Wednesday, January 21, 2015

RECAP: Strange Empire 1x02 - The Bad Decision Brigade


Another Wednesday, and we're back in the grips of some super uplifting television! All right! And by that I mean, for the next few weeks we're going to be recapping episodes from Strange Empire's premiere season. Strange Empire, which is still currently airing its first season, is a Canadian show that calls itself a "feminist Western". By that it means that it's a Western, but one primarily concerned with telling the stories of women and their lives on the frontier. It's not a perfect show, as we discussed in last week's recap of episode one, but it is worth looking at.

Last week, if you recall, had us meeting all of the characters and set up the central narrative arc of the season. All our characters were traveling from Montana up into the New Canada where they hoped to set up farms and settle on the frontier. Plans changed, though, when a group of Indians* attacked their camp and killed or captured all the men.

Now the women are lost and abandoned on their own, only to be taken in by the not particularly kind or caring Captain Slotter, who owns the local whorehouse. Slotter offers them a place to stay but just might turn them all to whoring, and he's also in a furious battle with our heroine, Kat, over the fate of two orphan girls that Slotter claims he bought and paid for and Kat insists are her adopted daughters.

Also Slotter might have been behind the attack that killed all the men and not the Indians after all.

Which brings us to this week! We open on Kat burning sage as she stands out in the woods. She's lost, out of it, and when she sees a figure walking towards her along the road, her heart leaps. "Jeremiah?" But it's not her lost husband. It's Isabelle's keeper/assistant/whoever that guy is, the Asian-American man we've seen hanging around the Slotters. What's he doing out in the woods in the middle of the day by himself?

Probably nothing good. And it seems that Kat agrees.

But she has other things to think about. As Kelly reminds her, stepping up all dressed as a boy with a cap pulled down low over her face, they need to leave before Captain Slotter starts looking for them. He's going to be pretty pissed off when he realizes that his two new whores are gone.

Back at Janestown, there's a wagon pulling off, taking some of the women away, but not everyone. As the driver yells, "No money, no ride." Most of the women have no means with which to get themselves away from this place, so when the driver knocks their belongings overboard, they have no choice but to follow and pray that someone delivers them. Rebecca stands there watching it all, coolly looking down on the railroad men who are fighting over some lost belongings and at the busyness of the camp.

She too has other things to do, though. This episode seems to be about the women picking up and moving on after the tragedy of last week. Rebecca's still got her husband, for all that she might not want him very much, and the next scene finds her sterilizing his nasty leg wound with a fire iron. Between the gash in his leg and his lingering concussion, Thomas is really not in any shape to be going anywhere, but he's determined that Rebecca go find the wagon driver and get them both out of there. They have to leave. Now.

Rebecca suspects something is funky, because she's a genius, and she presses Thomas for information. Did he see something the night they were attacked? Does he know something and that's why he's so insistent they leave? It would make sense. If Captain Slotter was behind the attack and discovered that one of the survivors is hiding in his own bunkhouses he would probably be a little bit pissed and more than a little bit ready to kill the survivor...

Thomas is probably right that they should get the hell out of there.

Mrs. Fogg stands in the center of the bustle, watching and probably thinking about how she doesn't have the same luxuries they do. She doesn't get to leave Janestown because she really is a Jane. But she's also a very kind woman, and she steps up to two of the women not leaving, Mrs. Briggs (Anne Marie DeLuise) and her daughter Fiona (Ali Liebert from Bomb Girls). Mrs. Briggs refuses to leave Janestown until her men are found, and Fiona holds out some hope that her husband is still alive. But it's not looking good.

Mrs. Briggs is kind of a hard woman, but Mrs. Fogg isn't going to stop that from her trying to befriend them. She wants friends. I don't blame her either. So Mrs. Fogg offers them cake and the two women certainly aren't going to refuse (though Mrs. Briggs looks like she wants to for a moment).

Before we can settle into that scene, though, our eyes are drawn over to the other side of camp where a wagon is pulling off and a young woman, Miss Logan (Christie Burke) is chasing after it. It seems she didn't have money for the fare, and so she's being left behind. Man, that stinks. 

Even worse, Slotter's right hand man, Jared (Michael Adamthwaite) is there to make everyone feel worse about themselves by trying to scare the women with talk of how the Indians are still out there. He tells horror stories about what the Indians do to women, but Miss Logan isn't going to take that. She just looks at him coolly and says, "I believe you're thinking of Apaches, sir. This here is Cree territory."

By which we are to understand that while Miss Logan might be trapped in a strange place, by herself, and with no money, she's not going to let some jerk scare her or try to make her think things she doesn't already know herself. I like her.

Out in the woods again, Kat has taken her girls somewhere they can hide safely while she goes out to search for Jeremiah and Neill. She swears she'll be back, and Robin believes her, but Kelly's more resistant. Kelly is, after all, the more cynical of the two girls, and more prone to fears of abandonment. Kat insists she's coming back. She just has to know for sure if they're dead or not before she moves on. I can understand that. And she really doesn't want her girls seeing the slaughtered bodies in the woods.

Back in civilization (or what passes for it), Isabelle lays a bouquet of flowers at her daughters grave, which has been moved from the front yard of the whorehouse to somewhere more appropriate and further away. The headstone reads "Ada", and it's clear that there's still some pretty hefty dysfunction going on in the Slotter marriage. Isabelle is mourning, but all Slotter can talk about is the investors she has coming. Hopefully they'll put some money into the mine.

Which at least gives us a little more information on what Slotter's up to. His father has him stationed out there to build the railroad, but he has his own agenda and has bought up a coal mine. But he needs money to run it, and the whorehouses just aren't paying well enough. Hence investors. Clever. Or not, since it doesn't seem to be working.

Isabelle is nominally on board with all of this, but she thinks that the women in the cribs, the women whose loved ones are all dead, are putting a pall over the whole operation. Their dead cry out, and she can hear them. Still, it's a chance Slotter is willing to take, because he really doesn't want them to be under his father's control any longer. So his father must be one hell of a terrible guy.

The time has come for Rebecca and Thomas to be off, it seems. Rebecca is fretting about how Thomas will remain upright during the wagon ride, as it's hard for him to even move and he needs to not lie down or else his head will get worse, but the main concern is how painful it's going to be for him to travel. Still, Thomas is ready to get the hell out of there.

Rebecca's given the wallet and told to pay the driver, which is interesting since we know from context that this might be the first time she's ever handled money in her life. The driver asks for fifteen dollars to take them to the station house and then ten for himself to get back, and we can tell this isn't what was agreed upon, but Thomas isn't saying a word. He's really terrified of Slotter finding him then. Rebecca reluctantly forks over the cash.

Also the driver is super creepy and is giving Rebecca sex eyes which make her uncomfortable and putting his hands all over her waist. It's telling that as they drive off in the wagon, Rebecca turns and looks back at Mrs. Fogg and Mrs. Briggs sitting with their cake and it almost looks like she's longing to be with them and not going away.

Kat's found the site of the slaughter, and all the bodies of the men who were killed. But try as she might as she goes through, she can't find Jeremiah or Neill. They're not here. Only Jeremiah's hat remains, the one that matched her own. She cries, silently, and calls out for her husband. But nothing.

Looks like it's story time for the women on the porch. Mrs. Fogg is worried that the women still left over, the ones who haven't been able to pay someone to take them away, will end up like her: whores. She explains that she started her life as a lady's maid, but when the lady's husband sexually assaulted her she was fired and the only work she could find after that was in prostitution. She's especially worried about one woman in particular, an older girl whose mother and sisters left this morning but who left her behind. She's "ripe for the picking", but there's not much they can do.

Mrs. Briggs, it seems, has finally warmed up to her new neighbor, and offers her tea. It's a simple offer but Mrs. Fogg is just barely concealing her joy and relief at being given it. She so desperately wants friends. I hope this works out for her.

Isabelle rides over towards the camp, her fist full of silk ribbons. Her horse is led, because apparently she's either not trusted to ride on her own or Slotter thinks she's not capable, by the Asian-American guy. Dialogue reveals that he's her bodyguard and that he came out to help her set up a telegraph. Interesting. They chat about her investors - both of them are doing well financially, so if she plays her cards right they should put money down - as they ride up.

Also, and this hasn't actually come up yet but it's driving me nuts so I looked it up, the man's name is Ling (Terry Chen). Just so I don't keep having to call him "that guy who's always hanging around Isabelle."

Isabelle disembarks from her horse and it becomes clear what she and Ling are there to do: recruit whores for the house. A silk ribbon for your soul, as Mrs. Briggs would probably say. She seems the type. Isabelle offers Fiona a place up at the house, and even says that Mrs. Briggs could find herself some work at the cribs. But Mrs. Briggs has a spine made of iron, and she refuses. She's not the type to be bought with a silk ribbon, and I'm betting Fiona isn't either. If only because her mother (mother-in-law maybe, I'm not sure) is terrifying.

Kelly and Robin are still in the woods, still bored, and definitely hungry. Sounds like a recipe for trouble. While Robin insists that they should stay where Kat told them to, because she's their Ma and she promised she'd be back, Kelly is insistent that Kat's abandoned them and they'll have to fend for themselves now. She's off eating wild berries and filling up her pockets. And then they see a rabbit.

The girls have a slingshot but absolutely no skill using it. They do, however, have enough ability to tell that the rabbit isn't moving, not even when Robin runs up and grabs it. Because it's dead. And now she's stumbled into a rope net trap and there's growling in the bushes. Oh noes!

It looks like a bear - though what bear ever set a rope snare I don't know - but it's actually just a guy in a bearskin hat. Like, literally a skinned bear on his head. He's a strange man. But he's not about to murder the girls, so that's good.

Out on the road, Rebecca's fears about the driver are coming true. Thomas is in some sort of fugue state - sleeping or worse - and the driver has stopped the wagon to demand "further payment". That's not good.

Yup, nope, it's definitely not good. While Rebecca frets over Thomas, who has slipped down during the journey and is now lying flat, a position that could lead to sustained problems with his head wound, the driver is intently coming up behind her and pulling her into an unwanted dance. He's going to rape her, and while Rebecca is a brilliant doctor, this is not a situation for which she is prepared.

She pushes at him, tries to get away, and he pulls down her skirt. But they both pull up at the sound of gunshots. It's Thomas, who's woken to the sound of his wife's screams and is wildly shooting, trying to hit her assailant. Unfortunately Thomas is no gunhand and he's got a concussion to boot. The driver goes up to the wagon and beats Thomas while Rebecca tries to run after the gun, which has gone flying. But before she can fire it, another shot rings out and the driver's hat flies off his head.

It's Kat, riding in like the proverbial knight on a black horse, and she utters the most badass line all episode: "I aimed high." The driver takes this for the warning it is and sprints for the hills, leaving Thomas and Rebecca in shambles, but alive and mostly unassaulted.

Rebecca asks Kat for her help to get them back to camp, since she clearly has no idea what she's doing and Kat clearly does. But Kat is relatively unsympathetic. She's got her own problems to deal with, and needs to be getting back to her girls. Besides, Kat's done well enough fending for herself. Why should Rebecca get to be weak? Why can't she pull her own weight? Kat's attitude, though frustrating in the moment, is rather understandable. But then so too is Rebecca's.

And Rebecca really does need help. She's struggling to process what just happened, as well as reeling from Kat's accusations against Slotter. She needs more time to put it all through her mental ringer - why would Slotter offer to help them if he's trying to hurt them? 

Again, Kat has little sympathy, but in contrast to her harsh words, she hops down off her horse and helps Rebecca get Thomas back into the wagon while she lectures. Kat points out that Rebecca put herself "in the hands of a helpful man this morning". If she does it again, she'll end up the same place: assaulted and miserable and lost. Kat clearly has a high opinion of helpful men. Sadly, she's probably right.

And speaking of helpful men, we cut now back to the girls and their newfound bear-headed friend, who introduces himself as Jolly Jack (Alex Zahara). He's weird. He is, however, probably kind. Or kind enough. When Kelly introduces them as, "I'm Joe. She's Frank." He just sort of hums and keeps going. So clearly he doesn't actually mind that they're definitely girls and also terrible liars. He just keeps on going with his spiel and offers them some food. Or he's planning to exploit them later.

Or maybe it'll be a mutual exploitation. Jack tries to wow the girls with a magic trick, pulling a candy from behind Robin's ear, but Kelly just turns it right back around on him and does the trick to him. Same thing goes for a card trick. And Jack slowly realizes that he has somehow, in the woods, stumbled across two very clever fingersmiths with time on their hands. The girls don't mind either. And they all hatch a plan to go cheat some miners out of their money.

Like I said above, this is definitely the episode of bad life choices. So far no one is really making good decisions, except perhaps Mrs. Fogg, and it's all come back to bite them in the butt. I hold out little hope for this venture. But at least the girls are happy.

Rebecca and Kat have succeeded in getting Thomas into the wagon, and now Kat is off to get her girls. She reveals that she found Mrs. Briggs' boys and husband among the dead, but not her own, and asks Rebecca to bring Mrs. Brigg their horse. Small comfort, but useful. And then Kat is off, leaving Rebecca to get herself, now calmer, back to Janestown. They might still disagree with each other fundamentally, but at least Kat isn't shouting anymore.

In the kitchen at the whorehouse, the girl from camp, the one whose mother and sisters left her there to die, is inhaling a breakfast while the cook looks on in curiosity. The cook, Ruby (Marci T. House), gently interrogates her and sort of laughs a little when we find that the girl is in fact super racist. Her momma told her that black people were the devil. And Ruby rolls her eyes at that, points out that she's feeding a girl her own family left to die. 

She does, however, turn the racism around on Ling, who's watching their conversation with interest. She calls him a "yellow devil" and recites a bunch of clearly untrue facts about him coming from the Forbidden City and being a right hand to the emperor, etc. Ling is clearly not thrilled about this, and retaliates by scaring the hell out of the girl and talking about death. Nice.

Isabelle and Slotter are ready for the investors. Or, at least as ready as they'll ever be. They only have one whore working - the girl in the kitchen, Mary (Anja Savcic). The other investor will get to sleep with Isabelle herself, something that clearly doesn't thrill Isabelle but according to Slotter, can't be helped. This does feel a little bit like a continuity error, actually. Weren't there like four whores there yesterday? And what happened to all those investors that were around the day before? Did they put in money? I'm confused.

But whatever. I'll go with it. And I guess it's not whoring that Isabelle's supposed to do with this guy: Ling is there for a reason, and apparently that reason is to put on a fake spiritualist act for the men. One of the investors has recently lost his father, which Isabelle knows because of the telegraph, and she's going to wow him with her ability to know things she shouldn't and then get him to give them all his money. Good plan. 

She does dose the plan with a touch of warning, though: she heard the real spirits that morning, and they're crying out for Slotter's death. She doesn't know why, and he pushes it off, but I'd guess that this is a big hint about the probability of Kat being right about who killed those men.

The investors arrive. They both know Isabelle pretty well, unhappily well, and are a little nonplussed to meet her husband alongside her. Slotter is even less happy to be hanging out with them, so it's just misery all around. We do get some more backstory at least: Slotter's father is famous and a well known investor. But he's not invested in Slotter's mine. Which means that either the mine is untenable, or he just doesn't know. Good to remember.

Isabelle gets to work quickly on the one whose father died, letting him know that she knows his father's dead and she will help him reach his father for instructions on what to do. Slotter, meanwhile, is still all caught up about the missing girls, and sends Jared to go get them. 

Speaking of missing girls, Kat comes back to where she left them and finds the girls gone, of course. It's a rough moment for Kat, especially since she spent all day not being able to find her husband and son. But we cut quickly to where the girls actually are: standing behind a bunch of men playing cards and helping Jack cheat. Nice. Keeping with the theme of terrible life choices.

Kat gets back to Janestown and sees Mrs. Briggs there too, tending to her horse. The girls, however, are not there. Kat gives Mrs. Briggs her condolences, and offers to take her out to her boys when the time comes, but then she's off to keep looking.

Good thing too, because it seems that Jack and the girls' luck is just about out. He's won too much and the miners are getting suspicious. Not good. Very not good. The girls have been spotted, and while Kat's also running up, it's almost too late. The miners don't take well to cheaters and want the girls to each lose a hand. When Kat rescues them it's short lived, because right after that we get Slotter and Jared riding up and grabbing the girls. Seriously. Bad life choices week.

Kat won't take kindly to the girls being whored out, and makes the ultimate sacrifice. She offers herself in their stead. And Slotter accepts.

More bad news. Jared rides through Janestown and announces to the women that as of that day, the women owe rent for their continued stay in the bunkhouses. If they have no money, then they'll have to pay another way - by being whores. Miss Logan is the first to discover this. She's not happy.

Isabelle is also not happy to see that Slotter's brought the girls and their mother to the house. Ruby gives Kat a compassionate glance and tells her she'll make sure the girls are well looked after. But Kat is not mollified. She refuses to let Slotter and Isabelle claim she's there of her own free will. She is only there to stop the prostitution of her children. Isabelle doesn't like Kat's attitude. Or the way her husband looks at Kat.

Upstairs, Isabelle makes Kat strip and tells her that she's going to be there five years making up what the girls would have made. And then she twists the knife further by insisting that her husband didn't kill those men. But a naked Kat is still a dangerous one, and she strikes. She insists again that Slotter is the one who did it, while choking Isabelle barehanded. Kat's a little terrifying and I love it.

In the other room, Ruby is trying desperately to give Mary a bath. It's not going well, because Mary is fighting her at every step. And finally we see why: Mary is pregnant. Really pregnant. About nine months pregnant. And whoops, there goes her water breaking. As Isabelle walks in, Ruby looks up and informs her that Mary won't be working tonight. She's "already occupied."

Slotter walks his investors through the railroad project and up to the mine. I don't really care about this plotline, but it's worth paying attention to, I guess. Slotter's father is building the railroad, but Slotter himself is digging out a coal mine, so that when the train comes through he'll have lots of cheap coal to sell it. He wants to build himself an empire.

And we finally find out what the title of the show means when the investor he's addressing comments on his plan: "Indians, Negroes, and Celestials - it'll be a strange empire of yours." What's interesting about this, to me at least, is how it positions the characters and this world as being that of the subaltern, the people no one wants anywhere else. It's a world of women and people of color, and the whole point of the show is that up here on the frontier, there's no one to enforce the social strictures and racism and sexism that persecute them in "civilization." There's freedom in the strange empire, if you can survive.

Hot damn I love this show.

Anyway, Thomas and Rebecca are back at the bunkhouse and Thomas is urging Rebecca again to keep out of Slotter's business. She's not at all okay with the girls being captured again. Thomas insists that Rebecca stay out of it. "What happened on the road today should be a lesson to you," he says, in the least helpful advice since Princeton Mom. "You are not capable."

Well. Rebecca is not taking that lying down. Especially from the man that she's waiting on hand and foot just to keep alive, and especially not after she just survived an attack and then got them back to camp on her own. So when Ruby bursts in, asking for a doctor because there's a baby that can't find its way out, Rebecca stands up, leaves Thomas behind, and goes off to do her thing. You go girl.

Mary's labor is not going well. The baby's too big and it's facing the wrong way. A breach birth. If they can't get the baby out, Mary will die, and neither Ruby nor Rebecca is willing to let that happen. So I guess Rebecca is going to get her chance to try out a Caesarian section. She hands Ruby a needle and some surgical thread, asks if she can sew, and then holds up a really big scalpel. "Have you done this before?" Ruby's all skepticism and mild terror.

"No." And Rebecca is matter of fact in the face of certain doom. Well, this should be interesting at the very least.

Cut to downstairs, where Isabelle and Ling are working their "magic" on the investor whose father just died. The scene is pretty much an example of how spiritualists milked people for their money, using special effects and basic conning skills. The upshot is that Isabelle tells the guy that his father wants him to invest in the mine. 

Back upstairs, Slotter has come to visit Kat. She thinks he's there to rape her, and tells him to get it over with. And he's all, "Hey, no, let's be friends!" Which is hilarious, because she keeps accusing him of murder and he thinks she's the worst thing in the world. Kat might be locked up in a whorehouse and she might be set to whore herself out that night, but she will not let them break her. She will not stop her accusations, and she will not be his doll. Good for her.

Ruby comes out into the hall to let Isabelle know how the birth went - apparently Rebecca managed to save both mother and child by lifting the entire womb out with the child still inside. Then she just stitched Mary back up. So Mary won't be able to have any more children, but she's alive. And she had a boy.

Isabelle is most interested in this last piece of information. Not sure why.

While they clean Rebecca's surgical instruments, Ruby asks Rebecca to stay for dinner. She's fan. She thinks Rebecca is great and I don't blame her, because Rebecca is great. Rebecca is also shocked to see Kat in the house too, especially dressed in her underwear and with her hair braided into pigtails. It's weird. And Rebecca is clearly having a "does not compute" moment.

Isabelle likes how Kat is made up and points out that she could pass for Indian. Because she is one? Are we supposed to be pretending we don't know that?

Anyway, Rebecca's walking quickly back to the bunkhouses when a man comes out of nowhere - it might be the driver, but frankly I can't tell - and says she'll be needing his "services" tonight. Rebecca's not in a place to be trifled with, and at the first hint of a threat she reaches out and stabs the man through the jugular. He spurts blood all over her apron. Fortunately, she just performed a surgery so no one will find that weird. But yeah, that guy's dead now. Like super dead. And Rebecca is just having a really bad day.

Another man pops up behind her and she brandishes her scalpel. But the man, who we will later learn is Franklyn Caze (Teach Grant), just tells her to go home. Leave the dying man to him. He'll take care of it. So Rebecca does.

She comes back into the bunkhouse, clearly upset, and Thomas assumes the worst: that the mother and baby have died. But she is happy to tell him that both of them survived and that yeah, she left the woman barren, but alive. Thomas is clearly having a minor breakdown, because he takes one look at Rebecca and hands her his wallet. There is a thousand dollars in it, and she's to go up to the house and ask Slotter to arrange her travel back to Toronto. He's in no state to go, but at least Rebecca should get out of there while she still can.

So, yes, Thomas can be a jerk sometimes, but he does pull stuff like this every once in a while, which reminds me why I like him. He's willing to risk everything to get his wife home safe. Even if it's without him. Granted, he does it in the most insulting way possible...

At the house, Jack walks himself in and offers Isabelle his services for the night. He can play the fiddle or do a magic show! Surely they could use that. Isabelle shuts him down, but before he's even out the door, Rebecca is barging in, fist full of her money to travel home and asking if she can buy the girls and Kat from Slotter wholesale. If she does, he'll have no more claim to them, and therefore they'll be safe, right?

Isabelle, surprised to say, is actually entertaining the idea. My guess is that she really doesn't want Kat in the same house as her husband, especially not when she's in a mood to tell everyone how he murdered a bunch of people and ready to strangle people. But more than that, Isabelle can see that Slotter wants Kat. Wants her because he absolutely cannot have her and cannot break her, and Isabelle does not want this threat to her marriage sticking around. So she takes the money and asks Jack if he has a suit.

And now we're in the whorehouse parlor where the show is about to start. The men are ready and in good spirits when Isabelle opens the curtains on the stage and introduces "Mrs. True Loving". Aka, Kat, in full buckskin attire, with the girls walking in front of her clothed in wolfskins. Because there's only one Kat and two men, they get to bid for her. And the bidding goes quick as Isabelle circles the room and gives a huge big story about how Kat was raised by Indians (probably true), rides a fierce stallion (actually true), is sworn to find her husband's killer (definitely true), and other such things.

Then, something weird happens. The front door opens and Jack wanders in, laughing and being a weirdo. He's got on a lovely suit and inserts himself into the bidding. He also goes up to the front and claims to be the girls' father and Kat's husband resurrected! He pulls out a wad of cash and offers one thousand dollars for the girls. 

Then one of the men actually ups his bid, and it looks for a second like the story might be over. Only, with a nod from Isabelle, Jack goes up again, to twelve hundred dollars, and the girls are bought. They're saved. Yay!

But where the hell did another two thousand dollars come from?

In the kitchen, Rebecca thinks she's lost, but finds that the money has already been spent to save the girls. She's very happy. And Isabelle reveals that, yes, the rest of the money came from her. She just wants them all gone. Now.

Kat and the girls come out in their normal clothes and Kat points out that this makes the third time Rebecca has saved them. She's grateful, so grateful, in her emotionally constipated way.

And it seems that losing Mrs. True Loving hasn't dampened the evening much if at all. Jack's still there, playing the fiddle, and the men are dancing with other whores (so I guess I was right and there are other women around). One of those women is Miss Logan, who seems to be taking to her new life fairly well if not entirely happily yet.

Isabelle brings Slotter the money and reveals that she's happy Kat and the girls are gone, which he can accept. She's a disruptive influence and it's better they have the money instead of her. Neither of the investors decided to invest, which I guess stinks, because apparently they were only there to see Isabelle. That's all they really wanted. And Slotter knows it.

But Isabelle has more tricks up her sleeve. She sent a telegram to Slotter's father to tell him that their baby was born. Only instead of telling the truth, that their baby was a girl, born dead, she lied and said it's a very healthy baby boy. Mary's baby boy. They're going to take the child and raise it as their own and never tell anyone. I'll give it to her, she's good.

It seems that as much as Isabelle enjoys tricking rich men out of their wallets with her own spiritualist effects, she's also pretty much a believer herself. She drinks Mary's milk so as to make herself able to feed the child (it probably won't work, as we now know, but it's decent logic for the time) and thinks she hears spirits speaking to her in the parlor. But it's just Ling messing with her.

Rebecca, Kat, and the girls walk back to the bunkhouse, and as they go, Rebecca turns to the side to see Caze digging the man's grave. Neither of them speak, but both know what happened.

And back in the bunkhouse, in an echo of last week, Kat watches over her girls as they sleep. But this time there's little hope. She's tired and sad and feels like the world is crushing her down. End of episode.

Blarg. That was a bleak one, wasn't it? But at the same time, I actually kind of like how bleak this show can get. It gives the moments when the women triumph more power. Also, I appreciate the fact that the show presents all life on the frontier as bleak, not just all female life as miserable. It's all terrible, pretty equally.

The theme of the week, though, was clearly questionable decision making. From Robin and Kelly deciding to wander from where Kat left them and get themselves into gambling to Rebecca's decision first to trust the driver and then to murder that man, to Isabelle's entire existence which seems like one dubious choice after another, this week we focussed on decisions that feel necessary at the time, but later turn out to be terrible choices.

I can only hope that the coming weeks are kinder to our girls, but that's not to say that this week was entirely unkind. Rebecca proved her mettle and prowess as a surgeon by performing a surgery Thomas claimed as impossible. Kat showed how far she was willing to go for her daughters, and you can bet they won't doubt her again. And Isabelle, for all that she's kind of amoral and really clever, showed that she does have a heart and is willing to sacrifice to help a woman in need.

But most of all, we were introduced to the idea that this land, the frontier, is the place where everyone society tramples on can find a place to live and breathe and find new life. And that's a good theme. So here's to more of that next week.

You are more than a little terrifying and I love you.
*Like I said last week, I am aware that the more politically correct and preferred term would be Native Americans or American Indians, but the show uses "Indian" as its blanket term, and in recapping it's just simpler to stick with that.

3 comments:

  1. Deborah,

    I really like your site. You like a lot of the same things that I do, but you see things through a very different lens. It is very refreshing.

    This post though... TL:DR, More is less, you do not need to describe the whole show scene by scene. Really, we can go watch it. Just give us your thoughts/views.

    Just some constructive criticism from some random guy on the internet, so take it as you will, and keep up the good work.

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    1. Yeah, my recaps can get a bit long! But personally I like going through them moment by moment so that I can more fully grasp the details in the filmmaking. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but I'm glad you like the rest of the site!

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  2. I have to thank you for recapping this show. I've had episodes sitting, waiting for me to watch and I had been putting it off and putting it off.. but after reading the first two recaps, it was enough to motivate me to get off my butt (or more, accurately, sit down on my butt) and marathon the first half of the season... I'm finally getting caught up. The first two episodes are kind of dry, but things really start to pick up, soon after.

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