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'Heartland': Healing and Redemption at the Hands (Hooves?) of Horses

, | October 5, 2023 | By

Being an unenthusiastic product of the early 2000s myself, I am naturally suspicious of any show featuring low-rise denim and boys with floppy haircuts that fall somewhere between “young Beatles” and the mullet.

But Heartland surprised me, for the better. Set on a stunning horse ranch in Alberta, Canada, Heartland is a fast-paced drama that tackles love, intergenerational relationships, healing from grief, and redemption.

What Is Heartland About?

Produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) -- current seasons are available in the U.S. on UPtv, and its streaming service, UP Faith & Family (earlier seasons are on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Peacock, BYUtv and Tubi) -- the drama stars Amber Marshall as Amy, a teenager reeling from the death of her mother.

The show premiered in 2007, and has continued for now-17 seasons, chronicling years of Amy and her community’s lives.

As Amy heals from her mother’s death, she discovers and hones her ability to communicate and connect with horses, a trait she inherited from her mother and uses to run a rehabilitation service for misbehaved and traumatized horses.

Here's the whole first episode:


Is Heartland Worth Watching?

Heartland is fast-paced, and the characters felt authentic and relatable. They’re good people with character flaws they work to overcome, and their relationships reflect that, despite their best intentions. Amy often butts heads with her independent older sister, Lou (Michelle Morgan), but as the show continues, they unite over their love for the farm and one another.

Their mother was a well-known entity in their community, and they try to continue her legacy. There’s a strong emphasis on the importance and goodness of family in their relationship and with their grandfather, Jack (Shaun Johnston). The show is peppered with moments of hard-earned connection and forgiveness, that kept me rooting for these spirited girls despite their otherwise high-tension relationships.

Themes of healing and redemption thread through the story as well. One of the primary supporting characters is Ty (Graham Wardle), a teenager working on the ranch during probation.

Initially arrogant and frosty, he grows into a man who is trustworthy, kind, and protective towards those he loves, if still somewhat troubled by his past.

Amy and Lou also reconnect with their estranged father, Tim (Chris Potter), who must prove himself to their grandfather before he can be fully forgiven. All of Amy’s relationships and work with horses tie into her journey of healing from and processing her mother’s death, especially as she heals the horse who played a part in her passing.

Balancing the Men and Women of Heartland

Overall, I enjoyed the male characters’ stories almost more than those of the female main characters. While I see many American shows treat male characters as annoying, weak, or mere plot devices, these leading men are fully-formed people who step up to love, protect, and care for the lead women, often in physically or emotionally vulnerable situations.

I was impressed by Amy and Lou’s grandfather when he helped the sisters reconcile their relationship. Ty, also, protects Amy early on when she is threatened by an ex-boyfriend.

Sweeping Canadian scenery and a jaunty Western-esque soundtrack complete the show. It’s fairly wholesome, although later in the show, sexual encounters are implied.

Will There Be More Heartland?

Season 17 premiered Oct. 1 on CBC in Canada. It will likely premiere sometime in 2024 on UPtv and UP Faith & Family (Season 16 only began on UPtv Aug. 6). For Netflix, Season 16 is expected to land in mid-2024, followed by Season 17 in 2025.

Before you squawk too loudly, this is the reverse of what usually happens with American shows airing in other countries. They have to wait for our shows, and in this case, we wait for Canada's.

Image: CBC

Sophia Sariego is a Los Angeles native working in the pro-life movement.  She loves Eucharistic Adoration, making music, and hitting the beaches in her spare time. 


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