REVIEW: Sky 1’s Jamestown is the fresh take on the Western genre we desperately needed
There are enough Westerns in the television landscape that it’s easy to forgive someone for not getting excited for yet another. And yet, Jamestown really is something worth getting excited about. It is what we’ve been waiting unknowingly for – a fresh new perspective on a very tired genre.
The series, which is set in the first permanent British settlement on American soil – Jamestown, Virginia – follows three very different women as they navigate their new lives. Each has chosen to marry one of the settlers in Jamestown, though for different reasons. There’s Jocelyn (Naomi Battrick), an upper-class and politically-savvy woman, who has arrived to marry a man she met in Oxford and is horrified by the settlement she sees. There’s Alice (Sophie Rundle), a farm girl who has agreed to marry a violent stranger but finds herself rather taken by his attractive younger brother. And then there’s Verity (Niamh Walsh), a rebellious young woman who finds out she’s due to marry the worst of the worst – the drunkard, Meredith.
Jamestown‘s strengths are in the unique and vibrant personalities of these three women, who have fully fleshed out characters from the off, and their interactions with their future husbands and each other. Jamestown plays a beautiful game of contrasts, juxtaposing the practical Alice with the fiery Verity and the manipulative Jocelyn. Alice struggles with her new affianced, while Verity wants to fight the system and Jocelyn plays her beau, Samuel, like a fiddle. Despite their differences, there’s a beautiful sort of harmony when all three are brought together – women who are united and looking out for each other’s interests. Somehow, it really, really works.
It doesn’t shy away from the harsh reality of the period, and yet life never feels hopeless. Jamestown highlights a period where wives could be commodities sold to men. It is very much a man’s world in which Jocelyn, Alice and Verity live – and yet one never feels, while watching them, they are completely powerless. They are strong, three-dimensional women, who talk to each other and support one another as best they can.
As one would expect, the drama in Jamestown is intense – sexual assault, attempted murder, it’s all there. There’s a lot of action, there’s a lot of romance (real and pretend), and there’s some plenty to keep one’s eyes glued to the screen. It’ll be the feminism, however, that is my reason for staying.