Strange Empire: The Hunting Party
October 19, 2014 9:52 PM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

A group of women heading for the Canadian border find themselves bereft of their menfolk and installed in Janestown, a prostitute settlement. 

The open is a couple riding hell bent for the Station House where they hope to find a doctor for the babe nestled in the mother's arm. This is usually where the kid gets saved in the nick of time. Instead, one of the horses collapses from exhaustion and the kid is DOA. The doctor hasn't arrived yet. They're greeted by a red-headed and buxom traveler who appears vastly more concerned about the horse.

The opening credits feature three women standing tall. The credits are highly reminiscent of a Western that starred Drew Barrymore and a cohort of prozzies. 

Kat and BF, Jeremiah, marry at their kid's funeral. Immediately after which they start working on making more. A wise and sensible decision so much better than having the character lose her mind (looking askance at you The Knick). Kat is, apparently Metis. A horse thief, whose wife was such, gives a 2 for 1 deal on his horses for this reason. 

On the trail traveling to the station house:

Dr. Blithely, a recent widow and his new wife, Rebecca. She's a good artist but quote her husband, Thomas, the understanding in that era is that "female ability is so difficult to prove." We learn that Rebecca has delivered babies and Thomas freaks out when she starts to undress. 

Two girls, Robyn and Kelly, are headed north to the Station House to meet a man named Slotter who will make them into prozzies. Robyn fakes cramps while her sister steals from Rebecca (who notices but says nothing).  ‎

The wagon train arrives at the Stationhouse. ‎

A veiled woman (with a baby coffin) accosts Kat, demanding to know if Kat has "the sight." She leaves with an unnamed man. Later Kat confesses she had a sense of doom during the encounter.

Slotter and his band show up looking for the payroll from his dad and the two girls. The redhead, Mrs Fogg, is unceremoniously slapped when she reminds Slotter he broke his promise to deliver her to Janestown two days ago. Slotter and his men openly assess the value of the female travelers and take off with the redhead upside down on a horse. ‎

Kat and her husband (Mr. Loving) protect the two girls hiding in one of the wagons. ‎The Lovings adopt the girls (Robyn and Kelly) and two random boys after talking to the doctor and his wife. Kat is wise to the fact that the girls like to gamble and steal.

Because they are incredibly, colossally stupid, the men ride off to have that era's version of a stag-do (hunting party) for Jeremiah, leaving the women alone. In the wilderness. With full knowledge that Slotter and his men were out there somewhere.  ‎

‎During the obligatory scene of multiple women bathing in a rock-strewn lake, Rebecca divulges that her father put her in bedlam, Thomas and his wife, Emily, took her out and raised her as their daughter and that Em died "two months back." He has her studying surgery, publications are under his name, and she is treated as a sideshow freak, a woman with BRAINS. 

That night, the women (and apparently one man who stayed behind) have dinner with tablecloths, plates, lit candles. Good grief. 

Dressed as Indians, Slotter and his band attack and burn the camp. The boys are killed, the girls have disappeared, none of the women are dead. Rebecca's husband is found unconscious and stays that way thru the rest of the episode. The next morning, Slotter shows up and pretends to be taking the women to a "safe place." Kat is the only one who suspects Slotter. ‎Rebecca is open to the idea.

At Janestown, the women find that they are in a collection of cabins. A cholera epidemic killed off most of Slotter's "stock."‎ Isabel, the veiled woman with the baby coffin, is a madam and Slotter, her husband, tells her the fiction of how the women ended up widowed. He also refuses to allow a headstone for the dead kid because graveyards might remind men that they are passing on fatal STDs to these women. (I might be paraphrasing that last bit.)‎

So far, only the girls have been taken to be prostitutes in the actual whorehouse. The women are housed in cabins nearby. Isabel decries that the women should have time to mourn.

Slotter wants people to invest in his coalmine. Kat tries to rescue the girls. ‎Slotter calls Rebecca to care for his ailing stomach. When Rebecca later reveals that  Izzie was treating Slotter by giving him arsenic because something, something, baby, she lets Kat take the girls. ‎Kelly gives back the necklace. ‎


‎The horse thief was funny and intriguing. I hope he makes a return appearance. 

It looks like Rebecca and her husband haven't consummated their marriage. It's possible he only married her for her protection or his interest in making her a surgeon. ‎

The scene with the attack at the camp is very unclear as to how many men actually stayed behind and if none did, where did the dead men come from since the hunting party never returned except--although Thomas was found in the bushes. I've seen the second episode and it doesn't really clear up the ambiguity in that area.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden (3 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You might need a plot writeup like Ik ben afgesneden's above to follow this first episode. Oddly, despite the lead character's designer duster coat and leather pants I really liked the first episode. Partly because this show is unrepentant with it's many strong female characters. It's also a show that has 'Canadian' all over it. (Setting, network and sensibilities.)

The only real issue I had with the second episode is that a few monetary amounts are mentioned and those seemed a little outrageous to me, given the time period.

I gave up on Hell On Wheels after the first season, and it's into it's 4th now. I hope this one sticks around longer.
posted by Catblack at 9:40 PM on October 20, 2014

Rebecca looks to be an interesting character. Her darwings are anatomical, and she seems to be working on an idea for c-section surgery, while her husband dismisses it.

Also her husband may assures her head... Suggesting he is one of those doctors who try to use cranium measures to suggest intelligence. Suggests, perhaps, a plotline dealing with eugenics might be at play?

Actress Cara Gee has some great stage credits-- including a production of Atwood's Penelopiad. She certainly has presence.

So far it feels more like a gathering of the characters... Just a set up. I'll be looking forward to another episode to see how it evolves.
posted by chapps at 6:23 PM on October 22, 2014

Plus his name rhymes with what he does.

Heh. I heard and wrote 'Slaughter' throughout the entire show. It wasn't until I saw another review that I realized the error.

Anyone should feel free to up the next ep. I got it started but I'm not able to keep going.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 5:13 AM on October 27, 2014

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