Old ways return to Strange Empire

Strange Empire, Ep. 106, Day 5 of 7 - July 29, 2014, Langley, BC

After that happy episode two weeks ago, it was no surprise to see Strange Empire come back from its brief hiatus as threatening as ever. The past couple of weeks have seen the women rake in victories—and while they might have established Kat as their sheriff this week, it came at a high price for the women in Janestown.

The ease with which Abe Little was able to aggressively go after a number of the “respectable” women in the budding town seems to fly in the face of any progress they’ve made since their early days when Slotter was after them. That, and how quickly Slotter dismissed Kat’s election as the new sheriff and appointed his own—badge and all—with barely any resistance. Even though Little’s now out of the way and Kat’s back on top (authoritatively and morally, no thanks to Briggs), it questions how much authority the women really have—every step to now feels undercut with the knowledge that Slotter can overrule them whenever he wants.

But I guess in a feminist Western that just might be the inevitable outcome of trying to insert yourself back into the accepted way of doing things. While the women rebelled against Slotter and his camp to establish themselves, they were cut off and (barely) safe. But since they’ve moved back onto his turf, with his miners and with a number of the women now married back into that old world, those old rules are back too—proven by the number of threats that didn’t come from the outside, but within.

Thomas, who miraculously manages to grow more unpleasant every week despite being the least dangerous person on the series, decided it was time for Rebecca to really take her place as his wife. Of course, none of this came from a place of real love, like he claimed, but worry that he was losing his valuable experiment to someone else. It felt like Thomas’ whole plan to finally sleep with—don’t forget—his adopted daughter had more to do with sticking it to Morgan than a real shift in their relationship.

Strange Empire, Ep. 106, Day 2 of 7 - July 24, 2014, Langley, BC

His talk with Rebecca about redoing the house to suit her, and her return that she wouldn’t want to change it since that’s where she grew up, only drew attention to how disturbing their marriage really was—and the fact that the upright Thomas, incessantly moaning on about his Victorian ideals, was willing to blow past all those real objections just to reclaim his property. Worse still were how few options Rebecca had with how to deal with it. Isabelle may have been willing to strike a deal with the doctor to fend off any other pregnancies, but it was in exchange for tips on how to pleasure her husband—not herself, or a lover of her choice.

But given how Slotter ignored Isabelle telling him to stop when he decided they needed a baby of her own, maybe Isabelle was just laying down a reality check for them all. Within that world, Slotter gets what he wants and his men do too. The women are going to have to do more than sell whiskey and marry if they really want to be free of that—I’m just not sure how many more times they’re going to have to learn that lesson before it sticks.

That powerlessness was all around, from the Briggs’ trying to fight off Little to Morgan giving in to Thomas’ authority over Rebecca. And while things are finally shaping up for the outsiders like Kat and Robin, who seem to have what it takes to defy Slotter and his men, I can’t help but wonder if Briggs—who’d so recently lumped Kat in with the other supposed murderers—would have been so willing to dance if she could have wielded a gun that well herself. It’s a bit more desperate times, desperate measures than any real friendship, but maybe it will open their eyes to exactly how things are and finally force them to see that the new world is going to need new rules—and maybe some new leaders — if they’re going to survive.

Strange times:

  • Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for Jeremiah coming back at the end of this but I must admit to secretly shipping Kat and Calu and getting just a little bit excited about their midnight meeting.
  • Also a nice little nod to the Sundance Kid, who, it should be noted, spent his time in Canada being thoroughly well behaved. Calu’s clearly on the wrong side of the border.
  • Saved by gangrene should not be the story of anyone’s wedding night—but at least something saved Rebecca.
  • Just what was Robin doing in the Slotter’s house at night?

Can the women ever be safe in Janestown? Were you happy to see Kat with Calu? What do you think of Robin’s spiritual abilities? Sound off in the comments below!

Strange Empire airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on CBC.