Strange Empire, the new Western series on CBC television, concluded its first season on February 2nd, 2014. Set in the Alberta-Montana region of 1869 – a time period shortly after the US Civil War and the creation of the nation of Canada – the show centers upon a group of women that find themselves isolated after events in the first episode. The three leading female characters are Kat Loving (Cara Gee), a Métis woman from Red River country, Rebecca Blithely (Melissa Farman), a socially-awkward but intelligent girl from the East, and Isabelle Slotter (Tattiawna Jones), the ambitious wife to coal mine & brothel owner John Slotter (Aaron Poole). It is into the community run by the Slotters that Kat and Rebecca arrive following the dark events of the show’s first installment.
Created by Laurie Finstad-Knizhnik, the first season of Strange Empire utilized a number of different directors to explore ideas connected to the expansion of settler society in the 19th century North American West, Indigenous rights, race relations, and quite prominently, gender roles and expectations. Westernsreboot.com reviewed each of the thirteen episodes during the first season and presents links to each episode review below for those interested in exploring the show further. The links are chronologically arranged and provide the Westernsreboot.com review title and then the official episode title and description from CBC.
First Episode (Series Debut) Review – Episode Title: “The Hunting Party” (October 6, 2014) – Three women are brought together by tragedy in no man’s land.
Second Episode Review – Episode Title: “Buckskin Princess” (October 13, 2014) – Kat’s girls are captured by Slotter; Isabelle uses her “powers” to entice potential investors for the mine.
Levels of Control – Episode (3) Title: “Other Powers” (October 20, 2014) – Kat tells Marshal Caleb Mecredi she believes Slotter is guilty: Isabelle must convince Cornelius to loan her the miner’s wages.
The Politics of Race – Episode (4) Title: “The Whiskey Trader” (October 27, 2014) – Slotter attempts to hang two Blackfoot men as scapegoats; Jared tries to drive a wedge between Isabelle and Slotter.
The History in Her/Story – Episode (5) Title: “Lonely Hearts” (November 3, 2014) – With Jeremiah missing and bounty hunters on her trail, Kat meets a medicine woman who takes her on a journey to help her search.
Sources of Power – Episode (6) Title: “Electricity” (November 17, 2014) – Slotter appoints his most ruthless man as Sheriff; Kat wonders if she represents justice or is just another cold-blooded killer.
The Personal-Professional Mix – Episode (7) Title: “The Oath” (November 24, 2014) – Rebecca believes amputation is the only hope for Thomas’s survival; the girls stumble on cattle rustlers and spend a night in terror.
Worker versus Owner – Episode (8) Title: “How Far is Heaven” (December 1, 2014) – A self-proclaimed prophet from Utah territory sets his eyes on Kelly. Isabelle tries to orchestrate their union to get her hands on the prophet’s money.
Divide and Conquer? – Episode (9) Title: “The Resistance” (December 8, 2014) – The women take sides as Slotter’s miners and Ling’s railway workers fight each other for control of the mine. Violence escalates and ends in loss on both sides.
Breaking Thru – Episode (10) Title: “The Cage (January 12, 2015) – With the mine in ruins, Slotter’s depravity reaches new depths as the camp struggles to save the last surviving miners trapped underground.
The Set-Up – Episode (11) Title: “Confession” (January 19, 2015) – Chase Sloat is hounded by ghosts. The women use his troubled mind to their advantage as the Slotter household turns on itself.
The Power of Print – Episode (12) Title: “End Days” (January 26, 2015) – An army of militia men is hired by Slotter to secure his power in Janestown. Kat goes in search of weapons and makes a plan to take the camp back.
Pivot Points (Season Finale) – Episode (13) Title: “The Dark Riders” (February 2, 2015) – The women band together to take Slotter down.
While CBC has yet to announce a Season Two for Strange Empire, all episodes of Season One are currently available online for viewing via CBC at Strange Empire. Westernsreboot.com will continue to track developments toward a hopeful renewal of the series.
(Copyright – Chad Beharriell)