Previously on Jamestown: Verity is so shaken by the death of a man she barely talked to that she decides to start stealing things all around the settlement. Jocelyn, rather than maybe talking about her obvious issues with her friend, decides to use Verity’s thieving skills for her own benefit and grab some blackmail material on Temperance Yeardley. Silas heads off upriver to look for his suddenly not-dead brother, but little does he know that Henry has returned to Jamestown, with a sack full of silver he found out in the woods. (Need more details? Read our full recap of Episode 6.)
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.
A lot of things happen in the seventh episode of Jamestown Season 1. It’s just unfortunate that most of them involve a character we barely know and that many (most?) of us actively dislike, all at the expense of the stories we were watching in the last installment. Episode 7 does pick up where we left off, with Henry Sharrow’s triumphant return to the settlement, sporting an elaborate burn scar and a large sack of a silver on his back. It kind of makes sense that most of the episode is dedicated to him. We haven’t seen him interact with any of these characters since the series’ first episode, and he’s literally carrying a game changer (vast riches) on his back. This, however, presumes that Henry’s story is something we want to see – or should want to see – and Jamestown hasn’t exactly done the greatest job of explaining why we should feel that way.
After all, lest we forget, Henry is a rapist. That’s actually the first solid character trait we ever learned about the man. And despite this episode’s vague attempt at penance – Verity gets to spit on him, James Read threatens him, Henry himself promises to “stay away” from Alice – the dirtbag doesn’t exactly behave like a man that feels sorry for very much. This is one of those instances where an actual apology probably would have gone a long way. Or at least a palpable sense of guilt. Instead, we see more of a Henry who wants to force the townsfolk – particularly the nobles – to take him seriously and treat him as an equal, now that he has money. He occasionally looks upset (or at least conflicted) over the loss of the wife he was promised, or sad about the scars that now cover one side of his face. I’m just not sure why we’re supposed to care about either of those things.
At least Alice gets the opportunity to try to get some justice for what happened to her. Of course Redwick and Farlowe don’t take her rape accusation seriously and basically twist her words around to imply that she herself was somehow at fault. (And man it’s depressing how little has changed in four hundred years in regards to this issue.) Since she’s a good and decent person at heart, Alice is equally incapable of stabbing a man to death in cold blood. So naturally when she’s presented with the opportunity to put us all out of our misery and kill Henry, she can’t do it. Instead, she runs off in tears, as Henry watches her with what is presumably supposed to be a pensive and possibly regretful look on his face.
To be honest, Jamestown’s attempt at rehabilitating Henry has been incredibly hamfisted thus far. From his decision to not let Davy die in a ravine a couple of episodes ago to his heroic rescue of Mercy from a burning building this week, the show seems to think that it’s enough to show us Henry choosing to do a good or selfless thing, rather than make amends for the selfish and damaging actions he’s already done.
Alice’s life will never be the same thanks to what he did to her. And the show can’t erase that. But Jamestown could make Henry a little bit more self-aware. If we have to watch Alice literally trembling and crying with fear, perhaps we could also see him acknowledge how much he’s truly damaged her life, rather than mouth ridiculous platitudes about how his scarred face will forever remind him what a bad person he is. Shut up, Henry. Thanks for saving Mercy’s life and all, but still.
On the plus side, Henry’s dreams of becoming a rich Jamestown noble don’t exactly work out. After a couple of days of basically being treated like Superman by the local townspeople and getting sucked up to by everyone from Redwick and Farlowe to the Governor himself, he clearly feels pretty untouchable. (As evidenced by his refusal to turn over any portion of the silver to the benefit of the Virginia Company or disclose where he found it in the first place.) For some reason, both Read and Doctor Christopher know quite a bit about silver smelting and testing, I guess because they’re characters we’ve met before in some vague capacity.
Anyway, they’re tapped to run some tests on the metal Henry’s brought back to town, and ultimately they deem the substance to be false silver. (Much like fool’s gold, it would seem.) Henry’s devastated, as it turns out that not many people seem to actually like him after all, at least if he’s not about to become ridiculously rich.
It’s kind of fun to watch – and maybe it’s this ultimate breakdown and public humiliation of Henry that will start the character on the path to becoming someone that I don’t immediately hope a tree falls on top of. Though he decides to deal with his inner pain by immediately beating the snot out of his brother, so maybe not. (But, I suppose that Silas kind of – really – deserves at least that much.) We’ll see, I guess.
Henry’s precious metal hunt takes over so much of the episode, there’s not much space for anyone else in this particular story or for much follow-up on existing plots. Beyond Jocelyn’s insistence to Temperance Yardley that the secret of the gold map is safe as long as she turns over the letter full of dark secrets from her past, Verity’s brief bout with settlement-wide thieving is not mentioned again.
It’s not clear whether the show just forgot this particular plot point or if Verity just realized that risking getting hanged over a dead boy she talked two twice is a bad idea. But, I guess we can probably just be grateful that she seems relatively back to normal, though this week’s version of Verity seems to be particularly annoyed with her constantly inebriated husband. (But at least she gets to spit in in Henry’s face!)
To be fair, Meredith is being particularly annoying at the moment, what with his 24/7 drinking and incessant Henry bootlicking. But how, exactly, did he become so fed up with the idea of having a wife? Shrug emoji, I guess. As for Jocelyn, the revelation that the Yeardley gold map is worthless robs her of her blackmail material, which means she’s in big trouble as soon as that boat from England arrives. Want to bet that’ll be during the season finale?
Thoughts on this Henry-heavy saga? What do you think of his future as a character? Let’s discuss.