Tag Archives: Strange Empire

Comments and queries for the week of Dec. 5

This week our readers sound off on Duke and Mara on Haven, the latest instalment of Strange Empire and the roller coaster relationships on Saving Hope.

It sickens me that Duke and Mara did it. I am probably one of the biggest Duniffer lovers around, and he did betray their relationship. I don’t trust her, either. He is in for probably a sick and sad surprise. I love Gloria’s quote, “its like she was a real-life Mrs. Potato-Head.” She is usually pretty funny–love her!–Haven Momma

A very well-written and concise review [of Strange Empire], Diane. I appreciate that the show invites different takes from different angles and my own review of the latest episode focused specifically on the owner-work relations … if interested, here is the link.–Chad

This season [of Saving Hope] has been a roller coaster so far, but I’m enjoying it. I can’t make up my mind which couple I like best. It’s hard to re-watch the first season and a half, or the first two episodes of this season, and not root for Charlie and Alex. But as this season goes on I think I’m leaning more toward Charlie and Dawn. Shanks and Nolden have really good chemistry and I think the two characters really know and understand each other. Joel seems to really know the post-accident Alex as well; wish we had seen the aftermath of their hooking up from last episode. Enjoying the medical and ghost storylines too.–Hallie

Got a question or comment about Canadian TV? greg@tv-eh.com



Review: Rebecca grows in Strange Empire

When I began to watch Strange Empire, I naturally gravitated to Kat Loving. I recognized her as the female equal to Seth Bullock on Deadwood, a Western show I dearly loved. Like Seth, Kat is plunged into assuming the mantle of lawmaker in town and it’s a role she doesn’t yet embrace. Offsetting her is Slotter, who holds hints of Deadwood‘s Swearengen.

But as the weeks have gone on, I find myself drawn more and more to Rebecca and the actress who plays her. Melissa Farman’s interpretation of Rebecca is wonderful. Like Dr. Temperence Brennan on Bones, Rebecca is gifted with high intelligence but lacks a lot of human emotion. She, like Brennan, is learning to connect with her emotions. Monday’s newest instalment, “The Oath,” called on Rebecca to be in touch with both sides as she had to be cold and calculating in Thomas’ chances for survival while juggling her jittery feelings. He was going to die whether she operated on his infected leg or not and that would leave her alone.

Thomas has been a fascinating figure of late. I’ve felt badly for him because of the advancing infection, but then he’s said something dickish to make me hate him again. That continued last night when he alternated being tender with telling Rebecca to head back east once he was dead in the vain hope she’d listen and leave Finn behind. Kudos to Thomas for opting not to reveal to Rebecca that Finn was a woman; he could have done that with his dying breath and further compounded Rebecca’s difficult task of saying goodbye to him. Instead, he opted to pull her close and make her feel loved as he uttered his dying breath.

Now that Thomas is gone, the door is open for Rebecca to take on the gig as Janestown’s doctor. It’s a role I can’t wait to see her excel in.

Notes and quotes

  • What is it with mud wrestling on these Western shows? First it was Hell on Wheels and now Strange Empire? Has it become a thing and I just didn’t know it?
  • I love the sepia tones and earthy browns used in Strange Empire. It makes things like Thomas’ blood really pop off the screen
  • “All men know what’s best for themselves. That’s the trouble.”–Kat

Strange Empire airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC.


Review: Sheriffs and same-sex kisses on Strange Empire

Of course the week that Diane is off on vacation, Strange Empire‘s major storylines headed into a new direction.

“Electricity” was full of just that, literally and figuratively. Literally, a power line came down in Janestown, throwing its sparks hither and yon, and giving Slotter the chance to shift into a higher gear of crazy. The man has been on edge as of late and by Monday night was threatening not only the life of the pony but on the baby too. The former was dispatched off-camera and it looked like the same fate might befall the latter. (I didn’t really suspect that would happen; murdering a baby would make Slotter wholly unlikeable and we’re supposed to hope for his tortured soul.)

Meanwhile, Kat ascended to the role of Sheriff. After a couple of weeks of tension between the town’s ladies and Sheriff Little, everything came to an explosive head. Little made the mistake of fixing his rheumy gaze on Fiona and wanted to spend the night with her. Fiona decided she was up for it–she and her mother needed the money, she reckoned–but things went bad when Little tried to take what he’d previously said he’d pay for. Enter Kat, who promised to kill Little if he tried something like that again. Of course he did–pulling off a great impression of Jack Nicholson in The Shining by hacking his way into the Briggs’ home–before Kat shot him where he stood. (After instructing him to turn around so that she wasn’t a “back-shooter.”) The ladies may have been toasting Kat’s new job, but what will happen once Slotter finds out? He did say Kat would hang if she killed Little.

But perhaps the biggest moment of the episode was reserved for Rebecca and Finn, who finally kissed after weeks of sultry looks behind (and sometimes in front of) Thomas. Of course, no one knows Finn is actually a woman, so the lip-lock will be even more shocking when that comes to light. For now, though, things are already pretty messed up. Rebecca asked Isabelle for help in the bedroom so that she could be a better wife-to-be, but instead of directing it at Thomas she turned her growing affections to Finn instead. Perhaps Rebecca is hedging her bets; Thomas’ gangrenous leg means he’s going to need surgery soon and he may not come out of it alive.

Notable quotes

  • “There’s electricity in the air. Wonderful.”–Rebecca
  • “I don’t know what to do. The only men I have handled have been dead.”–Rebecca
  • “I’m no back-shooter.”–Kat

Strange Empire airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on CBC.


Comments and queries for the week of Nov. 14

By far the story that got the most comments this week was Kate Taylor’s piece regarding whether Strange Empire could ever become as successful as its Monday night counterpart, Murdoch Mysteries. Here’s a sampling of what people said.

The first issue any supporter of the CBC and Canadian TV in general should have with this is that such comparisons always make one show look good at the other show’s expense: if we want both show’s to do well on CBC, what is constructive about this “comparison” approach?

Ever wonder why Murdoch Mysteries has a fairly substantial audience? By bringing together a bunch of genres, Murdoch Mysteries came up with something “quirky” and “hybrid” and “cultish.” People use a whole lot of compound terms to describe it. But the point is, there is something in Murdoch Mysteries that “crosses over” for many audience segments, so it’s a ridiculous exercise to try to reduce it to some over-simplified strawman just for the same of comparing Strange Empire. All of these articles just makes it look like the reviewers don’t know what they are talking about to the over 1 million viewers who actually do watch Murdoch Mysteries every week.–Snacky

After watching the first two episodes of Strange Empire and having the people I had talked into watching it drop like flies, I began watching the show with a much more critical eye, but an eye which viewed the show in terms of why the show failed to appeal to people, rather than an eye to artistry. After watching five episodes of Strange Empire, I still am not sure exactly where the characters are all going and at this point I`m not sure what I`m hoping for the characters.–Ally

And, as The Bachelor Canada heads into its season finale on Tuesday, readers are split 50-50 over whether Tim Warmels will choose Trish or April as his betrothed.

Unfortunately, I see April as a mentally and emotionally unstable individual. What does Tim know of her background? How will she cope when she begins to have her own children, when she is so easily overwhelmed? It will take a lot of trust and possibly a lot of time in the future to help her deal with life’s issues, it seems, not just for Tim but his family.–Evette

I wanted April, but what I saw last week, I have changed my mind. April still needs to mature and really think what she really wants. She is very pretty and nice, but what would happen in the real life with Tim? This relationship will not survive. With Trish, this might work, but Tim must set the rules with a beauty queen. No diva, no drama, just be yourself. Moving to Toronto will be a big step with Trish. But I still like Trish.–Luce

Got a comment or question about Canadian TV? Contact me at greg@tv-eh.com.


Review: Strange Empire is off to the racists

{original file name}

Strange Empire is a land of outsiders thrown together by harrowing circumstance, scrabbling on a land where they seek to make outsiders of those who lived there first.

There’s Isabelle, the former whore who fights for respectability far beyond the boundaries of respectability, and longs for a world beyond her own (and who is, as Jared says, “a little brown” herself).

Slotter, an ambitious man who didn’t merit the paternal given name or the family business, who struggles with — and often loses to — his inner demons. He confesses to getting his men drunk and rousing them to blood, tells Isabelle he’s not the man she thinks, but his confession seems to stop short of admitting he ordered the men to kill.

Rebecca, for whom any social encounter is like a strange new world, unmoored after the death of the woman who raised her and hasty marriage to the man who raised her.

Among the other supporting characters who are coming into their own is Ling, the “Celestial” and son of a concubine who finds himself the lover of a madame, and Marshal Caleb Mercredi, who is ostracized for his Indian blood and makes a powerful enemy by vowing to bring Slotter to justice.

And then there’s ferocious yet vulnerable Kat, who has fashioned her own instant family after the loss of her original family, and who belongs to neither the white nor the Indian societies. With Cree versus Blackfoot blood she and Marshal Mercredi should be enemies, but in this new world all Indians are lumped together as the “other”, turning potential enemies into allies.

Given how freely the show publicity shared that Kat Loving is Metis, and that an early encounter assumed it, it didn’t occur to me that some of the characters weren’t aware. That explains a few things in past episodes, though it felt jarring in this one when the Janestown women felt betrayed at her deception. Mrs. Briggs in particular, who’s sold her soul to the Slotters in exchange for shelter and supplies, turns on Kat for being “one of them”, while Rebecca reveals herself again to be Kat’s most devoted and awkward ally.

“The Whiskey Trader” opens with an ominous shot of a hanging doll and introduces another outsider, the titular character played by a seedy Ian Tracey. He takes advantage of the lawlessness north of the border to sell “Indian whiskey” — aka strychnine — which incites violence (and not just in Indians) and allows him to serve up two  Blackfoot to Slotter as scapegoats to hang for the massacre his men carried out.

Isabelle, whose impressive deviousness seems more cool and calculated than her husband’s, frames Jared, who threatens to reveal her infidelity with Cornelius Slotter. With twisted loyalty, Jared balks from spilling the news that could destroy the Captain and tells him instead that Isabelle lusts after Ling.

Drunk on the whiskey, his attempt to hang Kat about to be foiled by Slotter, Jared begins again to tell him what he doesn’t want to hear and is shot dead for his near-candour. Hos before bros, dude. With the Indians escaped and Janestown folks not buying their guilt, the Slotters bring in Jared’s box full of items plundered from the slain men. A dead man makes an ideal scapegoat after all.

Rooted in history, Strange Empire plays with heightened language and surreal elements that are combining into a strange and wonderful adventure. How guilty is Slotter, and how far can he trust Isabelle’s devotion? How long can Isabelle hold her world together through cunning? Why does Slotter want Kat alive, though he can kill innocent Indians and his own man? How many more times can Kat swap herself for her girls before saying you know what, just take them? When will Thomas realize his wife is a far better doctor than he is?

The episode ends with the marshal killing the whiskey trader and blowing up his dynamite-filled wagon. It  can only hint at explosiveness to come.