Previously on Jamestown: The presumed dead Henry Sharrow reappeared in Jamestown, carrying a bag of metal he claimed was silver and ready to rub his newfound riches in the face of everyone who was ever mean to him. The show makes vague efforts to convince us that there’s more to Henry than a disgusting rapist, despite the fact that it refuses to grant Alice any real justice. Henry’s dreams of a riches are dashed, however, when it turns out his metal is false silver. This revelation manages to kill the gold rush in Jamestown entirely, which is something we can probably all be grateful for. Unfortunately for Jocelyn, however, it also ruins her blackmail material against Temperance Yeardley, so she now has no leverage against that incoming letter full of dark secrets about her past. (Need more details? Read our full recap of Episode 7.)
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 Season 1 finale of Jamestown does a pretty good job of wrapping up most of the current crop of outstanding story, all while setting the series toward something of a darker path for its second season. The episode’s final moments introduce slaves to the colony, and while slavery is completely permissible in the settlement, it appears that the bulk of the colonists see the practice for the abomination it is. With the tobacco prices set thanks to Jamestown’s newly formed General Assembly, it appears that the presence of slaves may be the next big flashpoint among the colony’s residents. (Though I initially predicted the settlers’ relationships with the Native Americans would play a much larger role in this season than they ultimately have, so, who knows.)
This new group of slaves is purchased by generally terrible human being Massinger, that local landowner who spent most of the season harassing the Sharrows about their farm. This week, he takes his harassment of Silas to the next level, threatening to cut the price on the tobacco he ships back to England so much that it impoverishes Silas and his family. (Seriously, isn’t this kind of a serious overreaction just because one guy wouldn’t sell him some land? Sheesh) The Sharrows figure a way out of the situation thanks largely to Henry, who wakes up from his silver depression coma after a heartfelt plea from Alice to save their family.
This scene, along with her confession that she’s pregnant should be sweet. But it’s still hard to reconcile this moment – and the fact that Silas seems remarkably chill about allowing the man who raped his wife to crash at their house – with the fact that Henry’s done very little by way of penance or apology for his horrific actions. It’s so nauseating to be asked to root for this man, show, and I don’t know the best way to fix that. I hope y’all figure it out in Season 2.
Anyway, despite his recent public humiliation over the false silver, Henry nevertheless manages to talk the other settlers into forming a union of sorts and agreeing to vote together to make a law that requires a set price for all tobacco exported from the colony. Huzzah! I guess?
Elsewhere, Jocelyn’s having a mild breakdown over the fact that Temperance Yeardley’s literal ship has come in. Yes, the governor’s wife finally received her long awaited correspondence from her cousin back home, and Jocelyn assumes that her enemy now knows all of her darkest secrets, like that time she poisoned a guy. Convinced that her death by hanging is imminent, Jocelyn decides to live her best life for as long as possible. Given that this is Jamestown, her only real option in that regard is getting blackout drunk at Meredith Rutter’s tavern.
While this sequence is deeply ridiculous, it ultimately reminds us what’s actually interesting about this show. And that’s the relationships between the women. Because after Jocelyn’s drinking binge, both Verity and Alice step up to help her, despite the fact that this woman doesn’t seem to have actually spoken to either of them in weeks. But the sisterhood that Alice speaks of, the bond forged between the three of them on the journey to America and after months in the New World, is real. My most heartfelt wish is that Jamestown focuses more on this dynamic in Season 2, because it’s the leaps and bounds ahead of almost every other part of the show. These women really are at their best when they’re together.
After Jocelyn sobers up, Alice volunteers to run interference for her with Mrs. Yeardley, which she does, admirably. She explains that she herself understood the rage that her friend must have felt before she poisoned that boy, the exhaustion that comes along with the fear that you’ll never see justice done for the things that happened to you. This scene is strangely cathartic, especially given all the justice we haven’t seen Alice herself receive. Yet, it turns out to be completely unnecessary – or does it? Yes, Alice manages to blow up her BFF’s secret by detailing her murdering past to the very woman who hates her. (Temperance’s letter only mentioned Jocelyn had once been done wrong by a man.) But, surprise, Mrs. Yeardley finds Alice’s confession of Jocelyn’s crimes extremely moving, in that it bonds them all together in that kind of sisterhood we talked about earlier – the age-old one comprised of women who’ve been done wrong by men. Temperance may be pious, and she may be a settlement figurehead, but she understands how hard the world can be for women, and that sometimes all they can do is show up for one another.
There’s a random moment in the middle of the finale, when James Read mentions he plans to mail order himself a wife from England, the same way Meredith, Samuel and Henry did. Here’s hoping this throwaway line indicates some larger plans afoot, and that more women will arrive in the colony for Season 2. Jamestown is at its best when it’s telling stories about the different ways its women must navigate this harsh and bizarre world they now inhabit. Adding more female characters allows us to see increasingly different takes on these stories, and offers better opportunities for the women who are already part of this one. (And I think we can all agree: Verity deserves something better than rotating stints as the town thief and tavern wench.)
Let’s hope Season 2 can deliver.