Previously on Jamestown: The settlement is raided for some never-explained reason by a group of warriors from the Pamunkey Indian Tribe. The locals manage to capture one of them, a brave named Chacrow who is remarkably chill about the whole process. As a show of good faith and friendship, the gang decides to take him back to his people and even though only one person in town appears to speak their language. Elsewhere, Silas gets arrested for a generally dumb and made-up reason, and Alice saves his life through bullying, sheer stubbornness and her willingness to overlook the fact that she’s for sure got proof that one of the local magistrates is a murderer. Oh, well! (Need more details? Read our full recap of Episode 3.)
Reminder: Jamestown is a Passport-exclusive series, meaning that in order to binge the whole thing now, you’ll need to be a Passport member (If you have Amazon Prime, you’ll be able to watch the series week-by-week over the course of the spring on the PBS Masterpiece channel.) Now with all that business out of the way, on with the show.
The fourth episode of Jamestown’s first season is something of a mixed bag. At times, it almost feels as though two different episodes are happening concurrently – one of which is interesting, and one of which is not. The town’s obsession with the prospect of finding gold feels tiresome more than exciting, and everyone’s immediate, white-hot interest in the hunt for a treasure map takes away from more interesting character stories happening elsewhere.
Of course, the prospect of settlers finding gold mines near Jamestown feels preposterous on the face of it for me anyway, as a person who grew up within a forty minute drive of the historical site of the town and spent multiple school trips there. Yes, the early Virginia settlements had something of a gold rush atmosphere in their early days. But not because actual gold happened to be nearby. No, it was tobacco – and all that empty land to grow it on – that appealed to these early Virginians, because the crop could generate immediate and sizeable windfall profits for those who shipped it back to England. There was something of a gold rush in Jamestown, California, however. Maybe Jamestown’s British showrunners just got a bit confused for a moment?
This glaring historical weirdness is probably the reason half this episode grates so strongly, as it’s fairly difficult to care about the madcap search for a precious metal you know does not exist. On the plus side, these folks are apparently so motivated to find the map that might lead to this purported treasure that someone is willing to indulge in some light grave robbing to get their hands on it, and that is precisely the sort of ridiculousness I love. GRAVE ROBBING, y’all. And no one in town seems at all concerned about this at any point! Whew.
The robbed grave in question belonged to a former governor whom everyone believes had a Portuguese treasure map that led to some gold mines in the area. There’s really no explanation provided as to why everyone believes this map or the supposed gold exist, particularly given the fact that I don’t actually think the Portuguese ever actually made it to Virginia in the sixteenth century. But what’s a little gross historical inaccuracy between friends? Honestly, if this particular plot were better – or at least more fun to watch – I probably wouldn’t mind this at all. But it’s not, so I do.
Anyway, despite the fact that there is literally no way for a Portuguese map of a place they never visited to exist, the entire town goes a little nuts over the prospect of finding it. The former governor died on his way back to Virginia, so no one knows precisely what happened to the rumored map. Everyone wants it now though, and drama predictably ensues.
Redwick and Farlowe think Henry Sharrow had it, and that’s why he and Silas went off on that weird trip upriver in the series’ first episode. Jocelyn, who is obsessed with the idea of the map despite the fact that she and her husband already appear to be comparatively very well off in the settlement, thinks Farlowe knows something about where it is. She bullies her husband Samuel into spying on the other man and steals a sheaf of papers from his home herself, convinced they’re written in invisible ink. The real lesson here, is that Jocelyn needs a hobby.
You know who else needs a hobby? Henry Sharrow. Instead of rejoicing that he is a.) still alive and b.) magically only partially disfigured despite his entire body being set on fire, Henry’s still brooding about finding gold. Henry, obviously, is an idiot. And a rapist, in case anyone forgot. Anyway, Henry teams up with Davy, a random former Jamestown resident who is also now living with the Pamunkey tribe. Though they both suspect each other of lying about the gold and even get in a physical fight about it, the two decide to head upriver together and continue their search. (Henry apparently “remembers” a map a jeweler once drew for him in the dirt, so they should be totally good to go, right?
Happily, more entertaining stories are happening around the edges of the Road to El Dorado rip-off main plot. Silas and Alice finally decide to tie the knot after what was apparently weeks of living in sin out on their farm. But, hey, the two of them look over the moon to be making things official, and Jocelyn gives them a cow because she’s rich and apparently they haven’t had one up until this point. It’s all very sweet– Jocelyn’s Upstairs,Downstairs-style friendship with Alice is adorable – and exactly what I tune into a show like this to watch.
However, for the third episode in a row, local blacksmith James Read is a mega creep. This week, he’s busy pouting over Alice and Silas’ wedding. Why, I have no idea, as Alice’s one defining character trait thus far has been that she wants to be with Silas. So, it kind of makes no sense that Read’s still somehow keeping this particular dream alive, but, here we are. He’s so Mad Online about it all that he takes it out on Yeardley himself when the governor stops by to get his horse re-shod. This involves him punching the governor of the settlement and pretty much immediately getting arrested and sentenced to death.
Luckily for Read, Redwick and his justice system can’t seem to do anything right and try to hang him with a rope that’s too long. (I can’t believe a guy is being hanged for punching the governor either, but I guess justice in the colonies was wild.) The extra slack means he doesn’t die immediately and as he’s flailing around choking, Alice has time to convince Governor Yeardley that killing the settlement’s only blacksmith is a Bad Look and might inconvenience his life. So he relents and lets Read apologize instead of die and everything turns out okay in the end except for the part where he walks straight up to Alice afterward and tells her he loves her. Read the room, my dude!
The episode ends with the promise of better stories to come: Silas and Alice’s new cow gets killed during the night because these two can’t catch a break, and the governor’s wife is busily poking around into Jocelyn’s shady background in England because she hates her. So, fingers crossed for more drama next time!
What did you all think of this episode of Jamestown? Let’s discuss in the comments!