THE POWER OF THE DOG*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Jeremy
Montana, 1925 – Brothers Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George Burbank (Jesse Plemons) operate a ranch as cowhands on property they inherited from their mother, whom they refer to as “the Old Lady”. Phil often belittles George by calling him “fatso”. Phil frequently refers to his mentor, Bronco Henry, whom he viewed as an idol.
Along with their group of cowhands, the brothers go on a cattle drive and stop at an inn where widow Rose Gordon (Kirsten Dunst) works and lives with her son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee). The boy is fond of art and speaks with a lisp. The men arrive, and Rose works to serve them drinks and food. When Phil notices some paper flower decorations on the table, Peter says he made them, so Phil and the other men begin to mock Peter and compare his work to that of a woman’s. When Phil burns one with his cigarette while telling a Bronco Henry story, Rose takes the other flowers off the table. He also yells at a nearby piano player to get him to stop.
Later that night, George overhears Rose crying by herself. He finds out that she was upset over how Phil was treating Peter. Phil defends his comments toward Peter, saying he needs to behave more normal.
George spends more time with Rose, and she sees that he is genuinely kind. Eventually, the two marry, to the displeasure of Phil, who thinks that Rose married George for his money. Phil takes his aggressions out on a horse in the barn.
With Rose moving in with George, he decides to set up a dinner party to introduce her to his parents. The couple goes out for a picnic in a quiet area, where George feels emotional over finally not feeling alone. Although Rose later tries to warm herself up to Phil, he continues to be rude to her and accuse her of scheming. He later overhears her and George having sex, so he goes to the barn and looks at a shrine for Bronco Henry.
The ranchers employ two housekeepers, Lola (Thomasin McKenzie) and Mrs. Lewis (Genevieve Lemon). Later in the day, George surprises Rose with a grand piano for her to play. While Rose tries to play by herself, Phil interrupts her by playing his banjo to throw her off, even playing expertly to harass her further. George tells Phil about their parents and the governor visiting for dinner, and hesitantly asks Phil to clean himself since he was outside swimming in mud earlier.
The elder Burbanks, the Old Lady (Frances Conroy) and the Old Gent (Peter Carroll), arrive via train to be greeted by George, and they are later accompanied by Governor Edward (Keith Carradine) and his wife (Alison Bruce). While Rose tends to her in-laws, George once again tries to summon Phil, only for him to be petty and refuse to clean himself up. The elders ask Rose to play the piano, though she can only play a few notes of the “Radetzky March” due to nerves. Things are made worse when Phil strolls in and continues to talk down to Rose in front of everyone. This drives her to drink, even though she earlier told George she hates drinking since that’s what killed her last husband.
Peter comes to the ranch to stay for the summer, where Phil and his men continue to taunt the boy. Rose has descended into full-fledged alcoholism. Peter stays in his room most of the time. They find a rabbit in the field, but when Lola asks to check on it, she finds Peter in his room dissecting the animal.
Phil and his men go by a lake to bathe. He goes off by himself into a field where he takes Bronco Henry’s handkerchief and begins to masturbate with it. Meanwhile, Peter goes into a private space where he finds old magazines that belonged to Henry, featuring naked men. He then finds Phil bathing near a lake, but he shoos the boy away when he is spotted.
Sometime later, after the cowhands are gathered in a field, Rose and Peter join them, and Phil calls Peter over to him, fully aware that it will make Rose uncomfortable. He offers to show Peter how to make a lasso from rawhide. Phil does so and also offers to show him how to ride a horse, the same way Bronco Henry showed him. Rose later expresses her concern to Peter for spending so much time with Phil.
While learning to ride, Peter has some trouble staying on the horse, earning him laughs from the other cowhands. He eventually manages to ride it out into the land, where he discovers a cow carcass. He puts on gloves and cuts off a piece of the cow’s hide.
Phil takes Peter out on their horses for a fencing job, which Rose attempts to stop but is too late since they have ridden far enough. They stop to kill a rabbit, and Phil gets a large cut on his hand. Afterwards, they sit under a tree, where Peter tells Phil about how he found his father’s body after he hung himself, and how he had to cut him down.
Mrs. Lewis tells Rose that some Native American traders came by to collect hides that Phil was storing, but they left after learning that Phil was planning to burn them. To spite him, Rose gives the traders the hides, and they give her a pair of gloves in exchange. Not long after, Rose passes out from being too drunk, and George finds and takes care of her. Phil returns and becomes enraged, confronting George about Rose’s alcoholism, but Peter later tells him about the hide that he cut, claiming how he wants to be like Phil and so that they can finish the lasso.
At night, Phil and Peter gather to finish the lasso with the hide that Peter cut, although he doesn’t mention that the animal he cut it off of might have been diseased. Phil cleans the hide in the water despite his open cut mixing in it. The two then share a cigarette as Phil talks about Bronco Henry. He tells Peter about how Henry saved him from a harsh winter night by laying in bed with him and sharing body heat, but Phil is dodgy when Peter asks if they were naked.
The next day, George goes to check on Phil since he doesn’t show up for breakfast. He finds his brother terribly sick. Phil gets himself dressed but is delirious. He takes the finished lasso and tries to find Peter to give it to him, but George takes Phil to the doctor.
Phil later dies, and George picks out a coffin for his burial. After Phil’s funeral, the doctor that George speaks to suggests that Phil died of an anthrax infection, which George is confused by since Phil was always careful with the hides he tended to.
Peter stays home from the funeral, but he keeps the lasso under his bed. He reads a verse from Psalms that reads: “Deliver my soul from the sword, my darling from the power of the dog.” He then looks out the window and sees George coming home and embracing Rose, and he smiles for them.
In Montana in 1925, brothers Phil and George Burbank manage a ranch inherited from their parents. George meets a woman named Rose and her son Peter, and he marries her. Phil is rude and antagonistic to Rose, believing her to be with George for his money, while he taunts Peter for some effeminate mannerisms and interests. The stress of it drives Rose to drink.
Phil begins to genuinely bond with Peter, showing him how to ride a horse and make a lasso from rawhide. He tells Peter about his mentor, Bronco Henry, and it is implied that Phil and Henry were lovers. While making a lasso for Peter, Phil's hand is cut open and is mixed in water with a hide that Peter cut off a diseased cow. Phil dies from an infection, with the implication being that Peter knew this would kill him to protect his mother.
George and Rose maintain their relationship, and Rose and Peter appear happier.