Last week I decided to give into the hype and watch “When Hope Calls”, the Hallmark Channel’s original series, which is available on Amazon Prime or the Hallmark Now app. I’ve seen a load of previews on the network about the show and figured I would at least watch the first episode to see what the hype is about. I enjoyed it so much that I went online and found out the series debut was on the Hallmark Channel app before airing weekly on Sunday nights. Of course I binged the entire season and nonetheless fell in love with the characters, stories, and town. The series was available at the time through Hallmark Now ($5.99 per month) in addition to episodes airing on the Hallmark Channel on Sunday nights at 8PM CST. Streaming on the app is frequently interrupted and results in error codes. If you have limited bandwidth, are in a household with multiple devices or have trouble downloading the app, I recommend checking out the Amazon Prime streaming option. I’ve rewatched the series on there and loading was more smooth! There is a price difference between the two, but I have no patience for buffering, so I was happy to pay the difference to actually stream the series I love!
When Hope Calls is centered around two sisters, Lillian and Grace, who were separated as children and newly reunited now as adults. They decide to make Lillian’s childhood town, Brookfield, their home and open an orphanage. The sisters face daily struggles of Western life in 1916 in addition to caring and creating a home for children in need. Lillian and Grace are “caught between the traditions of cattle ranchers and the ambitions of a growing town. Throughout their journey they discover community, acceptance, and love as they create the family they have always longed to have” as they strive to find and balance romance and happiness of their own. The series takes viewers on a journey of growth. We experience how two girls didn’t let their circumstances define them and how in the face of trauma, they persevere and strive to show others that family isn’t defined by blood, but rather by love and who you hold in your heart.
Viewers may recognize the the actress who plays Grace Bennett aka Jocelyn Hudon, as her character has appeared in the 2018 When Calls The Heart holiday movie, “The Great Christmas Blessing” along with Morgan Kohan’s character, Lillian Walsh. Making his Hallmark Channel debut, RJ Hatanaka plays Brookfield’s Mountie who catches Lillian’s eye. Chuck (Greg Hovanessian) is the ranch hand and Brookfield’s town vet who has taken an interested in Grace.
Shortly into the first episode we realize the rupture between Lillian and Tess Stewart, Chuck’s mother. Lillian and her adopted family use to be close with the Stewart’s until a disaster impacted both the Walsh and Start family, in addition to the entirety of Brookfield; this, resulted in the two families growing apart and becoming enemies. Over the course of the season we uncover what really happened between them and learn more of the story looking through the lens of other characters in addition to Tess and Lillian’s.
What I Loved about the show
I appreciate how realistic the set looks. Brookfield seems real in a way that is more than wood, nails, or backdrops. The set designers created the scene where it shows a non-overwhelming glance of what life was like during this time. Other period dramas can come across as overbearing with trying to showcase too much of the difference between the past and present throughout the series. When Hope Calls doesn’t dramatize the drastic differences but strategically and effortlessly incorporates that into the show allowing a deeper understanding an appreciation for what life was like many years ago. For example, there isn’t a hyper focus on how people are contacted- the messenger delivers a note to the appropriate character and leaves. There isn’t a sarcastic or witty reference to wanting an easier way to be reached hinting to the technology developments to be made years after the show’s intended era takes place. Along those lines, I enjoy how the show visually represents the difference without working it into the script. In many scenes the telephone is showcased, horse and buggy- this even extends to the titles of the shop and how things are setup. What we call a general store or simply refer to as a “shop”, is know in Brookfield as “The Mercantile”. This period representation is continuously showcased in the various settings of the show. We see this as we are taken to the Stewart ranch, at the orphanage, in the doctor’s/ nurse’s office, and so much more! Plus, the costumes are amazing!
The authenticity and ease of the dialogue is what brings me back to Brookfield on Sunday nights and what kept me looking forward to the next episode while binge watching. The commentary isn’t forced or overly done for the time. There aren’t too many “old time” phrases thrown around and it isn’t confusing to understand what is being said like some period pieces can be. The cast does a phenomenal job interpreting the script/ story while bringing these characters to life. I enjoy the wit of Grace’s character and the balance of Gabe’s seriousness in the scenes. While Lillian, Chuck, Grace, and Gabe all have different personalities and core motivations, they all share a love and commitment to each other and the community. The bond they share among their group and the town in general, is wonderful to watch. The people of Brookfield really show up for each other and prioritize that.
While love is included in Grace and Lillian’s story, it isn’t the main focus. This sin’t just another love story type show. There are appropriate nods to the courtship or interest, but those particular storylines and thoughts aren’t the identity of these two women. We see Grace and Lillian’s priority being providing an environment that is safe, welcoming, and encouraging for the children they’re caring for while also deepening their sister bond. So many shows start out or claim to have a message other than love but end up being dedicated to romance. It’s refreshing to see a balance and one that is maintained throughout the entire seasons.
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What I wish i saw more of
The only thing I wasn’t entirely a fan of was in the first episode where we see Gabe and Lillian’s interaction. I thought their introduction was so cute and I wish it would have lasted another minute or two while including more of an overview/ understanding for us watching. Through the episode we are told Gabe is returning to Brookfield and also how Lillian grew up there. It was a bit interesting because I feel like there was an opportunity that was missed in that scene, to touch on how Gabe and Lillian must have just missed crossing paths and give us more of a natural backstory to the characters. Gabe could have said something along the lines of how he’s a returning Mountie to the town and ask if she’s new to town where Lillian then says she is also returning but from Brookfield. While we do see them bond and share this later, I think that would have been a great base for them to be acquainted and also a natural progression into how they start to notice each other around town and the occurrence of the tragedy in the first episode. Plus, it would have been a bit more smooth for viewers to understand what the show is about and the characters past.
I would like to see more of Mountie Gabe’s duties/ day to day. The sister show, When Calls The Heart, does a great job of showcasing just how detrimental the role is within the community. While we do see Gabe’s importance, sometimes there’s a lack of depth in the scenes with the community meaning the scenes focus more on his friend group rather than the entirety of the town- I would like to see more writing surrounding the deeper development with the town throughout the season and not just limit to certain episodes or in tragedy. There’s so much about the Mounties that most people (aka me) are unfamiliar with and this is a great opportunity to showcase how the North-West Mounted Police (now called the Royal Canadian Mounted Police) operated during this time and showcase a glimpse of history many Americans for instance were not taught in school. This is a great way to teach the audience while exploring this amazing character!
The orphan’s stories. I love love love the kiddos and wish we spent more time learning how Lillian and Grace found the children and where the idea to start the orphanage developed. I wish we could have seen a flashback or something of them getting Lillian’s house ready and making it a place to welcome those kiddos in need of a family and love. It would have been so sweet to watch the sister’s dream come to life while developing their character and see what obstacles they faced to get to the place they are by the end of the season. I’m hoping if there is a season 2 the writers choose to include how Grace and Lillian found each of the kids and also showcase where episode 10 left off in “real time”. Episode 7 is also a sweet one for me because we see one child in particular heavily interacting with those in town who are not Lillian and Grace. I think the writers did a great job of showcasing the inclusion and involvement of the kids into “normal” life in Brookfield. I would have loved to see the same develop with the other children.
How did Lillian find Grace? This is referenced quite a bit off and on throughout the season. It would have been sweet to pay tribute to that and share the importance of the moment and how it integrates into the origin story of the orphanage. I would have loved to see a town opening ceremony where the sisters share the story to the town or as a full bedtime st
ory to the kids and have the people of Brookfield show up for their new neighbors and these kids.
May contain spoilers if you are not caught up and interested in the episode overviews.
Episode 1: New Hope
Reunited sisters, Lillian and Grace encounter resistance against their just-open Orphanage from the townspeople. Having recently returned to town, Constable Gabriel reacquaints himself with neighbors. The town unites together despite potential danger when disaster strikes.
Episode 2: From the Ashes
Grace and Lillian welcome Rosemary and Lee Coulter from Hope Valley. Nurse Maggie Parsons arrives in town. Tess’s tumultuous history with Lillian’s family complicates things and she continues to feud with one of her neighbors over missing livestock.
Episode 3: Out of the past
New evidence points Gabriel toward a suspect in the town fire” leading him to hunt for a fugitive. Grace takes a second job to make money for the orphanage, hoping to use the funds to help make the lives of the children in her care better than hers was growing up. Lillian tries to mend fences with Tess. Maggie settles into her job at the infirmary.
episode 4: Lost and Found
Lillian searches for an orphan’s family member. Gabriel meets face to face with the bank robber who tried to kill him. Grace and Chuck grow closer but Tess orchestrates a scenario to extinguish their romantic spark. Maggie helps Joe with an old shoulder injury.
Episode 5: A House United
Lillian and Grace are put to the test when a government worker arrives to inspect the orphanage and question Grace’s past. Tess pauses her endeavor to buy a truck when Ronnie needs her help.
Episode 6: The Search
When a train robber is spotted near Brookfield, Lillian and Grace must do everything in their power to keep the orphans safe. Nathan Grant visits. Tess interviews canididates for a new foreman. Maggie makes an interesting discovery at the infirmary.
Episode 7: Surprise
Lillian is determined to surprise Grace on her birthday but has to overcome the biggest obstacle of all – Grace! Meanwhile Chuck takes one of the orphans, Fred, under his wing at the ranch. Gabriel pursues a witness to the bank robbery.
Episode 8: About a Girl
A friend from Grace’s past encourages Grace to follow her longstanding dream of moving to New York, while Chuck urges her to stay. Lillian located Helen’s grandfather. Gabriel investigation into the suspected band fraud raises questions about how Ronnie funded his hotel. Maggie helps a visitor.
Episode 9: House in Order
Lillian sets off on a mission to clear her father from blame over the town’s bridge collapse. Grace and Chuck’s relationship hits a rough patch. Gabriel continues his investigation into the bank fraud and enlists the help of Hope Valley’s Constable Nathan Grant.
Episode 10: Where Hope Goes
Danger is afoot when criminals arrive in Brookefield to wrap up loose ends – which include targeting innocent people.
Overall I feel season 1 was structured well. As with every show, there are of course a few things I would have loved to see more of, but I’m hoping if the show is picked up for a second season those storylines can be explored. For the 10 episodes of season 1, the storylines were fresh, fluid, and entertaining. There weren’t any dull moments or episodes I wanted to skip. It was easy to follow from episode to episode and I can see the clear development of the season when I think back to first episode and where the season concluded. I can understand the purpose of the season, in addition to being able to clearly explain it to someone. I feel as if most shows pack too much information or too many sub—plots into a season- When Hope Calls mastered the right amount of information, suspense, resulting in a masterpiece of a season. Friends, Gilmore Girls, One Tree Hill, and now When Hope Calls are shows I have watched and will continue to rewatch for many years to come. Here’s to hoping there are many more season and episodes that steal my heart the way episodes 7 and 10 did!