Virginia 1619: English natives go to America in search of new life in what would be the first British colony in a place called Jamestown, named after King James I, well-known for the King James Bible (1610). For over ten years, only men lived there. But when the women arrive, things changed, thanks to: Alice (Sophie Rundle), Verity (Niamh Walsh) and her ladyship Jocelyn (Naomi Battrick). Fresh off the boat, they didn’t take long to make an impact in a world which is run on love, lust and power. Whilst romance and bitter feuds create conflict for the locals, they are all in this together. For better or worse, they all need each other to survive and prosper in this home away from home.
Quite honestly, I’m loving these Sky Original series. They’re coming in thick and fast. Guerrilla is one of my favourite shows of the year, as it follows police brutality in Britain during the turbulent times of the 1970s. Having seen the pilot of Riviera, I’m impressed with that too. And now I’ve seen Jamestown in full. The standard is there and Sky have potential, for sure. With Bill Gallagher (The Paradise) behind the camera, the quality of this show should not come as a shock. What did shock me after seeing the alluring trailer is how brutal and dark it is. Carnival Films (Downton Abbey) is behind this, but one thing is certain: it’s unapologetically visceral, raw and in your face.
Directed by John Alexander (Small Island) and written by Bill Gallagher, the pilot episode sees bodies burned, an ear nailed to the stocks and a harrowing unrelenting rape. Sunday afternoon Catherine Cookson, this is not. This is somewhat between a period western, a Shakespearean tragedy and Tom & Chips Hardy’s Taboo in one. At a neat eight episodes, Jamestown is inspired on the real-life British colonisation of Jamestown in the early half of the seventeenth century. Though, the creatives have decided to focus on three female leads as our point of view who add some much needed femininity to a testosterone-dominated settlement in the American South.
Our three leads are accustomed to the period genre. They’re by no means rookies and their performances prove that. Battrick (The Indian Doctor), Rundle (Peaky Blinders) and Walsh (Jekyll & Hyde) fit the genre well and all play characters that have that will to resist. After all, the will to resist comes all too natural to the human heart. When something isn’t right, humanity tends to try to do something about it. Sometimes, that takes place through political action, sometimes civil unrest and other times through murder, and that’s just a few ways. Nature finds away, it just so happens that Jamestown portrays this via a battle of wits, politics, lies and deceit, amongst other things.
From the first episode, it shows men buying brides like they’re slaves. And then this flesh for cash business is reciprocated in the finale with the coming of African slaves, chained from head to toe. It’s no secret that oppression comes in many forms. Then you’ve got characters like the battle-born Verity (Walsh) ready to punch her husband into shape. This is the drunken Meredith, played by Doctor Who’s Dean Lennox Kelly (The Shakespeare Code). She can be violent when needed, she’s a thief and has opinions. That last point is enough for the locals to concoct lies about witchcraft. If you’re pretty and female with an opinion, that’s cause enough to be burned alive.
Yet, it’s Alice who is at centre of most of the drama. She tends not to go looking for it like Verity. It normally ends up finding her. She’s part of an intense season of events, including a love triangle with her her brute of a fiancée Henry (Max Beesley) and his younger brother Silas (Stuart Martin). During this, the well-to-do Jocelyn is playing her own political games by stacking the men in charge playing Jamestown Jenga for fun. Seriously, Jocelyn has the political instincts of a velociraptor and she swiftly became my favourite character. She has courage and let’s not forget to mention that she plays man and wife in her marriage to her near-useless husband Sam Castell (Gwilym Lee).
Whilst other characters such as religious fanatic Little Bo Creep AKA Temperance Yeardley have their own schemes, Sir George (Jason Flemyng) gets strung up doing good. No thanks to the antics of his right hand, Farlow (Burn Gorman). Nonetheless, with this variation of talent comes great performances and cinematography to wow. Will there be a season two? I bloody hope so.
This is the Mother’s Grimm of period dramas, and there will be trouble from me if they don’t do a second season