'Jamestown' Recap: Season 1, Episode 3

Gwilym Lee and Naomi Battrick in "Jamestown" (Photo: Carnival Films Ltd 2017)

Previously on Jamestown: Some of the men in Jamestown – namely the generally terrible Redwick and Farlowe – decide that the women of the settlement are getting too uppity for their own good, a problem they decide to handle by demonstrating how easily they could have one of them accused of witchcraft. Of course that person is Verity, who does nothing to help her own cause by openly talking about how worthless her drunk husband is, cursing local men who annoy her and rejoicing in the illness of her enemies. Girl, come on. Elsewhere, Alice is struggling to fend off the unwanted advances of local blacksmith James, who has decided he deserves to marry her because he can pay off her original travel debt. Men are gross, you guys! Luckily, Jocelyn swoops in to save both her friends at the last minute, by virtue of being both clever and quite rich. Girl power forever, y’all. (Need more details? Read our full recap of Episode 2.)

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 third episode of Jamestown is, quite frankly, less interesting than the two that have come before it, and the reason for that seems pretty obvious. It’s primarily about the men. What makes this series interesting is its focus on the women involved – how they react to this harsh new world, and how they navigate life in a society where the men possess even more power than they did back home. This installment, unfortunately, focuses largely on the men of Jamestown, several of whom are either such jerks or so impossibly stupid that it’s impossible not to at least vaguely hope that the ladies overthrow them all and establish a matriarchy.

Not even a skirmish with the local Native American population can perk up this largely slow hour. It does at least finally introduce us to the Pamunkey Indian Tribe, but the settlers’ interactions with them are so bizarre that it’s not entirely clear how they’ve managed to stay alive in this land for the better part of a decade. The episode kicks off with a surprise raid by the natives in the middle of the night, which is never fully explained in any way. What were the Pamunkey there for? Did they actually take anything? Why does Jamestown have all these high walls if there is apparently no gate or any sort of functioning guard system whatsoever? No one seems terribly interested in figuring any of this out.

Niamh Walsh and Dean Lennox Kelly as Verity and Meredith in "Jamestown" (Photo: Carnival Films Ltd 2017)

Niamh Walsh and Dean Lennox Kelly as Verity and Meredith in "Jamestown" (Photo: Carnival Films Ltd 2017)

The settlers manage to take a Pamunkey warrior captive, and everyone’s convinced he was either there to steal women or guns or both. Everyone wants to cut his hands off, because that’s a totally rational response to the situation, until the governor points out that, hey, they all kind of have to live with these people in the future, so maybe mutilating natives isn’t a cool plan. Instead, he wants to know where the warrior got the musket he was waving around earlier.

Silas, of course, is the only man who can speak the natives’ language – which is a plot twist that both makes sense (he and his brother did trade with the Pamunkey extensively) and is deeply stupid (how has no one else learned how to do this in all this time?) Anyway, he helpfully translates for the imprisoned native, who remains so remarkably chill about the entire process that you might think he’d gotten himself captured on purpose. He did not, however, even though that that would have been a much cooler plot twist than the rest of this episode.

Way too much back and forth is spent on the settlers’ arguing about what to do with their prisoner, whose name as it turns out is Chacrow, before they finally decide to take him back to his own people, as a show of good faith and friendship. Redwick, for some reason, really dislikes this, as he seems deeply invested in going to war with every native tribe in Virginia. But he’s planning to kill the captive on the journey by staging a fake escape, apparently hoping that it all sparks off some sort of conflict with the local tribes. Given that the Jamestown residents can’t even figure out that having a gate with a door that closes is a good idea, I don’t feel too great about their odds here, but Redwick would probably just dismiss me as a woman who doesn’t know anything.

Kalani Queypo as Chacrow in "Jamestown" (Photo: Carnival Films Ltd 2017)
Kalani Queypo as Chacrow in "Jamestown" (Photo: Car nival Films Ltd 2017)

The group’s journey to visit the Pamunkey doesn’t exactly go as planned when Redwicke’s plan to murder their prisoner backfires and Chacrow escapes. They also haven’t brought an interpreter along, so they have to rely on the Pamunkey translator to explain that they totally meant it when they originally said they weren’t going to stay in Virginia long, but now they’ve found out how great the land is they’re going to stick around. Oh, and bring over more women and have children and stuff, so they should probably all work out a plan to get along. The natives seem less than impressed by the governor’s speech on these topics, so maybe Redwick will get his inexplicable wish for war sooner rather than later.  

It would be lovely if Jamestown had a clearer POV on this issue, as its an interesting topic to explore. The settlers have lied and they are basically planning on growing their numbers and pushing the native peoples out. At the moment, the show doesn’t seem terribly interested in interrogating the meaning behind that attitude, but I sure wish it did.

In other dumb plots, a local magistrate named Massenger frames Silas for conspiracy to sell weapons to the natives because the younger Sharrow won’t sell him some of the land he just received. Silas can’t really defend himself since he did just take that shady trip upriver with Henry that he can’t explain, so he decides that laying down and waiting to be hanged is his best play. Alice, of course, takes it upon herself to prove his innocence, which involves a lot of pointless arguments with blacksmith James Read, because she’s convinced he knows something he isn’t saying. Of course he does know something he isn’t saying, but would prefer not to go public with it to protect his own livelihood and also on the off chance Alice will marry him after Silas is dead. Spoiler alert: Men are trash!

Stuart Martin as Silas Sharrow in "Jamestown" (Photo: Carnival Films Ltd 2017)
Stuart Martin as Silas Sharrow in "Jamestown" (Photo: Carnival Films Ltd 2017)

Here’s the thing. So much of this episode is driven by the choices of the male characters of Jamestown. Most of those choices are less than brilliant ones, and we’re given little to no context on why they make them. Why is James Read so obsessed with Alice? Why does Redwick want to fight everybody? Why is Dr. Christopher’s behavior so confusing? Why does Farlowe hate anyone female so much? These characters certainly lack the nuance and internal conflicts of Jamestown’s women, and it makes them so much less interesting to watch.

To her credit, Alice refuses to take Silas’ getting framed for a crime he didn’t commit lying down. While her boyfriend mopes in jail, Alice gets busy bullying James Read into admitting he knows some incriminating information about the Massenger guy whose accused Silas. Because this show is wild, it turned out Massenger straight up murdered a dude and buried his body somewhere on his plantation. And James knows this because he saw him digging the grave, yet didn’t feel the need to say anything to the authorities either then or now, even when he knows an innocent man’s life is on the line. Reminder: James is trash.

So Alice spends a couple of days digging holes completely at random all over Massenger’s property, searching for a dead body she knows is there somewhere. This spooks the dude so badly that he drops all charges against Silas, if it’ll make Alice stop. Leave it to a woman to save the day again.  (Admittedly, I’m a bit disturbed that once Alice gets Silas free, neither she nor he seem terribly concerned that they now know for sure that Massenger is a murderer who got away with it but I guess love makes you selfish.)

The men of Jamestown make me tired. Can we at least make sure that the women get equal time in the next episode? Let’s discuss all this in the comments.

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Twitter at @LacyMB