Emily Blunt pivots to TV in Western drama ‘The English’

Emily Blunt segues to series television for “The English,” a new Western that feels scattered — but has great performances and some riveting moments.

Premiering Nov. 11 (Prime Video in the US, BBC Two in the UK), the six-episode series is set in Oklahoma, Nebraska, Kansas and Wyoming in the late 1800s. The story follows Cornelia Locke (Blunt, also an executive producer), an aristocratic English woman who has come to America seeking revenge for the murder of her son. She soon crosses paths with Eli Whipp (Chaske Spencer), a member of Pawnee Nation and a retired cavalry scout. As they grow close, they face a lot of blood-soaked adventures as they make their way to Wyoming. 

“The English” plays like a combination of the gritty “Deadwood” and the romantic (but incoherently plotted) “Outlander,” with side characters played by a “who’s who” of heavy hitters including Ciaran Hinds (“Game of Thrones”), Toby Jones, and Rafe Spall (“Trying”). 

Chaske Spencer as Eli Whipp and Emily Blunt as Cornelia Locke in "The 
English" embrace in a field looking shocked with a crashed wagon nearby.
Chaske Spencer as Eli Whipp and Emily Blunt as Cornelia Locke in “The
English.”
Diego Lopez Calvin/Prime Video
Emily Blunt in "The English."
Emily Blunt in “The English.”
Diego Lopez Calvin/Prime Video

It’s a series that wants to have its cake and eat it too, in terms of simultaneously romanticizing and criticizing the Wild West — a tone that sometimes feels inconsistent. 

For instance, the first episode opens with Blunt giving a breathy voiceover summarizing how after “all these years” (following the initial events of the story), she has “one word left,” a Pawnee word that translates to “I cherish you.” She also later tells Eli, with grave seriousness, “You and I, how we met – it was in the stars.”

The sweeping romance and idealism from her is intercut with the brutal violence that you’d expect to see in a streaming show set in the Old West. 

Viewers who only want a classy period drama might be put off by that aspect of the series. Meanwhile, those seeking a blood-soaked adventure might be bothered by the romantic framing of this tale. (The show’s mix of wistful monologues and gore might appeal to the now-stranded “Westworld” audience after that show’s cancellation – minus the robot stuff.)

Chaske Spencer holding a gun standing in a field.
Chaske Spencer in “The English.”
Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video
Emily Blunt in a red dress crouches on the ground looking distressed at night.
Emily Blunt in “The English.”
Courtesy of Amazon Prime Video

There are also several plot threads following other characters aside from Cornelia and Eli, and their connections aren’t clear for a while — so the show doesn’t always feel cohesive. 

“The English” is peppered with striking visuals that draw the viewer into this harsh world. For instance, when Cornelia first arrives, she’s dropped off in a dusty landscape with nothing but a sad clapboard-shack-of-a-building that says “Hotel” on it. Her first meeting with Eli comes when he’s hanging from a pole, appearing to be dead. It soon becomes clear that he’s alive as she approaches the disturbing scene and tries to help him. There are plenty of shots of sweeping grassy plains and barren dusty landscapes, and lone riders on horses silhouetted against the sunset. Any visual you’d want from the genre appears in this series with perfect cinematography. 

A sad looking wooden shack reading "Hotel" and a horse and carriage in front.
The clapboard “Hotel” in “The English.”
Courtesy of Amazon Prime Studios
Two horseback riders in silhouette against the sunset in an open field.
The sweeping visuals of “The English.”
Courtesy of Amazon Prime Studios

It’s hardly a flawless drama, or even a top-notch period piece. But if you’re in the mood for a cinematic Wild West revenge story with gorgeous stark visuals – and you’re willing to shrug off a messy plot — then you’ll be satisfied.




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