Frontier - Season 3 Review - Spoilers! By Darthlocke (November 28, 2018, 3:52 pm)
Jason Momoa returns as his his rugged Half-Irish, Half-Cree Declan Harp, battling it out within the fur trade underworld against the British imperial Hudson Bay Company across the yet to be fully realized Canadian landscape on the third season of Discovery Canada's and Netflix-distributed, Frontier. Mini-Recap:
Last season elevated a lot of the first season's plots, as Declan Harp struggled at first to survive from his injuries, while a bounty on his head made it harder to reestablish his Black Wolf Company, when Micheal Smyth (Landon Liboiron) believes they can undertake a risky criminal enterprise by stealing a lot fur pelts from the Hudson Bay Company, after Harp makes a deal to sell it to Mrs. Currathers (Katie McGraph).
Clenna (Lyla Porter-Follows) finds herself a bit "gimpy" at first, working in the Currathers' factory, until she finds herself restored by the pursuits of Samuel Grant (Shawn Doyle) and his lover-associate Cobbs Pond (Greg Byrk), whom attempt to make Clenna a Lady in hopes of securing business with a French Marque. Sokanon (Jessica Matten) finds herself torn between her feelings for Micheal and her once betrothed, until later Clenna accidentally makes sure she doesn't have a choice, while Sokanon also finds herself torn between Declan Harp's company and helping a young girl escape prostitution.
Grace Emberly (Zoe Boyle) couldn't quite commit to her new husband and new Fort James Governor, Jonathan Chesterfield (Evan Jonigkeit), as he began to threaten Grace by turning her Ale House into a brothel, leaving Imogen (Diana Bentley) to cease some opportunities, while Mary (Breanne Hill) finds herself becoming an unsuspecting feminine fatal. But to try and change the circumstances, Grace journeys to Montreal, where she confides some interesting truths about her father to the as always entertaining Rivard (Paul Fauteux).
Mrs. Currathers finds herself enjoying her new husband, Douglas Brown (Allan Hawco), but not without revealing a bond with factory worker Josephette (Karen LeBlanc), after she is brutally bludgeoned to death, when she has Cobbs arrested and verbally pushes Grant way too far, leaving her business split between Douglas, Josephette, and some yet to be introduced solicitor!
And lastly Lord Benton, now a prisoner on his way back to England, makes two new allies, whom are manipulated into starting a mutiny followed by him taunting the water supply with dead rats, resulting in his release and returning back to Fort James, where he then captures Grace and returns with her to the ship, leaving Chesterfield and Harp running together in tangent after her.
Season 3 Review: If anyone thought that Frontier couldn't continue to climax with it's brutal hostility or table turning schemes, they may want to prepare themselves going into the first half of the third season.
The opening scene finds Declan, Michael, Charlie (Demetrius Grosse), and McTaggart (Jamie Sive) in the midst of a blazing battle with Red Coats burning down a Metis settlement, as Declan begins to charge against them hard after witnessing a young Metis women, no doubt reminding him of his own mother, being shot in the back, as she tried to escape though the flames. The battle accumulates to one particular scene where Declan is about to take a life of soldier whose clearly a very young man, really just a boy, only to have his traveling companions watch in moral angst. Declan lets the young man live, but makes a speech to him and the remaining soldiers about the immorality of the HBC taking Native Lands and using boys to do it. He asks them to trade in their red coats to join him in a fight against the HBC.
It's this opening scene that really sets the tone for what will be a pretentious ride on the road to salvation, as obsession or really, fanaticism, is a highlighted theme like never before, where over the course of the season, Declan's humanity is challenged and contested by his need not to fail Grace, like he did his wife and child.
Declan and Micheal part ways after the Metis skirmish with Declan asking Michael to form an alliance between all of the independent fur companies to better secure the Lake Walkers, and then take over Fort James and push out the HBC. Declan, Charlie, and McTaggart push on through a treacherous snow storm heading further north, after learning that Lord Benton has taken Grace to an unappealing and less agreeable Fort Moose, where a character from last season, Chaulk (Katheryn Wilder) acts as a decoy after trying to escape with Grace, only for Declan to walk right into a trap and so begins Chaulk becoming a ping pong ball between Declan and Lord Benton through the whole course of the season.
But from this point on the season begins to really open it's scope both in introducing a ton of new characters and some new locations, including Castle Benton residing in Scotland! The third season tries to manage a bit too much in it''s six episode block, and sometimes comes up short when some characters are neglected (Rivard, Josephette) and/or come to their ends perhaps a bit to soon (Charlie) or plots turn around a bit too fast, but in the same breath there are some rather satisfying developments when characters like Cobbs Pound, Micheal Smyth, and Malcom Brown come to try and work together in their pursuits of taking over Fort James or Mary and Sokanon team-up to stop a new key character named O'Reilly from selling unwilling women to his religious men as wives or even the romance between Douglas Brown and Clenna all felt rewarding, despite where things end for some of these characters.
The introduction of several new characters from O'Reilly (Stephen Oates) and his Native Country Wife, Kahwihta (Ellyn Jade), Lord Fisher (Jay Simpson), Fortunato (Michael Raymond James) and his crew, McTaggart's former Scottish foes turned allies, and the amazing reveal of Grace's father (Gary Lewis) at the end of episode three, all work to keep the series fresh, while secondary characters such as Vanstone (Paul Ewan Wilson), Chaulk, Kammena (Tantoo Cardinal), Mary, and Imogen either rise up taking on bigger roles to keep the plots moving, or serve as stationary fixes to preserve what Frontier has been. Even if this doesn't always work smoothly, it is a testament to Frontier's creativity and being a sort of novelty series that tends to have the historic and romantic aspirations of something like Outlander, with a heavy dollop of Game of Thrones-like brutality, battles, and sexism, and an occasional sprinkle of comical ruses, witty retort, and whimsical personality types of Pirates of the Caribbean, make it unlike any other series, giving viewers some serious bang for their buck.
A lot attention should also be given to some truly exquisite battle sequences this season. The Metis village scenes (directed by Jason Momoa) gave the opening a feeling of a passionate rage, burning with the flame imagery and being wildly captivating, much like the wild-eyed Declan, making the audience feel blood thirsty for justice, nearly forgetting ourselves until we too see the young man's face, as Declan loom's over him like a mad ravenous beast! Contrasted with the Scottish Benton Castle exterior battle scenes at the end of episode five, there is a great difference with this battle starting at dusk and going on into the deep of night. The choreography is more theatrical watching mostly Red Coats move around Harp and his men through hilly grasses with the torches the red coats carry, becoming brighter and brighter with the night setting in. It's also filmed without the normal brutal grunting sounds the characters usually make or the sounds of their weapons. Instead it's filmed with just the score, allowing the scene to seem more like a elegant dance, or a rage subsided by true integrity of an honorable plight.
The themes this season take on a heavier religious and sacrilegious tone, as mentioned it's about Declan finding salvation through saving Grace and killing Benton, themes that echoed through Grace learning that her father is alive and only having a few moments of failed reconciliation, only to be blackmailed by Benton to give a good rapport to Lord Fisher about him (and using Chesterfield as the ultimate scapegoat), which of course Benton kills her father anyways AND through plots of Sokannon caring more about people than business (or Religion used to propagate people against their wills). But what it all accumulates to for Declan is an offer from Fisher to eliminate Benton and to once more become a company man in high position, as Fisher declares Declan's son is still alive; a slave on a plantation somewhere!
But like Sokanon, Declan doesn't take the bait, but is still somewhat rewarded by finally being allowed to take Lord Benton's life in a dramatic, but intimate interior scene taking place an a hallway of Castle Benton, where although Declan meets briefly with Grace, is forced to leave her behind with Fisher, as Fisher offers him a head start while also acknowledging that their dealings are done, but with an understanding that, if Declan comes across him again, the HBC will give no quarter! It's a half-baked resolution that is mostly satisfying due to the writing allowing Declan to finally be done with Lord Benton, but leaving the door open to new pursuits, while making viewers pine over another separation between Grace and Declan once more.
And in similar fashion, lots of plots are set up for a potential fourth season. With O'Reilly's wife saving the day by lying about Vanstone. She and Sokanon depart from the celebration where Micheal, Cobbs, and Malcom have won Fort James, leaving viewers a bit heart broken for those that ship the Micheal/Sokanon pairing continuing to go unresolved, but also then the last minute showdown between Douglas Brown and Samuel Grant (whom we all probably knew from the moment he left town was going to show up and burst this bubble), makes viewers worry dangerously for Clenna, knowing it's only a matter of time before Pond finds out that his beloved is probably dead, let alone if Dougless is actually dead also, should Malcom find out and no doubt break the alliance in another possible 'Brown-Brothers' misunderstanding of believing it was Dougless that killed Grant, rather than Clenna! There are plenty of other characters whose fates are unclear and left blowing in the wind, such as Imogen who was promptly kicked out of the Ale House! (Ha!)
If you have never seen Frontier and are wondering if you should try it, I would say that despite that this is a criminally underrated series, it's also not for the fainthearted, at times being more brutal than it might actually need to be and again, like Game of Thrones, it's not afraid to kill off characters that you might of just begun to get found of, but what it does offer is a unique time period, subject matter, and landscape into a rugged unknown, full of dangerous romances & alliances, fun cons, treacherous betrayals, the contesting of family, a battle for wills, and a uniquely diverse intersectional characters one usually doesn't find in a historic period drama, let alone, not until very recently on a TV series. The cast is also another delight with Jason Moama in his best role to date!
The series has mostly good story lines, is well acted, has beautiful score (OMG, The Cree and Celtic theme song is one of the best opening title sequences!) & cinematography, and it likes to world build, but where it comes up a bit short, more so in the third season, is by not always having enough time to justify adding more and more characters with some of the quick turnover that the plots often take. (Most noticeably the Charlie-death/introduction to ship character scenes didn't sit quite right with me) Frontier would probably benefit greatly if it could get an episode or two more per season just to flesh out some of the characters and relationships to each other, but that doesn't mean that it isn't still worth watching, despite some things get glossed over.
At the end of day, Frontier's third season is transitional in nature, resolving some major story lines, leading to a rather strong season finale, while heavily positioning itself for the future of the series. It suffers for a couple of questionable plot choices and character introductions, but more so in it's pacing, but still, over all entertains greatly and continues to ambitiously world-build, while holding onto to some season one & two staples, ultimately being a formidable series in the making!
- Captain/Governor Chesterfield - Early in the season Declan claims that the last he saw of him, Chesterfield was standing "close to the edge", but later in the season Benton confirms that Chesterfield is dead and that Declan had killed him. My gut feeling is that he is not dead, in part because Benton is an absolute lair and because Declan didn't flat out say that he killed him. In addition the season didn't show us a flashback to substantiate what happened, but instead continued to name drop Chesterfield and incorporate his presence in a mash-up character confronting Declan at Fort Moose, who physically looks like the bounty hunter Declan fought with last season blended with Chesterfield's accent and HBC military role. I feel certain that this is long con and the character will pop-up eventually. Maybe he is the one who told Fisher some things??
-Mary continues to impress and rise to the occasion of killing when need be. The series, like Game of Thrones, shows us how women can get cultivated by violence to enact it themselves in order to survive. Mary is the most innocent sounding character and to see her advance has been delightful. I also really loved it when she told Imogen to get out of the Ale House and that nobody cares where she goes! I'm also wondering, even though I suspect it will be rather hard for her now, if she will get a love interest? I could see her with so many characters that would be interesting or delightful. Sokanon would surely be a surprise, since we really have had no hint of where Mary's sexuality lies. Pairing her with Cobbs or Malcolm might also be interesting, even though she probably would seem the most natural with Michael, despite I think Clenna is probably going to run back to him. Of course it's always possible that she feels deeply for Grace, which might explain one reason why the character has stuck to the Ale House and has been so loyal to her.
- The O'Reilly story line was a nice through line to Sokanon's and Mary's plots from last season, and I thought using him as key player in ridding Vanstone/HBC of Fort James and continuing to cause a riff between Sokanon and Micheal worked well, especially because of how the plot turned over in the final episode with Kahwihta becoming the hero! (She's a pretty interesting character. A kind of silent deadly. Hope she stick's around).
- Although I feel pretty certain that Grant is dead, given the sound made with Clenna's blow to his head, I'm hoping that Douglass might of made it. The blows to him sounded less impactful. He's a likable character that kept getting the short end of the stick and it would be nice to see a story line where he is more successful and paired with some of the other characters, but this could easily be wishful thinking on my part, considering that his death would prompt some interesting story lines for Clenna, as she may easily run back to Micheal for help and giving Malcolm and Cobb more excuses to not trust Michael and break the alliance.
- Although I thought her reunion with her father was interesting and an unexpected surprise, I felt Grace was bit stone walled and underused. I hope she gets to come back to the forefront again should we get another season.
- Michael Smyth no longer looks like the Robin Hood-like hero he did in previous seasons, but the pairing of him with Cobbs Pond and Malcolm Brown is one of the best dynamics of series and a great highlight of season three. Cobbs was also extra delightful. I particularly loved him all through the season three finale from drinking out of a women's shoe or swatting smoke or insects away from his face to kissing Malcolm whimsically across his cheek! Malcolm has also grown on me a great deal too however.
-At first, it was sort of odd watching Michael Raymond James play a light-hearted and festively endearing soul after quickly remembering his True Blood character's villainous murder spree during the first season. I wasn't even sure if I even liked the introduction of Fortuna and how his personality contrasted with Harp's, who was in an extra bad brooding mood for much of the season, but I found I liked him greatly by the time the season ends. I hope he survived the battle, but it seems unlikely.
- After two seasons I'm still not sure what to make of Josphette and the introduction to the solicitor. They were strung along well enough, but I hope we get more out these characters with bigger plot.
- Lord Fisher was a nice addition to cast. I'm curious what motivates him, since so far, he's relationship with Declan doesn't seem too personal, but at the same time I'm curious about his knowledge of Declan's son and if he was telling the truth about him being alive somewhere. Also he kind of reminds me of Pirates of the Caribbean's Lord Cutler Beckett character...
- Imogen is another character that seems to be here mostly as a staple, although I do think that despite that she enables some rather bad practices, she does offer an interesting perspective on how to survive prostitution and I can't deny that she's been a good survivor and I do wonder if her season four plot will end up reuniting with Chesterfield, should I be right and he is alive somewhere?
- The use of light. I don't know if it's just that I didn't notice it in other seasons, but the way light was used on things such as torches or lanterns or the way some scenes just seemed amber-lit just seemed more atmospheric and visually illuminating to me this season.
So what did you think? Enjoy the season? Have any thoughts on season 4? Do you think that Declan's son is alive somewhere? Any characters that you would love to see paired that haven't been yet? Do you think Chesterfield, Grant, Fortuna, McTaggart, and Douglas are all goners? Let us know in the comments below!