Strange Empire, the critically-acclaimed Western series that ran for one season on the CBC network, continues to expand its “second life” audience. Netflix Canada is now offering the show to subscribers. This announcement follows the recent debut of the series on the LMN channel in the US. (UPDATE: As of August 20th, the show is now also available on the US Netflix service.)
Set in the Alberta-Montana region of 1869, the show features strong female leads. The three main characters are Kat Loving (Cara Gee), a Métis woman from what is today the province of Manitoba, Rebecca Blithely (Melissa Farman), a young Easterner from Toronto, and Isabelle Slotter (Tattiawna Jones), an ambitious woman seeking financial power, with or without her husband, John (played by Aaron Poole). Events in the first episode bring these three women together.
For this writer and others, Strange Empire was cancelled by CBC for reasons not transparently clear. The network stated that ratings were not an issue which then implies that a corporate decision was made to move away from the content and style of the series. What did CBC choose to move away from? A show that provides an important interpretation of the historical expansion of settler society in North America, Indigenous rights, race relations, and gender identity. In addition to CBC’s failure to take artistic risks in its programming, this writer was particularly disappointed by the lack of response to queries made to the executive level at the network. Aside from the poor form that represents, there is also the accountability to a Canadian taxpayer that a non-response from a publicly-funded corporation disrespects.
On a positive note, it is a good reward for those involved in the series to now have it reach a major US channel and the Netflix audience. Westernsreboot.com has reviewed each of the 13 episodes from Season 1 and a chronological listing of links to each review can be found Strange Empire – Review Collection.
(Copyright – Chad Beharriell)