kidd’s wagon veers out of control, forcing him and Johanna to jump. The wagon and horse crash and Kidd must put the horse out of its misery. Kidd and Johanna continue traveling on foot before they encounter a sandstorm. In the chaos, they encounter the Kiowa tribe from earlier, and they provide the pair with a horse to continue the journey.

The pair finally make it to Castroville where they meet Johanna’s aunt and uncle, Wilhelm, and Anna (Neil Sandilands and Winsome Brown). Anna tells Kidd how Johanna’s parents struggled to make ends meet and traveled out to seek cheaper land, only to get killed by the Kiowa who took Johanna. Kidd bids Johanna farewell, even though she does not want him to leave.

Kidd travels to San Antonio where his wife had passed away from cholera. He visits her mission and pays tribute to her, leaving his wedding ring on her grave.

Kidd returns to Castroville and finds Johanna tied by her ankle to a post. Wilhelm and Anna say that she refuses to do work and kept running away. Kidd speaks to Johanna in Kiowa and asks her for forgiveness, saying that she belongs with him. She tearfully accepts and goes with him.

Kidd continues his job by telling the news and entertaining crowds, this time with the now adopted Johanna as his assistant.

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In 1870, former confederate Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd finds a young girl named Johanna Leonberger, who was taken by a Kiowa tribe as a baby and raised by them until soldiers killed them. Kidd reluctantly decides to take Johanna to her aunt and uncle in Castroville.

On the road, Kidd and Johanna slowly bond as they try to learn from each other. They encounter antagonists such as former confederate soldiers who want to kidnap and traffic Johanna, as well as a racist militia leader, but Kidd and Johanna manage to kill them. Kidd also performs his duties as a news teller, informing various towns of the events in the rest of the world.

Kidd finds Johanna's family and leaves her there, even though she doesn't want to part ways with him. After Kidd stops to visit his wife's grave in San Antonio and realizes that he is alone, he returns to get Johanna and offer her to go with him.

Kidd adopts Johanna, and she becomes his news-telling assistant.