Thank the Old Gods and the New, someone is putting Jason Momoa to a worthy use. The second season of Netflix’s Frontier debuts Friday, and while I wouldn’t use the word “perfect,” it’s a writ-large historical drama with great characters and it poses a question everyone needs to be pondering right now: What Is History?
Does that sound facile? I don’t think it is. I think “The winners” is a facile answer, though it is also often the truth. The bigger truth is that there are multitudes of lenses through which we view, or can view, our history, and this show takes a pretty good stab at 18th-century Hudson Bay. If you grew up in the States, this is a historical place and time you probably didn’t study much; I sure didn’t. But it was apparently pretty chaotic, with a number of competing cultures and competing interests.
Momoa plays Declan Harp, a half-Irish, half-Cree man who is… OK, a bit of a William Wallace type: Not everything about Frontier screams “never-before-seen plot!” A warrior with serious political notions about Hudson’s Bay Company at the height of the beaver pelt trade, Harp has a bad case of This Time It’s Personal and is much oppressed by personal demons. And also the British. I will leave it there and say that, first and foremost, Momoa is pretty perfect for the role, and if you looked up “ultra-watchable” in the dictionary you’d see a picture of this man. His Declan Harp is a complex, nuanced, poised but passionate kind of guy. Actually, all the principal characters are admirably fleshed out. That should be a given with scripted drama, but it isn’t, so if your thing is great characters, your thing might be Frontier.
If your thing is sweeping epic scope and beautiful high-end production in period dramas, this is also for you.
It might not be for you if you gnash your teeth at tropes that have been through the spin cycle a whole buncha times, because there is definitely that. But overall, this show is really good and at some moments I’d use the word “stunning.” Affecting music, sweeping landscape, and a lot of history, with its thorny questions: Who decides what really happened? Who writes the books? Who tells the stories and which details fall by the wayside? Frontier would like you to know that there is not a simple answer, or a single one.
Season Two of Frontier premieres Friday, Nov. 24 on Netflix.
Amy Glynn is a poet, essayist and fiction writer who really likes that you can multi-task by reviewing television and glasses of Cabernet simultaneously. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.