Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”
Directed by Brad Peyton
Written by Peter Blackie, Rob Blackie, & Perry Chafe
* For a review of the next episode, “Little Brother War” – click here
In the world of fur trading, we start in disputed territory where things have gone violent and bloody. A man named Declan Harp (Jason Momoa) is seeing to it that those on that land, land which doesn’t belong to them, feel his wrath. He’s sending a message to the British: this is war.
In London, at the Hudson’s Bay Company, Lord Benton (Alun Armstrong) is getting report from Captain Chesterfield (Evan Jonigkeit) about what Harp has done. We also discover Declan is half-Native, half-Irish. Seems Chesterfield is a bit of a cocky fellow, hoping to rush in and take care of the man. But Benton is smarter, knowing Declan could be a much bigger problem than just a little bit of rebellion. He wants to use the rebel leader an “example.”
Around Gravesend Pier a few thieves are trying to keep themselves in food, hoping to survive, and not sure how long they will. They soon set their sights on a ship full of redcoats. They want to steal a bit of gunpowder to hawk off, make a handful of coin.
Along a river in disputed territory, Harp finds Jean-Marc Rivard (Paul Fauteux). They’ve got dealings together, each of them fairly skilled in the art of business. Harp is trying to get a meeting with Samuel Grant (Shawn Doyle). Although Rivard tells him the furs they’ve been given so far aren’t enough. Declan says he’s going to make a deal with the Cree. Hmm. Is that wishful thinking on his part?
The thieves – Michael Smyth (Landon Liboiron) and Clenna Dolan (Breanne Hill) – sneak onto the boat for the gunpowder in the night. They’re crafty, this crew. Michael warns Clenna to be careful with handling it or “the last thing that‘ll go through your mind‘ll be your arse.” On deck, they’re headed off by a couple of men, and their friend is stabbed to death, thrown overboard. Clenna makes off into the dark, as Michael does his best to weasel a way to safety; for the time being he stows away below deck. Doesn’t help when the ship is off to sea and he’s just waking up. Fuck sakes, Mikey. That is the last place you want to be. Not even like they’re close to shore, either. Right out on the open ocean. Let’s hope he is crafty enough to get himself out of there safely. As for Clenna, she’s been caught and locked away.
Grace Emberly (Zoe Boyle) tends bar at a tavern. She knows quite a few people. One man has no money for drink, so he trades a few secrets on the HBC for a glass. Good Christ, the stuff she has to endure. A drunk governor rambles on about Lord Benton and there’s talk of him coming over to bring his own wrath to Declan Harp. However, Grace puts it in perspective: “What he brings is opportunity.”
Eventually Michael’s found below deck. Before he gets tossed overboard, Lord Benton gives him a chance to redeem himself. When what he tells the Lord is true Benton kills another man in front of everybody. Then puts a ring back on his bloody hand. One ruthless bastard. Michael winds up getting a spot on the boat, though surely he’ll have to make himself of use. Chesterfield meets with Benton later, they talk about the competition “choking off” their fur trade endeavours. They set their sights on Harp as a demonstration of power. To snuff out any further competition. Benton tasks Smyth with tracking down Declan, reaching out via their similar Irish blood. To take the deal Michael wants Clenna released and his charges dropped. But is he going to like making this deal with the devil down the road? I think not. I guarantee that.
Samuel Grant receives a greeting from Rivard. The fairly fancy Grant is trying on a sealskin coat. His trapper friend requests him to a meeting with Harp. Doesn’t seem like the man is interested. Rivard all but begs him. Of course Declan’s reputation precedes him. What we’re seeing here are the various power struggles, so many people rushing to capitalism that there is a struggle to climb to the top. In the end, Grant agrees to a meeting. Only if the notorious man comes to him in Montreal.
At Fort James – far as I can tell, this fort was located in disputed territory somewhere between Quebec and New Brunswick, likely closer to the latter (see here) – Michael winds up in a predicament when a redcoat is murdered. Father Coffin (Christian McKay) helps him on a whim and gets him away from a bit of trouble. The priest claims himself as the guide Smyth is seeking. Coffin reluctantly says he’ll take him to Harp. Eventually, anyways. I get the feeling Coffin’s a greasy con artist. And he is, indeed!
On Benton’s ship Grace goes to see the Lord. She sets the record straight on Michael not having anything to do with the murder earlier. She also tries to ingratiate herself to the Lord, make things easier for herself. She winds up taking a maid named Imogen (Diana Bentley) on to help at the tavern; the “eyes and ears” for Benton, like you could’ve guessed.
Chesterfield goes to the tavern and questions a barmaid named Mary (Breanne Hill) about Michael, under the eye of Grace. But that isn’t much help. This Chesterfield is a rotten bastard. Even chokes Mary, at least until Grace pulls a blade on him.
Out amongst the woods Coffin leads Michael towards wherever they’ll find Harp. The younger man reveals to the supposed priest he “has no choice” except go forward and meet the fur trader. Oh, if only the redcoats didn’t find them. Or perhaps that isn’t the case. Coffin probably wasn’t going to take him to the right place; the con artist thing and all. So the two are held captive. That night Natives led by Sokanon (Jessica Matten) attack the camp, killing the redcoats. They whisk Coffin and Mike away.
Trekking through the woods they work their way across the a river to a camp inland. There, they meet Harp; he’s covered in blood, having worked on an animal recently, doing a bit of skinning. Michael admits to looking for Declan, yet the man himself doesn’t believe that. Most of all nobody is impressed with the priest.
And young Mike Smyth has a choice: give up information on Lord Benton, or “join the priest.” Death is around the corner. Just depends on how much.
Not all of this first episode impressed me. Enough of it did that I’m excited to see the second episode now. Some of this was shot in my home province of Newfoundland, so it’s nice to see our locations on display. Both Momoa and Liboiron have me interested already. Very much looking forward to what they’ll do respectively and together.
The following episode is titled “Little Brother War” and I’m hoping there’ll be a good bit of action to get us going hard into the rest of the season. Here’s to more Frontier!