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MCN Review: 'Saints & Strangers'

The English settlers (invaders?) who’ve left the Mayflowerstart exploring the woods of Massachusetts and come upon a small, possibly abandoned Native American village and find some stored corn. The armed men quickly realize the natives might have saved it as seeds to plant. “God is testing us,” the devout William Bradford (Mad Men’s Vincent Kartheiser) says. “God is blessing us,” a hungry comrade replies. “He keeps us from starving.”

Survival trumps morality. They take the corn, a decision that reverberates throughout this long story about the struggles faced by the Mayflower pilgrims and the varying natives they encountered, befriended, betrayed, supported and fought against.

The Mayflowerbrought people seeking religious freedom (saints) and others after a fortune in the New World (strangers). The natives all, understandably, mistrusted the newcomers. One chief, Massasoit (Raoul Trujillo), decides it’s in the Pokanokets’ interest to make an alliance with them. The crucial native to the whole scenario is Squanto (Kalani Queypo), a former English captive who can translate. He’s a complicated character, and there are dualities and complications throughout the story.

I found the narrative straightforward and compelling without a lot of forced situations. The skirmishes feel real but not overly violent. The most interesting characters, to me, were Squanto and Massasoit, with honorable mention to Stephen Hopkins (Ray Stevenson) of the strangers, a former Jamestown colonist who grapples with what makes a savage. It’s a compelling story that’s well told, though often grim. And you don’t have to wait until the end to see the Thanksgiving feast.