The CBC’s new feminist western is as gripping and gritty as any premium cable drama. But can it help reverse the beleaguered broadcaster’s fortunes?
The new series Strange Empire is a richly produced western set in 1869 on the unkempt Alberta terrain. It kicks off with a dark, propulsive premise: when the men in a small frontier camp are mysteriously slaughtered, their once-helpless wives and daughters are forced to buck up and take control. Every shot is a swirl of artfully dusty browns and tans, every costume and set piece a bedraggled beauty. The plots are full of brothels, sex and violence. The show bears every trademark of a premium cable drama, with morally ambiguous characters and an irreverent point of view. The strangest thing about Strange Empire? It’s on the CBC.