Like all six episodes in Buster Scruggs, The Gal Who Got Rattled was a tale about death. This one — which was loosely based on Stewart Edward White’s 1901 short story, “The Girl Who Got Rattled” — found Zoe Kazan cast as Alice Longabaugh, a hard-luck pioneer on her way to Oregon, possibly to get married.
Her dog President Pierce, who is supposed to be shot as a nuisance, disappears on the prairie. Alice wanders from her wagon train to find him. Mr. Arthur, played by Grainger Hines, wanders after Alice.
In a Coenian contretemps, the two are trapped behind a rise by hostile warriors. Giving Alice a revolver, Mr. Arthur tells her to avoid rape and torture by shooting herself should things take a turn for the worst. He then starts firing away at the attackers. One wave breaks. “They ain’t going to do this all day. This’ll tell the tale,” says Arthur as another wave comes on.
Finally, he strides toward a last remaining warrior, who appears for a moment to have killed him. But Arthur, a cool one, comes back up, dispatches the attacker, and returns to Alice — only to find that she’d shot herself dead in that split second, when all appeared to be lost.
She got rattled. She despaired. She destroyed herself just when things were about to get better. The Gal Who Got Rattled is about hope — hanging in there. Even if that means another five weeks.