When we think of the phrase "period drama," our minds tend to embrace specific (and generally very British) imagery: fancy ball gowns, strict class rules, the occasional inclusion of royal or at least extremely upper class (read: rich) characters. Rarely do we consider the fact that stories set in the American Old West are in fact the distant cousins of stories like Bridgerton and Downton Abbey with their own set of specific rules and tropes. (See also: lonely prospectors, sharp-shooting sheriffs, and rugged cowboys.)
On the surface, it feels like the two subgenres have very little in common, which is why the upcoming Prime Video and BBC collaboration The English is so intriguing. An American-set story told with a distinctly British feel, the series seems geared to mix the best of both worlds, full of sweeping visuals and focused character work.
Set in 1890s America, the story follows aristocratic Englishwoman Lady Cornelia Locke (Emily Blunt), who recruits Pawnee Nation ex-calvary scout Eli Whipp (Chaske Spencer) to help her to cross a dangerous and unforgiving landscape built on dreams and blood. As they travel, the pair will face increasingly terrifying obstacles that will test them to their limits, both physically and psychologically. (You can clearly see hints of this transformation reflected through Cornelia's changing appearance, as her outfits shift from proper lady's attire to more traditional Western wear.)
Their destination: The new town of Hoxem, Wyoming, where an investigation led by the local sheriff Robert Marshall (Stephen Rea) and a young widow named Martha Myers (Valerie Pachner) is attempting to solve a series of bizarre and macabre murders. As the events unfold, they will shed light on the full extent of the intertwined history between Cornelia and Eli, and what that shared past means for their respective futures.
The series' teaser trailer is tense and atmospheric, giving viewers brief glimpses of a variety of unsettling visuals, including rotting animal carcasses, bodies strewn over barbed wire and strung up on gallows, and a series of colorfully disturbing locals, all set to a rising cacophony of gunshots and laced with moody voiceovers ("I sometimes wonder if there's horror in us all," Blunt's voice intones at one point).
Described as "an epic chase Western," the series is written and directed by Hugo Black (The Honourable Woman) and aims to explore themes of identity and revenge while telling a story of race, power, and love.
The six-episode limited series will officially arrive on Prime Video on November 11, just one day after its premiere in the U.K.