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Saints & Strangers: TV Review

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National Geographic gets into the holiday spirit with a brand new, original miniseries, Saints & Strangers. The two-night movie event is a scripted retelling of the Mayflower landing in 1620, dramatizing the pilgrim's settlement, their sometimes on/off relationship with neighboring Native American tribes, and the first Thanksgiving.

From its first scene, Saints & Strangers reveals the trials and tribulations experienced by the faithful who sail across the Atlantic in search of religious freedom, the 'strangers' amongst them who seek opportunity in the New World, and the natives who justifiably mistrust them.

On the side of the 'saints', we have William Bradford (Vincent Kartheiser, Mad Men) and his wife, Dorothy (Anna Camp, Pitch Perfect), who left their three-year-old son in Holland to follow God's call to the new land – a decision that haunts Dorothy. Their leader is John Carver (Ron Livingston, Band of Brothers), the first governor of Plymouth Colony. Myles Standish (Michael Jibson, Hatfields & McCoys) and Edward Winslow (Barry Sloane, TV's Revenge) round out the main 'saints' cast.

On the side of the 'strangers', we have a band of adventuresome wealth seekers, God-fearing folk who quarrel with the religious 'saints'. Stephen Hopkins (Ray Stevenson, Divergent series) leads his wife, Elizabeth (Natascha McElhone, The Truman Show), and family, and the rest of the 'strangers', offering knowledge he acquired on his last visit to the New World. Fellow 'stranger' John Billington (Brian E. O'Byrne, Aquarius) brings conflict; he's the settlement's troublemaker from the beginning.

The Native Americans play a major part in Saints & Strangers, with the Pokanoket people taking a leading role. The head of the tribe, Massasoit (Raoul Trujillo, Apocalypto), surveys these settlers carefully with the help of his right hand, Hobbamock (Tatanka Means, TV's Banshee), and English-speaking Squanto (Kalani Queypo, The New World).

Producers picked well with this cast. Trujillo as Massasoit and Kartheiser as Bradford turn in high-mark performances. Saints & Strangers is dramatic and moving. The authenticity of this production feels on point, as does the well-crafted script. It's also worth noting that, fortunately, the actors portraying tribesmen speak in native tongues (with subtitles for viewers).

Thankfully, the series stays true to the Christian faith these brave souls held dear. Scriptures are read and God is revered as a constant, the One you can rely on no matter the earthly circumstance. Viewers will see some of the religious practices of the Native Americans and the range of faith amongst the settlers, with the 'strangers', on occasion, ridiculing and questioning the religious fervor of the 'saints'.

Caution is advised. This movie event is not suitable for children. Though it offers a historical look at the events that led to and followed the first Thanksgiving in America, it is not for the faint of heart. It was a violent time. It was a desperate time. And Saints & Strangers does, in a couple of scenes, get graphic. Though the bloody bits of the series are relegated to a few moments, they are notable. In one scene, men are stabbed to death and a throat is cut. In the next scene, the head of the dead man is held up for the gathered crowd to witness and then displayed on a spike.

Saints & Strangers is a movie event you'll want to see this Thanksgiving season. It premieres on Sunday, November 22 and Monday, November 23 at 9/8c on the National Geographic Channel. If you don't catch it then, and don't have a DVR to record it, Nat Geo plans to re-air it on Thanksgiving night (November 26).

Families, study groups, and churches inclined to delve deeper into this history are welcome to use the Saints & Strangers Bible Study Guide. Check it out!

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About The Author


Hannah Goodwyn served as a Senior Producer for, managing and writing for the award-winning website. After her undergraduate studies at Christopher Newport University, Hannah went on to study Journalism at the graduate level. In 2005, she graduated summa cum laude with her Master's from Regent University and was honored with an Outstanding Student Award. From there, Hannah began work as a content producer for For ten years, she acted as the managing producer for the website's Family and Entertainment sections. A movie buff, Hannah felt right at home working as's