Chaske Spencer and Emily Blunt in “The English” 2022. IMDb photo

“The English,” shot on the dry vastness of Pawnee, Oklahoma, beautifully drops us into another 1890 western, but surprisingly one with a lot of flair, breath-taking surprises and a crumpet box of dazzling British players.

The action begins with Lady Cornelia Locke (Emily Blunt, “A Quiet Place”), arriving by stage coach at a thrown-together hotel with the arid smell of a John Ford western and mold of the “Addam’s Family” abode.

Lady Cornelia is surprisingly alone, and shocks us with a super-fab scarlet ball gown (think Scarlett O’Hara on her better days) and good shoes.

Of course, she looks out of place, as does the hotel, in fact the whole set looks out of place, like a cowtown version of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” with someone hanging on a makeshift gallows, uncomfortably roped.

The host and owner seems to be a Mr. Watts, (Ciarán Hinds, “Belfast”) who welcomes our lady by brutally jerking her from the carriage and tossing her on the ground, giving her a startling view of another prisoner, the unlucky Pawnee scout Sgt. Eli Whipp (Chaske Spencer, the “Twilight” series).

We seem to be set up for something weird, and we’re ready.


You might ask, who’s in charge of this hellish place? That would be, regrettably, our Mr. Watts.

We soon find ourselves in the hands of writer director Hugo Blick (“The Honorable Woman”) and his television product, “The English,” featuring the pairing of a very white Brit and Chaske, a painfully sunburned and stoic Pawnee who speaks English like Paul Newman.

Chaske, who plays a former cavalry scout, endures his bondage, but our Cornelia is not amused. She rushes to cut him down from his wooden perch.

Whipp, with bad luck, had earlier stumbled onto Watt’s hotel, while trying to get back his “promised” land from a corrupt government. There’s more explained about him and his search, in later chapters.

All this cruelty is gleefully watched by the coach driver Sebold Cusk (Toby Jones, “Infamous”). Keep an eye on Sebold. He won’t be around long, and he’s not as cute as he looks. We know at once that he’s in Mr. Watt’s employ.

Suddenly, Whipp, freed of his ropes, grabs a horse and without a touch of gallantry, leaves our heroine to her fate. Or does he?


As darkness descends, we are treated to a macabre candlelight dinner party for two, featuring Mr. Watts and his captive Cornelia, to a meal of wine and prairie oysters (bull testicles, I’m not kidding.)

We will have a few moments of conversation between the lady and hotelier Watts where her secrets are unveiled. This will end badly before dessert is served, and that’s all I can tell you, not wanting to reveal what the dessert is.

“The English,” a little talky in too many run-on scenes between the two stars on the Pawnee grass. Really is still a gorgeous looking series, full of good actors, lavishly provided scenery, astonishing British bow and arrow action, and close ups of Ms. Blunt’s famous eyes.

There will be a bevy of characters to sort through, some interesting, some not so, but full of some of my favorite people, including Valerie Pachner, Rafe Spall, the exceptionally talented Gary Farmer, and that other great Irishman, Stephen Rea, who will all provide more meat, (not oysters) to Cornelia’s secret reason for enduring all the heat, frontier bad guys, gunplay and prairie oysters.

The players, featuring the cream of English stars, is perfectly cast and blended like Devonshire cream.

Arnau Valls Colomer’s camera prowls, touches and caresses Ms. Blunt, who suffered from an allergy to horses, gently.


The wonderful classical score by Federico Jusid moves in and out like a breeze without taking the stage, until the moments when it must.

Costume designer Phoebe De Gaye should not be left out of any awards, even if Emily Blunt added her own ideas.

“The English” streams on Prime Video and Netflix.


J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.

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