Previously on Jamestown: Chacrow moves into Jamestown to work for Yeardley and kill Silas Sharrow, on the orders of the Pamunkey chief. Silas seems weirdly fine with this, but it all turns out fine anyway, since Chacrow can’t do it after he has some sort of religious experience while watching Meredith Rutter try to drunkenly commit suicide in a fit of guilt over driving his adopted son Tam away. Elsewhere, Joss drugs Crabtree and figures out that he’s got the King’s Seal, which means he’s actually the most powerful man in the colony, and not just a weirdo who likes to sell furniture no one asked for.
Season 3 is so strange, y’all. And this episode isn’t any different. It's not clear where it's going, and it's certainly not nearly as fun as it used to be.
No matter how much we as viewers may enjoy Pedro and Maria as characters; Jamestown has never been the sort of show that’s going to handle the issue of the birth of slavery in the American colonies with any sort of nuance. But the idea that Yeardley deciding to pass the two of them down in his will like a hope chest being the bridge too far for everyone in the colony when he’s been treating them like he owns them since they arrived there in literal chains is wild. Was anybody paying attention?
Maybe we’re supposed to believe that Verity and James and literally everyone else thought they were just hardcore indentured servants when the governor shoved a brand into Maria’s face last season for running away, I don’t know. But Jamestown has long tried to have it both ways on this issue, wanting the “gritty realism” of inserting slaves into the story without treating the issue with any real level of seriousness.
Which, for the most part, has been okay, largely because the show has focused on other stories, and things like Maria’s brand, Yeardley’s insistence that she and Pedro breed, and even the pair’s failed escape attempt a few weeks ago have basically been forgotten as soon as they happened. Jamestown has barely even discussed slavery as an ethical or moral issue until right now.
And no, putting together a clunky metaphor involving a broken timepiece does not count.
It’s difficult not to wonder how much better this story might have been had the entirety of it carried the intensity of Pedro’s realization that the powerful man he pinned all his hopes on views him as little more than a sentient piece of furniture that he can pass down to his children. An idea which he justifies using Biblical Scripture. This is all shocking and horrifying to us, yes, but these were hardly uncommon ideas during the time period. Not that we would necessarily know this from Jamestown, as the show at the moment feels more interested in Maria’s bizarre prophecy dreams than really reckoning with the fact that the colonists – including many characters we like – are busy building their futures on the backs of slaves.
(Part of this problem is that the show has never bothered to even given any of the other slaves names, let alone identifiable characteristics, so for all intents and purposes Maria and Pedro are just two other characters, with slightly more horrifying lives.)
Maria decides that the road to freedom involves making Yeardley go insane by telling him made up dream visions, which is a fairly dumb twist on the surface, but I’m down for anything that causes this monster to suffer, so why not?
Elsewhere, Crabtree continues to be the most irritating and least interesting character. Instead of telling Redwick and Yeardley to jump in the river, he allows himself to be bullied, arrested and have his trading charter ripped up. He’s being all Olenna Tyrell-ish about his time in prison, quietly manipulating people into doing his bidding, which all seems to involve sending someone to track down the men who crewed slave ship that brought Pedro and Maria to Virginia.
The point of this secret mission is not entirely clear, because it’s not like this random dudes are going to suddenly undo the concept of slavery in the colonies, no matter how much people like Jocelyn and James Read genuinely seem to dislike it. What, exactly, these men will provide that will somehow free Pedro and Maria, let alone the other slaves in the colony, is a complete mystery, no matter how emotionally invested Joss and James are to finding them.
Sure, maybe they’ll prove that Yeardley is terrible. But, it’s not like they’re likely to set any of the settlement’s slaves free. And we all already know Yeardly is terrible, as should anyone who witnessed him behead a man that he once called a friend.
Perhaps it’s the fact that the bulk of this installment is centered on human bondage that makes every other subplot feel pointless at best and vaguely exploitative at worst. Meredith’s tied up in a barn drying out, Verity’s not speaking to her husband, and Chacrow has apparently changed religions in a single night. Mercy and Pepper’s fling is ongoing, and Silas and Chacrow have patched up their bromance. That is well and fine, I suppose, but it all feels sort of pointless next to everything going on with Pedro and Maria.
Now Joss, Pedro, Verity and James are all heading down the river to Gloaming Creek, ostensibly to find these mariners, bring runaway boy Tam back to the colony and...solve the problem of slavery? The ultimate goal of this trip, and what either Pedro or Jocelyn think they’ll be able to do is unclear. And even if Pedro does somehow manage to figure out a way to force Yeardley to free himself and Maria, what of everyone else?
Thoughts on this episode of Jamestown? Is this story working for anyone? Am I being too harsh? Let’s discuss.