Strange Empire, the celebrated Western series that ran for one season on CBC, has found a second life. The Lifetime Network is set to debut the show this coming Friday, May 29th at 9E/8C. With a new series tagline, “Rise of the Women”, Strange Empire is well-matched to the programming of Lifetime, which focuses upon women and importantly, women in lead roles.
Set in the 1869 border region of Montana and Alberta, the show’s leading characters are three quite different but strong women. Cara Gee plays Kat Loving, a Métis woman from Red River country (today’s Manitoba). Melissa Farman is Rebecca Blithely, a socially-awkward but intelligent and medically-skilled girl from the East. The third lead female character is Isabelle Slotter, played by Tattiawna Jones; Slotter is ambitious wife to coal mine & brothel owner John Slotter (Aaron Poole). Following a series of events in the first episode, Loving and Blithely are thrust into “Janestown”, the community run by the Slotters. Cara Gee as Kat Loving / Image: mylifetime.com
Strange Empire will be delivered by Lifetime’s sister network LMN. The exposure the series will be given in the US is significant – some 82 million American households currently have access to LMN. Consider that the entire population of Canada, where the series was created and filmed, is only about 36 million! Further information about the show on LMN and a preview video can be found at Strange Empire on LMN. The preview is well-edited and features the powerfully moody track “Until We Go Down” by Ruelle.
This writer is pleased to see the series now reach a larger and new audience. Strange Empire adds to the important discussion of the process by which the North American West was settled by non-Indigenous peoples and does so within a dramatic framework featuring strong acting and layered writing. Further issues highlighted by the show include Indigenous rights, race relations, and expectations about gender.
As previously shared, as a college instructor, I can relay that within the Western genre classes I teach, college students, particularly young women, have been excited to learn about a show that features strong, independent, and complicated female characters. Regardless of gender, the series has expanded the idea for many as to what a Western can be. It will be interesting to track US audience reaction to the show to see if the same support emerges, as in Canada, for continuance of the series beyond the first season (CBC chose not to renew the show). Also, this writer is curious as to whether LMN’s showing of Strange Empire will debut any new arrangement of episodes or include previously-cut scenes.
Strange Empire on LMN will debut May 29th with two back-to-back episodes (1&2). Each Friday afterwards will be a single one-hour episode. UPDATE: To read the Westernsreboot.com review of the first two episodes, visit E1 Review & E2 Review. This site has also reviewed each episode of the complete first season – to read those reflections after viewing an episode, visit the chronological listing at Season 1 Review List.
(Copyright – Chad Beharriell)