Previously on Jamestown: In one of the series’ most uncomfortable episodes to date, the slave girl Maria stabs Pedro and runs away after she learns Governor Yeardley was trying to encourage her pseudo-boyfriend to make babies with her. (Spoiler alert: The Governor is disgusting!!) Verity and an injured Pedro ultimately convince Maria to return to the settlement, where she’s branded across the face for her escape attempt. Elsewhere, the show finally remembers that Henry Sharrow is a rapist and that neither his victim (Alice) nor her husband (Silas) should be treating him like anything other than trash. And Jocelyn gets publically shamed, Cersei Lannister-style, but the incident only reinforces her determination to let no man control her life again.
Reminder: Jamestown is a WETA Passport-exclusive series, meaning that in order to watch it, you’ll need to be a WETA Passport member (If you have Amazon Prime, you’ll also be able to watch the series over on the PBS Masterpiece channel.)
Season 2 of Jamestown has done its best to wrestle with more issues of consequence in its second season, from the brutal question of slavery, to the colony’s complicated relationship with the local native tribe, to the difficulties facing women trying to carve out lives for themselves outside of the world of men. It hasn’t always been successful, to be sure – frequently embracing the ridiculous and soapy in order to avoid having to wrestle with the difficult or uncomfortable. The season finale is no different, posing complicated questions that it chooses to subsequently ignore in favor of more manufactured drama. This isn’t entirely a criticism – as an episode, the story is exciting to watch and sets up some intriguing storylines for Season 3. But for every great moment – Jocelyn’s dogged determination to make her new plantation crew respect her, Alice’s sudden appearance at the Sharrow family standoff with a musket – there’s also one that…really isn’t. (Looking at you, weirdo subplot where Verity and Meredith urinate on a man and then blackmail him about it.)
The bulk of the story here focuses on Jocelyn, still determined that she won’t be forced into marrying again, no matter how many public shamings she’s made to endure. Thanks to some insider information from Farlow, she manages to blackmail Governor Yeardley into giving her Massinger’s land.
The idea of Jocelyn as a power player in her own right is a fascinating one – with her own land, crops and money not only will she not have to marry again should she choose to stay single, she’ll also likely amass some influence in how the colony is run. That puts her as an equal to many of the men in town, and is a fact that likely won’t endear her to people already disposed to dislike her or think her above herself. Of course, that’s precisely why the men in town want to take her down a peg, and have no compunction about setting her crop on fire. It’s the sort of action exactly zero of them would ever even consider against a fellow male settler, as is evidenced by the fact that even the most despicable, worthless or generally disliked of them (Massinger, Farlow, Henry Sharrow) are rarely publicly censored for anything – or if they are it’s played as a joke the townspeople are encouraged to laugh at (Meredith).
Jocelyn, of course, must not only debase herself to get men to work for her, she must suffer through being used again as a pawn in a larger game she isn’t even aware of. Yeardley and Farlow – so much for his new friendship with Joss, I guess? – decide to burn her farm for no reason other than they have power and they can. Sure, they really just want a made-up reason to attack the native tribe that’s done nothing to them. The opportunity to put an uppity woman in her place is basically just gravy. That Jocelyn refuses to be cowed by such a blatant and obvious act of hatred is admirable – and the season’s final moments indicate that she will certainly attempt to start over again though we have little idea what that future might look like for her. (Let’s at least hope Season 3 tries to explain exactly how Jocelyn is affording to eat and dress herself with no husband and a crop of ashes. The new hats are cute and all, but seriously.)
One thing Jamestown has done this season to its benefit is give itself a proper villain. Sure, the show had creepy town magistrates Farlow and Redwicke generally being terrible to everyone throughout Season 1, but Governor Yeardley’s full heel turn this year has created a much more interesting tension that resonates throughout the story. And that makes sense, as the governor is the one person who inevitably touches everyone’s lives in some way or other – so the fact that he’s turned out to be a greedy manipulator who’s willing to sabotage the very people he’s supposed to be protecting is a pretty substantial twist. And Season 2 stuck him everywhere – Yeardley’s presence is key to its slavery plot (we all knew he was never going to set Pedro free), as well as to Samuel’s murder, and the colony’s increasingly troubled relationships with the natives. He’s basically robbed from his own people, faked an enemy invasion, framed fellow colonists for crimes they didn’t commit and even hit his wife when she dared criticize one of his plans. And here we thought Henry Sharrow would forever be the villain of Jamestown.
For the record: Henry Sharrow is also still the villain of Jamestown. We can hate two men for being total garbage at the same time. And Henry is just as terrible as Yeardley is, though at least he and other members of the colony know that fact. Amd at least he manages to do the right thing on the odd occasion, such as helping his brother escape to live among the Pamunkey tribe since the governor has (falsely) branded him a traitor. Opchanacanough agrees to give Silas shelter despite the fact that like, five minutes ago, he was complaining about how the younger Sharrow brother hadn’t kept his promises to the native tribe. Anything to set up the big Season 3 arc, I guess! Here’s hoping it’s Alice and Jocelyn who really get to make the governor pay, though.
What did you think of Jamestown Season 2? What would you like to see happen when the show returns? Let’s discuss in the comments.