Review of Jamestown TV Series

Review of Jamestown TV Series

In case you haven’t heard, a new colonial show about the Jamestown Colony is out, created by Downtown Abby creator of Carnival Films. Established in 1607, the colony is made up of mostly men who have survived the starving time and the Indian uprisings. The show is set in 1619 and opens with three women sailing into the colony, full of dreams and a determination to start fresh lives. For the first time, they meet the men who have paid for their passage and learn who they are bound to marry.

Location of 1607 Jamestown settlement
View of the actual location of the 1607 Jamestown settlement.

My Review of the Jamestown Show

*Spoiler Alert” 
As with most films “based on true events,” this show is a hybrid of true historical accuracies and some not-so-true. Most of the costumes, setting, language and overall English customs are accurate for the time period, but there are moments where a character might say or do something that is questionable in regard to the early 1600’s.

While there hasn’t been any nudity (yet), there is one rape scene early in the show, a lot of lewd conversation at the tavern, and some violence with a man nearly burning to death and others fighting. This is not a wholesome, family-friendly show, so I caution those who are sensitive to such things to carefully consider these issues before watching it. There are significant betrayals and the few characters who show faith-based tendencies have questionable motivation–and could be considered hypocritical. This is definitely a secular show, so this review is to help you determine if this is something you would like to watch.

The series shows how women were often viewed and taken for granted during this time period, but it goes overboard at times. For instance, since these colonists were part of a men-only settlement for 12 years, they would have most likely tried to be on their best behavior after the women arrived–at least for a little while. Another historical issue is the fact that these women are bold and rebellious–too much so–to a fault. In real life, even the most rebellious woman in 1619 would not likely be as bold as some of these women. The harsh punishments would have been too scary and difficult for a life that was already harsh.

The main three women characters are shown in the video below, Alice, Verity, and Joycelyn. The storyline highlights their limited options, and the fear they face if unmarried, widowed, or worse, married to a brutal husband.

About Verity

Red-headed Verity is a fiesty, high-spirited woman who likes to tease the townspeople with her sarcastic, street-wise wit. Her tongue is like a two-edged blade that gets her into trouble more often than not. In one episode she is accused of witchcraft, and not even her cunning ways can save her, so a friend comes to her aid. Her husband is a drunken tavern owner who only wants to be loved, but he quickly realizes she is more than he can handle.

About Alice

Brown-headed Alice seems to be sensible and fair, but the man who purchased her is a tobacco farmer who is brutal and abusive. Alice’s dilemma grows as she falls in love with his brother, and she becomes the division between them as he is forced to witness her abuse. Meanwhile, Alice becomes the focused target of the town’s blacksmith, and she is constantly discouraging his advances. He vows he will eventually make her fall in love with him, by “killing her with kindness”.

About Joycelyn

Joycelyn has a terrible secret from her past that, if found out, she’s afraid will hinder her progress in the new world. She tries her best to ensure no one learns of this secret, even if she has to intercept all correspondence to and from England to the governor’s wife. Joycelin’s husband is a self-conscious man who is determined to do the right thing–always–which infuriates Joycelyn when she risks so much for him to gain political power. She is a master at manipulation–especially at manipulating men. Sometimes she uses subtle seduction, other times she outwits them with her cunning skill, and in other instances, she solicits the help of Verity and Alice.

Other Characters

In the first season, there are no children in the colony, but I expect that to change as the show goes on. More colonists keep arriving and so the cast is expected to grow and change with new characters. Nicholas Farlow is a gentleman character who goes around planting seeds of discord amongst the townspeople. It’s clear he wants power–specifically the governor’s power. He’s the male version of Joycelyn with a sophisticated ability to manipulate others.

Reconstruction of 1607 Jamestown Settlement.
Reconstruction of 1607 Jamestown settlement on James River, as a portion is now under water.

The new governor, Sir George Yeardley, and his wife struggle to maintain control of the colony and to keep suspicion and chaos down as the colonists face challenge after challenge and their very survival is questionable at times. There is always the threat of starvation through the harsh winters, Indian uprisings, and the dependency upon supplies from England that rarely arrive on time. His ability to lead the town becomes at risk when he develops a kidney stone. The town doctor is not a surgeon, but fearing the governor will die, he agrees to perform his first surgery.

Meanwhile, Joycelyn is fostering an unhealthy relationship with the good doctor, showing up at his makeshift practice, confiding in him of her dark secret, and winning his affection and loyalty. There are a number of times he yields to the temptation of a kiss, but in each instance, they are thwarted by the arrival of someone. The doctor comes to his senses and finds the willpower to overcome the urge of giving into her.

Overall, I do like this show and I’m glad to see something depicting this time period centered around the beginning of our country. The characters are believable, flawed, emotional, raw and riveting. Even when they behave badly, the storyline gives enough of a glimpse into their history and backstory to understand why a character might behave a certain way, and the struggle that person may go through to do the right thing. There are times when these characters fail and there are times they are vindicated and succeed. Overall, I’m looking forward to the second season that Sky 1 has ordered.

For an idea of what it would have really been like crossing the Atlantic ocean and settling into the wilderness in the early 1600’s, the History Channel has created a documentary that you might find interesting. Even if you didn’t have any ancestors who lived in Jamestown, you may be like me with ancestors who made the journey in the same century. In my case, my ancestor, Richard Hudson, sailed on the ship “Safety” in 1630 and arrived in Accomack, VA. The conditions he endured would not have been much better.   

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