Ethan and Marty set off with Clayton and the Texas Rangers. They come across a dead Comanche, laid to rest under a boulder. One of the men, Nesby, is suspicious of the situation, specifically of the fact that the Comanche have not tried to hide their deaths from the Rangers. "If they don't care anything about us knowing, it only spells one thing: they ain't afeared of us following or of us catching up with them, either," Nesby says.
Ethan takes out his gun and shoots the dead Comanche in the face twice, and Clayton asks him what good that did. "By what you preach, none. By what the Comanche believes, ain't got no eyes, he can't enter the spirit land. He has to wander forever between the winds," Ethan says, before calling Marty the derogatory term, "Blankethead."
The scene shifts to Ethan returning to the group and telling them that the Comanche are near a river about 20 miles away. Ethan wants to jump them, but Clayton reminds him that they're there to get the girls back, alive. "I say do it my way, Ethan, and that's an order," Clayton says. Ethan agrees, but tells him that if he's wrong, he will never follow his orders again.
After sunset, the Rangers wade in a nearby swamp area, where they find a small fire. Clayton says they have to keep going, even though Ethan imagines the Comanche are waiting to jump them. The next day, they ride through the desert, when the Comanche come up over the crest of a nearby hill. Their chief, Cicatriz, also known as "Scar," leads the way.
The Comanche warriors ride parallel to the Rangers, and Clayton tells them to keep moving, when suddenly, another group of Comanche approach from the other side. Clayton orders them to ride away as fast as they can, and the Comanche chase them. When the Rangers come to the river, they cross it, shooting at the Comanche as they do. Nesby gets hit in the struggle, as the Comanches remain on the opposite side of the river. As one of the Rangers makes an imitative mockery of the Comanche war cry, Marty looks at him, witheringly.
Clayton stands over Nesby, then asks Ethan if he thinks the Comanche will charge. Ethan tells him they are singing the Death Song, and suggests that they are definitely going to charge. Suddenly, the Comanche begin to ride across the river. The Rangers pick up their guns and begin to shoot, striking many Comanche, who retreat. When Ethan goes to fire another shot, the reverend pushes down his gun and tells him to let the Comanche carry off their wounded and dead. This angers Ethan, who suggests that he will continue on without the other men.
Later, Clayton agrees to let Ethan go on ahead without them. Marty and Brad want to go along too, and Ethan agrees. Marty says that he wants to help find Debbie and Lucy, and Ethan says, "If they're still alive," as ominous music plays.
The trio embarks, crossing the river. The scene shifts to later on. Brad is very tired and cannot believe that the Comanche have not stopped riding. Ethan is not surprised and says, "A human rides a horse until it dies, then he goes on afoot. A Comanche comes along, gets that horse up, rides him 20 more miles, then eats him." When Ethan suggests that Lucy and Debbie might be dead, Brad gets angry and tells him to stop suggesting such a horrible fate.
Later, they find tracks that suggest that four Comanche went on alone. Ethan offers to go take a look himself, while Brad and Marty keep going on the main trail. "I'll meet you on the far side," Ethan says. The scene shifts to later on, when Ethan comes through, visibly rattled by what he's seen. The trio continues on. That night, Brad locates the Comanche and assumes that Lucy is with them, having seen her in her blue dress. As he puts on his boots to go rescue his girl, Ethan stops him and tells him that he didn't see Lucy, because he saw Lucy back in the canyon, murdered and presumably raped. He tells Brad that he wrapped Lucy in his coat and buried her, and that what he saw at the Comanche camp was probably a Comanche in her blue dress.
Heartbroken, Brad rises and gets on a horse, riding towards the Comanche camp. Marty tries to stop him to no avail.
Time passes, and Marty and Ethan continue to ride through the desert. It begins to snow, signaling that the season has shifted. After a while, Ethan decides that they should turn back, determining that the Comanche will raise Debbie as their own. "We'll find 'em in the end," Ethan assures Marty, before they head back to go home.
Ethan and Marty arrive back in town to a warm welcome from Lars Jorgensen, who tells Ethan that he received his letter about Brad about a year prior. As Marty walks towards the house, Laurie Jorgensen runs towards him and kisses him. As they all go inside, Mrs. Jorgensen asks about Debbie, but he shakes his head.
The score, composed by Max Steiner, reflects the arc of the plot, and instructs the audience with whom to align their sympathies. It is a lilting orchestral score at times, ominous and foreboding at others, and serves to align the viewer with Ethan and his adventurous plight to rescue Lucy and Debbie from the Comanche. The lush and distinctly American harmonics that recur throughout the score suggest that this is the settler's film, a story about high-minded pioneers who must navigate the rocky and torturous terrain of the West, all while maintaining their hope for a brighter future.
Ethan has a particular hatred towards the Comanche warriors, and all Native Americans. While all of the men are afraid of the Comanche warriors, Ethan harbors a particular animosity, as evidenced when he shows his skepticism about Marty's race, and when he shoots the dead Comanche in the face. Ironically enough, by shooting the Comanche in the face, Ethan is only aligning himself more with the Comanche belief system, suggesting that if the fallen warrior has no eyes, he will not be able to enter the spirit world. He promptly calls Marty a derogatory term and rides off. Ethan is as racist as he is knowledgeable, willing to be needlessly brutal to prove a point about his supremacy as a white man.
This hot-headed desire to kill the Comanche and get his revenge on them as a people actually separates Ethan from the rest of his group. When he suggests that they attack the Comanche at a nearby river, Clayton and Marty both think that they should employ peaceful tactics, so that they can keep Debbie and Lucy alive. Indeed, Ethan's main flaw as a hero is his impetuous desire for violence, and Clayton must put his foot down, and insists that they do it his way.
Complicating the race politics of the Rangers is the fact that Marty, one of their men, is 1/8 Cherokee. He fights alongside the Rangers, but also feels a certain allegiance to the Native Americans they are pursuing. When one of the Rangers mockingly imitates the Comanche war cry, Marty looks at him with a sober and annoyed expression, which immediately shuts the Ranger right up. The world of the film is split quite starkly along racial lines—the protagonists are the white settlers and the antagonists are the Comanche—but the character of Marty occupies a more ambiguous position, due to his being the product of miscegenation.
The conflict becomes more complicated when Ethan and Marty realize that their search for Debbie will be a longer one than they ever imagined. They search and search for the Comanche for over a year, but to no avail. Ethan decides that they ought to give up their search for now, and tells Marty that the Comanche are sure to raise Debbie as one of their own. He becomes disturbed when he thinks of the possibility of them reproducing with her. In Ethan's mind, the only thing worse than death is the thought of a white woman taking up with a Comanche. The greatest conflict in the film is the threat of interracial sexuality.