What You Want & What You Need
In Episode 1 of The English, Lady Cornelia Locke reminisces about the time she spent with a Pawnee man named Eli Whipp. Once upon a time, they had two different goals: she to kill a man for the murder of her child, and he to take back his stolen land. But what one wants is not always what one needs.
In 1890, 13 years earlier, Eli heads to his birthplace of Nebraska to stake a land claim following his service as a cavalry scout in the U.S. army. He’s stopped in Kansas, however, where he’s strung up by a man named Richard.
When Cornelia arrives in Kansas with her luggage and wads of cash, Richard is there to greet her. Well… to knock her unconscious, that is.
Planning to frame Eli for her murder, Richard sends him away in handcuffs and with a driver. But Eli is able to escape and heads back toward Cornelia to retrieve his personal items.
While he makes his way back, Richard and Cornelia are sitting across from each other at a long dinner table. Cornelia is aghast to learn that “he” (the man who murdered her son) knew she was coming to kill him. Now she’ll be raped and murdered by Richard for trying to carry out her revenge plan.
But Eli saves her from that fate when he throws a dagger into Richard, killing him. He then goes outside to take care of Richard’s men. He sets up a contraption for one of them, so he’ll drown in a bucket of water if his horse walks forward. To Eli’s surprise, Cornelia walks the horse forward herself, effectively killing the man.
After Eli retrieves his bag (which he claims contains medicine) he starts to head off with his horse. Cornelia stops him. She’s going to Powder River, Wyoming, to kill her son’s murderer, and she asks him to help her.
Eli is resistant, but gives in when she begs him on her knees. They’ve been brought together like magic; Cornelia is sure of it.
He tells her he’ll get her as far as Kearney–but she’ll need to be prepared for rough travels.
The Episode Review
It’s clear from the beginning that creator Hugo Blick’s The English is not your classic western. There’s its central focus, for one: Women and Native Americans aren’t typically the heroes in films’ portrayals of the “Old West.” But white settlers weren’t the heroes in reality; The English clarifies this from the start.
Eli Whipp (Chaske Spencer) and Cornelia Locke (Emily Blunt) are intensely compelling as protagonists for this fresh take on a classic genre. One perceived as a traitor to his people; the other reeling from personal loss; both seeking different forms of justice. It looks like the pair has an arrangement for now. But how long can that last when survival–more so than loyalty–is the law in this land?
With its grim and violent atmosphere and subversive revenge-premise, The English premiere teases an arresting story and stunning visuals.