Tagged Alun Armstrong

Frontier – Season 1, Episode 6: “The Gallows”

Discovery Canada’s Frontier
Season 1, Episode 6: “The Gallows”
Directed by Ken Girotti
Written by Greg Spottiswood

* For a review of the penultimate Season 1 episode, “The Disciple” – click here
The finale is here. What a first season this has been! Very impressed with my fellow Newfoundlanders. A few of my friends actually work on the show and they’ve had a great time shooting. Currently they’re working on Season 2.
With Declan Harp (Jason Momoa) being brought into the forest by Sokanon (Jessica Matten) and Michael Smyth (Landon Liboiron), Fort James still firmly under the thumb of Lord Benton (Alun Armstrong), what will happen next?
Declan will be okay. Yet this is only a part of his journey; he’s a ways to go before it’s even close to over. Physically, he’s on the way to healing. He cauterises his own wound by the fire, taking it like a champ. Already he looks fit to take on Benton and his redcoats all over again.
Side note: love the theme song, it’s a damn fine introduction to the show and gets you kind of pumped. The entire score is wonderful, really. Gives the period of the series an interesting feeling.
Captain Chesterfield (Evan Jonigkeit) is apprehensive about moving forward with his plans to become Governor. Although having a woman like Grace Emberly (Zoe Boyle), strong and confident, cheering him on is a help. Not sure exactly how I feel about Chesterfield, given that he’s shown himself to be nasty. My only thought is whether he’ll prove to be useful down the line. Right now, Grace shows him out then discovers Harp in her back room. For a guy that everyone knows, and many are looking for, Declan doesn’t care about waltzing through the fort. Bad ass, or too easy from a writing perspective? I’m not sure. Either way Grace helps him out so he doesn’t perish. She consoles him when he weeps for his wife and his child, having been tortured and killed mercilessly by Benton.
At the same time, Sokanon, Michael, and Clenna (Lyla Porter-Follows) head back through the woods to find Declan. A fight breaks out between the two women, before Sokanon throws them both to the ground and leaves. Clenna isn’t so keen on following, but Michael’s sure in his path. Along the way she winds up falling and breaking her leg, badly.
Grace: “Ive waited so long for you. You cannot leave me. Not like this.”
Declan: “Im sorry. I have to do this.”
Meanwhile, Benton is gearing up to do in Harp and anybody in his way. No matter what: “Declan Harps head is to be stuck on the end of a bayonet and displayed in the yard.”

Samuel Grant (Shawn Doyle) and Cobbs Pond (Greg Bryk) are now in Fort James at the Ale House, to speak with Grace. They head out back for a drink, a chat. Grant wants to see her furs, but she’s not impressed with the surprise. Then he gets passive-aggressive, forcing her hand. She makes clear her position in Fort James is vital. But Grant, he’s a mysterious one. I’m excited to see more of his character next season. He then goes over to see Benton, who calls Grace a “whore with more ambition than sense” and that almost seems to hit Grant with unease. Then the Lord gets into a bit of tough talk. And right outside lurks Harp; something only Mr. Pond senses.
At the Ale House, Malcolm Brown (Michael Patric) sits with Chesterfield. The Captain is surprised. Then Malcolm goes on about his brothers, Cedric and Douglas (Allan Hawco); he says the former was a mess, but he’s still going to take bloody revenge. It’s only Grace what breaks them up. She takes Chesterfield aside to tell him about Grant, which doesn’t make the man too happy. He then turns violent. Now I’m sure: this guy is bullshit. I hope Grace sticks a knife in his gut.
Not long after Sokanon and Michael arrive with Clenna. And the young Irish girl’s in rough shape. She’s also worried about Michael leaving her. Not to mention she may lose a leg if Grace can’t fix it. The bone doesn’t set properly the first time, so they’ve got to break it. Then set it again.
And while things go on, Grant and Pond plot their next move. From out of the dark woods comes Harp. They’re finally face to face. “Were both committed to the demise of the HBC, are we not?” says Grant. So he and Harp work out their terms, which end with the latter knifing Benton and cutting off his head. THAT, my friends, is a plan. Plus he has Sokanon on his side. For her part, she doesn’t want to trust Michael. She’d rather they charge ahead together. However, Harp is on a one-man warpath. He tasks her with keeping Michael on their side, training him, and forging on.

Ms. Emberly goes about her sneaky business. She meets with Malcolm and tells him about Chesterfield, his daily walks. To avenge Cedric’s murder. Or is it all a ruse to get Malcolm right where Chesterfield wants him? Hmm. I’m going to bet that it’s the first option, and that Chesterfield will manage to get out alive, leaving a possibility of trouble for Grace afterwards. Just a guess. Sure enough, the Captain and Malcolm duke it out hard before Chesterfield beats him near to death, only stopping when Father Coffin (Christian McKay) interrupts.
Together again, Sokanon and Michael try to figure out what to do. He wants to be loyal to Harp, but not to let him go it alone, even if Sokanon agreed to leave him be. Michael heads out and finds his friend in the woods, determined to help. Simultaneous, we see Grant walk with Benton, as he worked it out with Declan. They talk business, as the Lord is unsuspecting of what’s just around the corner, figuratively and literally.
Benton: “You have stones, Mr. Grant. But if you think I wont cut them off and feed them to the ravens, youre wrong.”
Grant goes on to let Benton and his redcoats know Declan is in the woods nearby, waiting to kill him. A fight breaks loose, and once Benton calls for Michael to be killed, Declan chooses to save him. Landing right in the hands of Pond, Grant, and Benton, as Michael gets away. Although things aren’t sitting well with Grant and Benton, they’re still not on the same side. The Lord reluctantly lets him and Pond leave, no punishment, but the relationship’s not merry. Down in the dungeon, Harp is chained to the floor, captured like déjà vu.

While Michael must leave Clenna behind, he goes on with Sokanon and Grace – as well as Imogen (Diana Bentley) and Mary (Breanne Hill) – to enact a plan to spring Declan free. It involves gunpowder, if you couldn’t have guessed! Oh yes. And they’d better get moving. Harp is brought out to a stage, fitted with a noose round his neck, a crowd and Benton watching on.
A fire is lit. An explosion flames from the woods. Guns go off. Declan is dropped from the platform and hung by the neck, but frees his hands to break the noose. Benton tries to shoot at him and Father Coffin takes a bullet. In a climactic moment, Michael shoots Benton before he can fire on Declan. When Chesterfield tries shooting at him, he’s already gone.
Out in the hills by the ocean, Harp crawls, bloody, freezing. He passes out, alone in the wilderness. Will he survive? Will someone find him?
We’ll have to wait and see.

What a finale! Wow, was it ever wild. The cliffhanger ending is exciting because really, even if there weren’t already a Season 2 in production (it’s being shot here in Newfoundland currently), this could end on an interesting note. But there’s more coming. And I, for one, cannot wait. I’ll have to, though. At least we can watch these over again, drink in the nicely captured period setting, locations, and the great cinematography. I have to say, the acting was damn good, for the most part, too. A satisfying Season 1 for Frontier.

Frontier – Season 1, Episode 5: “The Disciple”

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: “Were 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 mans world, a mans 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. “Im not destroying this world, Im bringing light into the darkness with the gift of civilisation. Lifting up the land and its people. It requires violence, yes, its 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.

Frontier – Season 1, Episode 3: “Mushkegowuk Esquewu”

Discovery Canada’s Frontier
Season 1, Episode 3: “Mushkegowuk Esquewu”
Directed by John Vatcher
Written by Peter Blackie, Rob Blackie, & Joseph Kay

* For a review of the previous episode, “Little Brother War” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Wolves” – click here
Michael Smyth (Landon Liboiron) has been taken captive in the woods. In the woods nearby, Declan Harp (Jason Momoa) watches, waiting for the right time. He emerges as the captors draw their guns. They’re not in the mood for any of his “negotiation.” He only taunts the men and their “pretty hats” with the rifles in his face. Out of the trees come arrows for a couple of the men. Then one is left with Michael’s hands and the ties around them about his neck. Declan won’t help. He wants the young man to do the deed. He knocks the man out, but Harp finishes him off. The captors work for Malcolm Brown (Michael Patric), and the one still living won’t play along. Declan only asks twice for information after cutting the man’s ear off, speaking into like the fur trader version of Reservoir Dogs‘ Mr. Blonde.
Also, have to note: love the opening sequence, as well as the title song. Great, great feel, and gets me into the mood every damn episode.
Over at the Lake Walker camp, some of the tribe are not happy to follow along with Harp, despite his Native blood. Machk (Raoul Max Trujillo) particularly feels he has just as much European in him as any white man.
Lord Benton (Alun Armstrong) chastises Captain Chesterfield (Evan Jonigkeit) for his mistakes recently. He wants to know more about Kitchi, which leads to Grace Emberly’s (Zoe Boyle) involvement. The Lord is not pleased about Kitchi being harboured at the storage house behind the pub. Grace is a smooth talker, but Benton makes clear she is under his thumb. He believes she’s in league with Harp, which we know at least partly to be true, they do know one another quite well. Then Benton childishly has his men search the place, any liquor without a Hudson’s Bay Company stamp to be confiscated. Most of all, Chesterfield and Grace worry about their side business with the pelts. Could mean some nasty trouble.
Along with Dimanche (William Belleau) and Sokanon (Jessica Matten), Michael as well, Declan heads to another camp to meet with Malcolm Brown. He plays the fool about the attack on the Lake Walker village. Harp now lets Malcolm in on his brother’s death at the hands of Chesterfield. * Side note: some of the dialogue here is badly written, particularly lines out of Momoa; too modern-sounding for the period.
Anyways, luckily a battle breaks out. The Lake Walkers have descended upon the Brown camp. Sokanon is a big part of Declan’s crew, even being left to take care of and “teach” Michael. She is a bad ass, and I want to see more of her! They let one of the hostage men free to follow through the forest.

Douglas Brown (Allan Hawco) finds himself beckoned, at the end of a pistol, to go and see Samuel Grant (Shawn Doyle). Hmm, intriguing. Grant wants to meet someone by the name of Carruthers, asking “nicely” for Douglas to help him. I also love Grant as a character. He comes off as the dandy-type that became so well-known in the 1800s, especially throughout London. And he is, but he also doesn’t let anyone walk over him. He is forceful, firm. He’s not a wimpy money man. Or maybe he is, though he’s got a rough right-hand man.
The Brown camp is laid to waste, as Malcolm wants to start a war. Declan instead offers him help with Chesterfield, so long as he makes peace with the Lake Walkers. Or else, y’know: death. Out in the woods, Sokanon shows Michael how to track a person. Instead of lighting a fire to keep warm she teaches Michael that body heat is good in lieu. They talk a bit about London, he talks of Clenna. He obviously loves the girl, longing to be with her again. When he mentions oranges, Sokanon doesn’t understand, which shows the large divide between her and the Old World, even the burgeoning New World close to where she lives. Hell, even Michael’s never actually eaten an orange, so even him in the midst of that Old World, and the New World too, is so far removed from a simple piece of fruit. The haves and the have-nots.
Father James Coffin (Christian McKay) is one sleazy priest, both mooching off Grace’s pub and staring at tits, drinking again unable to stay sober. While Mary (Breanne Hill) the barmaid tries to help him, Benton’s mole Imogen (Diana Bentley) pushes ale on the man. Nothing better for them than to have a drunkard around to do their bidding. Meanwhile, Chesterfield and Grace keep on sneaking, looking for a Montreal buyer for their pelts and digging into the “company ledger” to make sure everything stays hidden. I don’t like that dude, though. He’s like a snake. Just coiled, constantly, about to strike. Worse than that Imogen spies that he just met with Grace out in the storage house. Uh oh.

A deal is set to be made between Brown and the Lake Walkers. But will it go smoothly? There’s no telling, not yet.
In Montreal, Grant gets his meeting with Peter Carruthers (Peter O’Meara). They talk of the future of the fur trade. Well, Grant talks, and Carruthers marvels at what he’s seeing, a spectacle of a meeting and a speech. “Does this gentleman ever fucking shut up?” asks Carruthers. He doesn’t dig the whole thing. He isn’t interested with any of Grant’s offers. He has a business of his own. A few saucy words, a shot of liquor, and he’s gone. We start to see some of the temper in Grant come out. I don’t think Mr. Grant is used to being spoken to in such a way.
Over at the pub, Grace meets with Jean-Marc Rivard (Paul Fauteux). She’s looking to… buy his discretion. A job. She wants a letter delivered right into Samuel Grant’s very hands. Out in the storage house Imogen finds the marked barrels with the pelts inside. God damn that could get ugly for Grace. Chesterfield, too. For whatever reason though, Imogen doesn’t Benton right away about the pelts. Why not?
Michael and Sokanon track the man in the woods, getting closer in the meantime. They talk of Harp. He was with Sokanon’s sister, in love, with a family. He was a nicer man then, Declan. Then Benton’s men murdered his wife, his child. That is devastatingly tragic. “He became wild, dark,” Sokanon says. Although she says that what he seems to see in Michael is what he used to be, before all the tragedy. They track the man to where Chesterfield sits waiting by a fire; he’s promptly paid, then murdered.

Back to the camp Sokanon rushes with word about Benton and Chesterfield’s involvement re: the Lake Walker troubles. Brown is definitely not happy about any of it, either. There’s a little bit of disharmony between Harp and Dimanche, as the latter worries about the Lake Walker response, Machk especially.
Imogen reveals herself to Grace, this is why she hasn’t said a word about the pelts. Seeing the pub owner stand up to Benton gave her hope; good woman! Maybe now this will help Ms. Emberly escape further trouble with the rotten Lord.
Douglas receives Carruthers at his place. In the shadows, Cobbs Pond (Greg Bryk) appears. He has a gun belonging to Carruthers. After a bit of playing around Pond puts a bullet through the man’s eye. He leaves poor Douglas with the clean-up.

When the Okimaw of the Lake Walker tribe receives Malcolm with an apology for any troubles, the reveal of Benton’s involvement, she isn’t happy. Although Malcolm makes clear he isn’t at fault. Okimaw decides to “look to the future” and accepts peace. Machk doesn’t like any of the supposedly peaceful meeting with Brown. He and his crew decide that Brown must pay. They knock Harp down, taking Malcolm in their grip. They want to kill him. Maybe Declan, as well.
But the Okimaw agrees then to let Machk take the title, to lead. He wants Declan out, all of his people. To which Harp submits, but warns: “You wont be Okimaw for long.”

Another exciting episode. Really loving the series, it gets better and grows on me with each passing chapter. Lots to get excited for. Up next is “Wolves” and I think Michael Smyth and Harp both will be getting lots of time, more than usual. Their relationship, the one that’s budding, is intriguing and should offer plenty of narrative fun.