Discovery Canada’s Frontier
Season 1, Episode 5: “The Disciple”
Directed by Ken Girotti
Written by Greg Nelson
* For a review of the previous episode, “Wolves” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Gallows” – click here
Declan Harp (Jason Momoa) is now held captive by Lord Benton (Alun Armstrong) and the redcoats, whisked away to a nearby dungeon. All the men are sent out looking for Michael Smyth (Landon Liboiron).
Luckily for him, Grace Emberly (Zoe Boyle) is willing to give him shelter, as well as Sokanon (Jessica Matten). But she’s angry, that Michael’s brought this down on them, and Harp in particular. Now Declan’s set for a bit of serious torture.
Benton: “We‘re going to have a discussion about respect. Or more precisely, your lack of respect for me.”
In Fort James, Grace is trying to keep things under wraps with the help of her barmaids, Imogen (Diana Bentley) and Mary (Breanne Hill). She’s also got to keep juggling her dealings with the ever greasy Captain Chesterfield (Evan Jonigkeit), who continues prodding her for information about whatever relationship she has with Harp. You can see that it all wears on her; side note: Boyle is an excellent actress, she is feisty and she can show so much with only an expression.
Over in the dungeon Harp’s being systematically mutilated; a cut for every man Harp has killed. “14 English soldiers.” Benton takes out his aggression on the man. For his part Declan takes it like a champ. The Lord wants him begging, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.
Poor Michael feels awful about leading the soldiers right back to Declan. He wants to go in and help, though Sokanon advises against rushing in foolishly. She’s another tough one. I love how unflinching the Native characters are in the series, it shows the resilience of their spirit not only through warfare and their fight, but through quiet moments such as the one in this scene between Michael and Sokanon.
Montreal. Douglas (Allan Hawco) and his brother Malcolm (Michael Patric) Brown argue over what to do next concerning Samuel Grant (Shawn Doyle). Then, who else other than Cobbs Pond (Greg Bryk) arrives. With a gun in their faces. They’re headed for prison, having defaulted on a loan. So it’s either go willingly, or horizontal and without pulse. Elsewhere, widowed Mrs. Elizabeth Carruthers (Katie McGrath) goes to see Mr. Grant. She’s wary of him, his ruthless nature of business. He offers that they work together. Because she is a “woman in a man‘s world, a man‘s trade” in the devious fur trade. Hmm, now this is an interesting little relationship I can’t wait to see develop.
Chesterfield bursts into the Ale House with Clenna Dolan (Lyla Porter-Follows) in his grip. He threatens Michael with her harm. But Grace puts a stop to that and sends the Captain packing.
Benton taunts Declan about his father – “a proper company man, with his Indian wife and his young, halfbreed son.” Seems the father wanted Benton to take care of his boy, after he was gone. We learn more of Harp, how he was trained in many ways by the Lord. Like a surrogate father. “You were my disciple,” Benton says while driving a knife into Harp at the gut. This is the most intense scene of Frontier yet.
In a cell, the Brown brothers argue and wrestle over who’s the bigger asshole of the two. Then Mrs. Carruthers comes. She’s paying their debt to get them out. Only if they hand over the Low River Company, and one of them marries her. Well, is it really that bad of a deal? I don’t think so. Malcolm doesn’t like the idea, though. And then Douglas gets pinned with the murder of Mr. Carruthers. Ohhh, shit. Elizabeth agrees to try helping him. She then lays down the laws of her proposed marriage to Douglas: no touching, they live in separate rooms under the same roof, and no coming into her room, not ever. And the husband has to follow along with any decisions she makes for the company.
Stuck together in close quarters, Sokanon tells Michael of when Harp’s family died, her sister and nephew. “The screaming” and the burning of the camp. No sight of Benton or the redcoats. “There was so much blood,” she recalls in agony. So sad. So vile. Grace soon comes to believe she’s figured out where Declan is being held, as well. At least that’s something.
The torture of Harp continues. The taunting, too. Benton sees it as Declan having forced him into teaching him a lesson. As if the slaughter of a village, women, children, everyone is any kind of lesson. Just goes to show how deluded Benton’s become. “I‘m not destroying this world, I‘m bringing light into the darkness with the gift of civilisation. Lifting up the land and its people. It requires violence, yes, it‘s a brutal place. But I am its saviour. I am its future. And I demand respect.” He then, essentially, asks Declan to pray to him, in a way so close to how Christians prays to God. Chilling.
There’s also Captain Johnson. He’s still making trouble around Fort James for the local redcoats, Chesterfield. Speaking of the Captain, he actually tries apologising to Grace for the way he treated Clenna and came around raging. This is when Grace tells him about what she and the barmaids got up to with Cpt. Johnson. Hopefully this stops the man’s meddling at the fort.
Grant receives Elizabeth, her new husband-to-be in tow. This surprises Samuel, though not really. He knows it’s what she’s doing to keep control; she isn’t marrying out of love. Every thing is a business. Only wonder is, now what will Grant – and his trigger man Mr. Pond – do going forward?
Finally, Michael and Sokanon decide to act. They’re headed to find Harp, with or without Grace. Clenna tags along, and the trio head out. They’re stopped in the street, but Michael takes the fall to let Sokanon and Clenna get away.
Benton tries again and again to get Declan to beg him, to pray at his feet. But all Harp offers is a refusal to bow: “We are not the same.” Afterwards, the Lord explains to the man exactly how his family died. A disgusting story, of how the boy and his mother fought hard against their brutal murder. Salt in the wound, this tale. Revealing the unborn daughter of Harp in his dead wife’s womb, found after they killed her. Not long after Michael’s brought to the same dungeon as Harp, they’re left in the darkness, and Declan for the first time actually looks like a broken man.
Side note: if you’ve ever thought to yourself that Momoa can’t act, this scene is a testament against that; I felt my heart sink and my eyes well a little watching him in these moments, truly powerful.
Soon Lord Benton is being relieved of his command at Fort James apparently, due to Threadwell’s suspicious death. This prompts an outbreak of violence from Johnson when Benton and Chesterfield try kicking up a stink. Meanwhile, Sokanon plans to go back for Harp. This time Clenna offers up her services to “pick an English lock” and now we’ve got all kinds of ass kicking women doing their thing. I thought they’d hate each other, but Clenna and Sokanon are working together. And working damn well. Clenna does the talking, Sokanon does the hacking. They get inside to find Michael and Harp, the latter in terrible shape. Johnson winds up finding Declan, but the gang take him and another soldier on. Right before Michael puts a sword in the Captain’s face. Whoooa. Michael’s figuring a lot of things out about himself, that’s for damn sure.
In the shadows back at the Low River Company, Malcolm finds Grant lurking. He wants Mr. Brown to head off for some business. While he takes care of Elizabeth. Now that sounds downright rotten. Although it doesn’t seem to me like Malcolm cares, either way.
With Johnson finished off, Lord Benton is taking back Fort James before it ever really left his grip. And again must search for Harp, who’s being brought away from Fort James, somewhere safer in hopes he’ll survive the terrible wounds Benton inflicted upon him.
This is my favourite episode, out of a really stellar first season! I loved it. Intense, well acted, bit of blood. Plus the women really took control here and I’m always for seeing that perspective in a historical show. Next episode, the finale, is titled “The Gallows” and I’m guessing we’ll see some kind of battle, maybe it’ll involve the Lake Walkers, too.