Background and premise of the series:
It’s 1870, the Civil War is over and it has left the country scarred with much of the South still trying to recover. Cattle rancher Murdoch Lancer has built his empire on 100,000 acres in the beautiful San Joaquin valley of California. The country is seeing migration Westward. But with that comes bad guys looking to push out the small ranchers and make life miserable enough that even the larger ranches have no one left to fight with them.
When land pirates threaten the Lancer ranch, Murdoch Lancer knows he needs help keeping his legacy alive. He hires Pinkerton agents to fetch his 2 estranged sons.
Scott Lancer never knew his mother or his father. His mother, Murdoch’s first wife, dies during a rough ride in a wagon going into labor, possibly pre-maturely. Scott is whisked away by his wealthy grandfather and raised in Boston. He lives a privileged life, and from our first glance of him he seems a bit of a playboy. We later learn that he was a soldier in the Civil War and has known the hardship of war. Because Murdoch knows that Scott is in Boston, we assume that the Pinkertons are able to find him quite easily.
Johnny, on the other hand, is not so easily located. The child of Murdoch and his second wife, Johnny is only a baby when his mother runs out on Murdoch, taking him with her. It’s never really explained, but it is assumed that the second Mrs. Lancer moved around quite a bit, likely around the dusty towns along the U.S.-Mexico border making it difficult to locate Johnny. He has an unstable life and has learned to take care of himself. We assume that his mother has died when Johnny is fairly young. To make things even more difficult – Johnny does not use the Lancer name, and has in fact made quite a name for himself as Johnny Madrid – a dangerous gunfighter. The Pinkerton detective finds him in the nick of time.
Later, unbeknownst to them, the 2 unsuspecting half-brothers wind up on the same Stage Coach travelling to Lancer to meet their father – with the promise of $1,000 to hear what the old man has to say.
When they arrive in the neighboring town of Morro Coyo they are greeted by Teresa, Murdoch Lancer’s ward, who has lived on Lancer her entire life. When she asks “Ah, Mr. Lancer?” their reactions are priceless.
And that is the crux, and the appeal, of the show. Perfect strangers, learning to become a family.