Following the many revelations and developments of last season, “Heartland” returns to a calmer pace that re-establishes many of the core bonds that were seemingly almost lost in season five. With a smaller cast and several drastic changes having occurred in the lives of the Fleming family, the sixth season’s first half manages to resolve some left over loose ends while also introducing some promising new plot lines that will keep fans satisfied.
“I know my sister, she’s ready.”
The season opens with a focused exploration of the relationship between Ty (Graham Wardle) and Amy (Amber Marshall). For long time fans of the show who have followed the young couple from season one, these first two episodes are really difficult to watch. While Ty has trouble finding the courage to propose, Amy, who eventually discovers the ring, must determine her true feelings and decide what she wants their next step to be. The couple’s unwitting shared attempts to move the process along are humorous and genuine as scenes rely heavily on the long standing shared chemistry between Wardle and Marshall. Their fears, excitement, and bond are presented very naturally, which makes for a highly suspenseful watch. While the subsequent ending to this short arc is satisfying, as I certainly found myself sighing in relief by the end of it, the event has resulted in some tension between the two that leaves me feeling anxious for their immediate future.
These early episodes set the tone for the remainder of the season’s first half as plot lines begin to feel much more personal and enclosed than the past couple of seasons. With many of the supporting characters pursuing careers and lives away from their home in Alberta, these episodes take on a much more episodic feel as emphasis is placed almost solely on the family’s personal relationships.
“Who’s the kid?!”
A move that the writing staff seems to have made with the specific intent of combating the season’s slower pace and dwindling cast is the introduction of foster care child, Georgie (Alisha Newton), who is temporarily taken into Heartland until a more suitable home can be found for her. Newton’s portrayal of the tomboyish orphan is sympathetic, well performed, and fits into the series’ ongoing themes of personal healing and family. However, her character feels very out of place within the cast and doesn’t really contribute much to the plot as a whole. Her rivalry with series regular, Mallory (Jessica Amlee), proves to be more irritating than anything else and, assuming that her role doesn’t improve, I’m hopeful that she’ll eventually be reassigned as a background character.
Much to my delight, “Heartland’s” setting in western Canada remains a prominent influence on the series. The cinematography alone is gorgeous. The scenic views of open fields, creeks, and lush forests offered in each shot is enough to keep this suburban girl glued to the screen. But, more than that, season six carries on the show’s pre-established pattern of presenting issues and lifestyles that are important to Canadian country life. From mentions of Alberta’s oil sands to characters faced with an economy that isn’t particularly kind to cattle ranchers, the high level of care and obvious consideration put into plot points continues to make even the series’ most episodic moments shine.
With a relaxed pace and slow build, the first half of season six offers a nice reprieve for fans still reeling from last season. As the Fleming household continues to grow and tension builds, there’s sure to be some unexpected twists ahead. If you’re a newcomer to the series, this may not be the best place to start. But, with an impending winter hiatus right around the corner, there’s more than enough time to catch up!