The English is an epic new Western series

The English (BBC Two, 9pm)
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Epic. That’s the word that will probably be bandied about whenever this series is mentioned.

And perhaps rightly so too – there are certainly sweeping vistas to be seen and the story is an age-old one. But will it be gripping enough to keep us hooked to our screens over the coming weeks?

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Well, let’s hope so. It certainly has a great pedigree which suggests it might.

The English is the brainchild of Hugo Blick, the acclaimed screenwriter behind such small screen hits as Sensitive Skin, The Shadow Line, The Honourable Woman and Black Earth Rising. This, however, is something of a departure for him – rather than having a contemporary setting, it’s a Western that takes place in 1890.

“I used to live in Montana, so saw the last vestiges of the West; I saw its good and its bad and knew I was going to tell a picture about it and it took me a few years to work out what that was and The English is the result,” he reveals.

“The chance to make a Western is so delicious I’m still wondering if it’s one of those weird dreams we were all having during lockdown. If not, a thrilling, romantic, epic horse-opera is heading to your screen, and I couldn’t be more excited.”

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He adds: “It’s a mainstream exploration of the genre, a feeling about a classic Western, but it’s got a woman of agency (at its core).”

She’s played by Emily Blunt, and the role was tailored specifically for her, claims Blick: “I developed the whole series with Emily. It was great, it was like stitching a bespoke suit for a party.”

Blunt plays aristocrat Lady Cornelia Locke, who is a woman on a mission – she wants to avenge the death of her son by killing the man she holds responsible. She enlists the help of ex-cavalry scout and Pawnee Nation member Eli Whipp (played by the Twilight franchise’s Chaske Spencer), little realising they have a shared past.

They embark on a dangerous journey towards their destiny by heading for the new town of Hoxem, but their path is far from easy – along the way they face numerous terrifying obstacles that test them both physically and mentally.

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And what happens when they finally reach their destination? Well, that would be telling, but what we can say is that it involves the local sheriff, a young widow and an investigation into a series of bizarre and macabre unsolved murders.

“I’m delighted that Hugo’s beautiful scripts are finally coming to life in The English,” comments Piers Wenger, director of BBC drama. “With a cast led by the exceptional Emily Blunt and Chaske Spencer, I have no doubt that this thrilling and compelling story will be a treat for BBC audiences.”

Watch out too for great supporting performances from Toby Jones, Stephen Rea (a frequent Blick collaborator), Ciaran Hinds and the Spanish countryside.

The last on the above list doubles as rural Wyoming, and its bleakly beautiful landscape is what gives the whole project its epic feel. Thursday evenings in front of the telly may never be the same again…

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