When Calls the Heart, Season One - Episodes 1 and 2 (2014)
Synonymous with prairie romances is the name Janette Oke. Her novels have sold millions worldwide in addition to her books being part of the reason inspirational fiction is what it is today. This accomplishment has not escaped the notice of the Hallmark Channel; the network has brought to life her Canadian series in an all-new original series for 2014.
Life in the East has been privileged for young Elizabeth Thatcher (Erin Krakow); she’s accustomed to parties, pretty gowns and an unlimited source of books. But in spite of her pesky sister’s best efforts to dissuade her with horror stories of life in the wilderness, she’s determined to make it as a teacher in the mining town of Coal Valley. Armed with her fortitude and trunks full of knowledge, Elizabeth heads west only to be robbed along the way. Once there, things don’t get any better. She discovers that the town just recently experienced a tragedy when the women were left widowed after their husbands were killed in a mining accident and many of them lost older children that day and in a ripple effect, the families are being threatened with eviction.
With little confidence from the mothers that she can do the job of teacher justice, Elizabeth finds an ally in Abigail Stanton (Lori Loughlin), one of the women who lost her family that horrible day. Things get worse on her first day in the tiny town when Elizabeth burns down her house and to add more complications she clashes with the new Mountie posted to Coal Valley, Jack Thornton (Daniel Lissing).
As a kind of introduction to this premiere, Hallmark aired a two-hour film with an entirely different cast (with exception to Loughlin) and I’m not sure if it’s better for a viewer to first watch that or to start afresh with this series. Some of the story told in the movie overlaps - briefly, in the opening of episode one and effectively dismisses the presence of the Mountie Elizabeth knew and traveled with from home, Edward Montclair. In his place steps this entirely new character, Jack. Perhaps her beau wasn’t well liked so writer’s decided to not pursue his character or maybe it was just a chance for the primary writer’s to reflect and make changes they felt would better the story. Either way, unless you wish to see Elizabeth and Wynn’s story be told (the characters who Oke’s original novels are about), you’re not missing much – speaking in terms of understanding the story, by skipping over the pilot film. If we are to assume that all that transpired in the film holds up (and I’m not convinced it’s meant to), then fans should know that this series is actually following the niece of Wynn and Elizabeth Delaney, not the same Elizabeth Thatcher we meet in the Canadian West books.
With fresh faces and a new leading lady, there was some skepticism as to whether or not fans would like the series as well however I have to say I think Erin makes a better heroine than Poppy Drayton. I liked both actresses… but I think Erin suits the role better whereas Poppy portrayed Elizabeth as more of a loveable, sputtering city girl, Erin puts more sass and fire into the role. After watching the premiere ("Lost and Found") and second episode (“Cease and Desist”), I was also impressed with the sparks of chemistry between Erin and Daniel. They had some amazing (read: stares across the room *wink*) moments together – such as him realizing Elizabeth wasn’t going to be bested (particularly cute is a school room scene involving her standing atop a table) and the ending of the second forty minutes was also telling. It took me a bit longer to warm to Daniel in the role though I think he’s going to be an interesting character and quite the match for Elizabeth’s stubbornness.
The introductory of the series could have opened better – especially considering the framework had been laid in the film, however there are some cute throwbacks to Elizabeth’s life with her family and of course, her constant scribbles in a journal. Setting off, this series has all it needs to be successful. It’s family-friendly (already a rarity), features some beautiful costuming and scenery and has also managed to assemble a talented cast which is of the upmost importance to any on-going series. To top things off, there is a troublemaker of a mining boss who, I suspect won't make anything easy. If you like anything of this genre or family programming in general, I’d love to know what you think of this series. If the first two installments are any indication, it’s going to be something worth tuning in to on Saturday evenings.
Are you looking forward to this series?