Jamestown (2017): A Gritty But Entertaining Period Drama
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TV series Review: Jamestown (2017)
Jamestown is British period drama by Sky 1, not the BBC, and follows settlers trying to start a new life in the New World. Most of these settlers are men, however, so Jamestown sets the scene with very different women – three in particular – who arrive to meet their husbands for the first time and face challenges aplenty in their new home. Season 1 of Jamestown has 8 episodes. A second season was commissioned before the first episode premiered. With the cliffhanger the first episode ends on, it’s not hard to see why.
Welcome to the New World
Aren’t you grateful that we’re the ones to come to this new world?
Jamestown is a 12-year-old settlement on the coast of Virginia and is set in 1619. The men of Jamestown are tired of toiling alone and seek the company and companionship of women. Of course, there is also the matter of procreation and securing their future legacy. The men of Jamestown, therefore, pay for and secure what is pretty much mail order brides. Multiple women from England accept their conditions and travel to the Americas to meet husbands they have never met.
Among the women is Jocelyn (Naomi Battrick), an educated, social climber with political savvy. Although betrothed to Samuel (Gwilym Lee), a gentleman in the employ of the Virginia Company, Jocelyn may be well to do, but she’s hiding a dark secret. Alice (Sophie Rundle) is from a humble background and arrives in Jamestown to meet her betrothed, the eldest brother in the Sharrow household, Henry (Max Beesley). Unfortunately, it’s Silas (Stuart Martin) she sets her eyes on first.
For Alice and Silas, it’s love at first sight. But Silas is Henry’s younger brother and he has to dutifully step aside and allow his brutish brother to marry the woman he’s silently in love with. Lastly is Verity (Niamh Walsh), a spirited, foul-mouthed, no-nonsense young woman who is betrothed to the town drunk, Meredith Rutter (Dean Lennox Kelly). Each couple is vastly different and each woman has a unique set of challenges ahead.
Also arriving in Jamestown is its new governor, Sir George Yeardley (Jason Flemyng) and his wife, who is tasked with trying to instill law and order to a town filled with good people stifled by corruption.
Gritty but Entertaining
While Jamestown is diverting, it’s not a particularly accurate representation of life at the time. For settlers in the New World, life was hard, brutal and harsh. Even more so for the locals who find themselves at the mercy of strangers. While gritty, Jamestown, however, focuses on the struggles of the aforementioned women and the trouble they seem to find while navigating their new home. There are tales of greed, jealousy, corruption, forbidden romance, revenge and of course, the birth of the Americas.
What if these men have been on their own for so long, they’re not men anymore?
This drama has heartwarming moments. The angsty romances between numerous couples are a key example. However, it’s also gritty, sometimes a little gnarly but certainly entertaining. Jamestown is similar to the failed BBC Two drama, Banished, who also told a similar story, although set in Australia. If you enjoyed Banished, you’re going to enjoy Jamestown. The storytelling is soapy at times, but its hard-hitting in many places too. So be warned. For example, a man is nailed to a pole by his ear, another burned at the stake, as well as an unfortunate rape scene. These all happen at a fairly rapid pace.
The drama does, however, have an impressive cast. Max Beesley should be no stranger to viewers and Sophie Rundle is a Peaky Blinders alum. The female cast, in particular, is very strong and it’s not hard to see how these temporarily wide-eyed strangers will eventually become crusaders in their own right. Verity is my favourite character with her street smarts and bold demeanour, but also her practicality and kindness, despite her tough exterior.
Alice is arguably at the centre of the story, as her complicated love story escalates with dangerous consequences. I found her naivety at the start of the series endearing, despite its juxtaposition with her circumstances. Less appealing is the political maneuvering, but that’s perhaps because I feel these aspects are given less consideration and therefore feel more like a parody that requires less emotional investment.
Overall, Jamestown is soapy but entertaining. Worth mentioning is the incredible cinematography. This drama is very well crafted and looks incredible on screen. There is plenty of pretty all around, however. The cast is gorgeous, including the drunken Meredith, whose layered charm grows on you with each episode.
In addition, Jamestown is also already renewed for a second season, so it’s worth getting stuck into as more episodes are guaranteed. Hopefully, the storytelling will also improve in the second season, making Jamestown a formidable period drama.
Where to Watch: Jamestown is available for purchase on Amazon (imported copy) and can be streamed on Amazon UK.
You can buy on Amazon HERE (affiliate link).
Content Note: This series is rated PG-13. Note there are scenes of moderate violence, injury detail, and implied sexual violence.
Have you watched Jamestown? If you have, what did you think? Comment below and let me know!
Photo Credit: Carnival Film & Television, Sky 1
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