Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Frontier Season 1 Netflix Series Review

Frontier (2016-)
Season 1 (2016 Discover Channel Canada/2017 Netflix) - 6 episodes
Watch Frontier on Netflix
Only available in United States, Latin America, United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg 
Created by: Brad Peyton, Peter Blackie, Rob Blackie
Starring: Jason Momoa, Alun Armstrong, Landon Liboiron, Jessica Matten, Zoe Boyle
Rated: TV-MA

Jasona Momoa (Aquaman) stars as Declan Harp in a historical drama about the volatile fur trade during the late 1700's. Multiple perspectives tell the story of wealth and power as the English, French, First Nations, and a Black Wolf rebel group led by Momoa vie for control.

This is an average to good show, but it had the hallmarks of a great show. The setting is unique but is a non-factor. The story becomes a standard revenge tale that could be set anywhere. Frontier forgoes creating a bleak mood in early America that could have provided a foundation for the story, instead deciding stuffing characters into the narrative to keep the pacing quick.
This is a revenge story you will have seen before, nearly every single development. The setting is the redeeming quality of the show and that is underused. This isn't a bad show. A contemporary setting would make this completely bland, but at the same time this feels like a modern story that was superficially adapted to the 1700s.
It depends.

This period piece had a lot of promise. While it didn't live up to my expectations, it's still an okay show.
Deadwood (2004-2006) illustrates what Frontier could have been, which is great. Deadwood managed to capitalize on it's setting while still creating unique characters that didn't befall to the western stereotype. It was this more than anything I wished Frontier would do as I was watching.  The story and characters fall into a standard revenge trope. The setting isn't even that big of a factor, and it could have definitely been better utilized.

Jason Momoa is Declan Harp.
This doesn't do a good job of building the world. Showing fur trapping could provide a chance for character development and showcase the landscape. After watching this show I can't tell you how difficult and isolating a job fur trapping is, though I assume it would be. The first few scenes in The Revenant (2015) show more about fur trapping than this entire season. We see snow, but it never feels cold. Life never feels tough and it should when you're living in the woods trapping animals. Then again, when does anyone have time to do that? The show rarely slows down enough to provide character building moments. Harp and crew are able to traverse from the town into the woods in just a few minutes it seems.

Is the lack of landscape a budget issue? How do we not see wide shots of thick forests or any animals? I hate to say it, but I wish HBO had made this.

While I'm okay with the language not being period accurate, the dialog is always predictable and usually bland. I've seen this revenge tale before across various formats. The villain is supposed to be a business man but just twirls his proverbial mustache. It's a show about fur trapping created by people who didn't research the topic past fur traders wear fur.

Lord Benton (Alun Armstrong) overseeing the lashing of a man.
The core of the show is the feud between Declan Harp (Jason Momoa) and Lord Benton (Alun Armstrong). Momoa is perfect for the role, an imposing and violent figure against Benton's proper Englishman. They used to work together and now are at war. What happened between them will be revealed by the end of the season.

The first episode introduces almost too many concurrent stories, with the first scene firmly establishing the level of blood and violence to be expected. It's not bad to have multiple stories, but these are scattered and trite. Focusing on Harp and building his story and life first would have better served the entire season. I would love to see a day in his life as he traps animals. We never get anything like that.

Michael Smyth (Landon Liboiron)
Michael Smyth (Landon Liboiron) is Harp's ally. Lord Benton sends Michael to infiltrate Harp's group. I'm sure you can guess what happens next. We see far too many characters, more names than I can remember. The plotting for the businessmen that want to rule the fur trade is a mess.

I really like the opening credits. Maps and figurines representing each of the warring factions are juxtaposed to music that mixes modern instruments with chanting.

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