Britain’s first North American colonies were pretty rough-and-tumble, somewhat inhospitable, and required tough people to settle and stick it out. The first tough people who headed over were men, in 1607. They carved out their colony of Jamestown, started settling in, then looked around and realised they were going to need some womenfolk, and soon. And so, mail-order brides began to arrive from the mother country.
We’re mostly concerned with three of these brides: Alice, Verity, and Jocelyn. One of these ladies is not like the others, but they all have common ground in the fact they’ve come to a raw place and are attempting to make a life there with men they barely know.
Alice, a farm girl, thinks she’s hit the jackpot when she steps off the boat and is collected by total hottie Silas. Alas, Silas is just there to take her home to her actual intended, his eldest brother, Henry. Unfortunately for Alice, Henry turns out to have all the personality, tenderness, and feeling of a bent nail. She gets a particularly horrifying shock when he follows her on a walk to the river the very night she arrives and rapes her. Poor Alice is so traumatised she just lays on the river bank all night, finally stumbling home in the morning. Curiously, no one seems to have noticed she was missing. Well done, Silas.
Verity is no wholesome farm girl. She’s clearly had to live by her wits (and, it seems, light fingers). She’s meant to marry a man named Meredith who does not come to the docks to fetch her. She spends her whole first day asking people about him, only to have them all essentially laugh in her face. Meredith, it seems, is the town drunk. He’s also owner of the local tavern. The first time she sees him, he’s getting his ear nailed to the stocks for blasphemy. Welcome to Jamestown!
Jocelyn is posh. And she’s actually met her intended: Samuel, the Company Recorder. It seems she, too, has something of a past–on the journey over, she confesses to Alice that she killed a man. Jocelyn also appears to have viewed Macbeth as some sort of self-help manual, because this girl is AMBITIOUS. It seems, then, that she’s made a poor choice of mate, because Samuel definitely is not. He doesn’t seem all that bright either, if we’re honest.
The minute she finishes up freaking out over her dismal surroundings, Jocelyn starts to work on him, urging him to set aside his best man, Christopher, and ask the new governor, Sir George, to stand up with him on their wedding day. Sam’s not keen to give his bestie the heave-ho, so she fakes an illness so she can get a moment alone with Chris (the local doctor) and urge him, for the sake of Samuel’s career, to recuse himself. Chris agrees, but then comes back to her and points out that Sir George is going to be a bit baffled by this, since he doesn’t even know Samuel, and will know he’s being played, which’ll make the whole thing moot. Chris has her number all right. How long before the two of them are sleeping together?
Sir George has good news! He’s decided that all the men who originally came over in ’07 will be rewarded for their loyalty with 100 acres each. That means Silas, Henry, and their youngest brother will have 300 acres between them, which isn’t too bad. But that acreage adjoins the land of Messenger, the local big tobacco planter, who also lent Henry the money to bring over Alice. Messenger demands 100 of the brothers’ acres as payment, immediately.
Unwilling to give up his rightful land, Henry takes Silas up the river, allegedly to trade with the natives for corn, but really to go looking for some gold he’s sure is to be found up there. Before they go, Alice begs Silas to have a word with Henry and tell him she simply can’t marry him. She and Silas, having known each other for all of 24 hours, max, are totes in love. Silas makes some noises in the direction of being conflicted, because Henry sacrificed a lot for his little brothers, but that night, when Henry wakes in the boat and finds himself on fire, Silas just stands there, watching and not helping, until the flames reach the barrels of gunpowder they had with them and blow Henry to kingdom come. Damn, Silas. Guess brotherly loyalty goes completely out the window when there’s a girl involved.
Back at the settlement, Meredith gets a little too deep into his cups and wagers a night with Verity on a roll of the dice. He wins, but Verity has had enough. She runs away into the woods, going who-knows-where. Alice goes after her and persuades her to come back, crying and telling Verity she can’t survive here without her friend. As they head back, they’re chased by wolves, and though Alice tries to go full Belle on them, they have to be rescued by the local blacksmith. The blacksmith has his eye on Alice: he noticed the bruises on her wrist from Henry’s attack and asked about them, seeming genuinely concerned. She lied and claims she got the injuries on the journey. He also gifted her a bucket, which was pretty cute.
Verity returns but tells Meredith she won’t be with a man who’ll risk her on a throw of the dice. Meredith’s like, ‘that’s fine, because I totally cheated and knew I wouldn’t lose. Also, here’s a massive gold nugget I happen to have in my keeping. I’m pretty sure there are more where that came from!’
And Jocelyn, instead of prepping for her upcoming wedding, is doing a little wheeling and dealing. She, too, noticed Alice seemed upset and asks about it. Alice only tells her that Messenger and Redwick, the marshall, and Farlowe, the company secretary, are putting pressure on Henry to give up his land. Handily, both Farlowe and Sir George, unaware of what the other is doing, have asked Samuel to spy for them. Jocelyn urges Samuel to use this to his advantage: tell Sir George something that’ll benefit him, and tell Farlowe something that’ll make him look foolish. Samuel can’t possibly contenance dishonesty, so she takes matters into her own hands. She tells Farlowe that, on the journey over, Sir George told her the king wanted to outlaw tobacco farming, which would have a severe economic impact on the colony.
Farlowe runs to Messenger and Redwick with this information, and they all agree they need to join forces and turn the farmers against the governor.
But, Jocelyn has now gone to Sir George and told him Henry’s land is being threatened. She adds that Sir George really should make it a rule or something that land gifted in this manner can’t be transferred to another owner. I think that’s going to cause issues down the line for anyone who wants to sell up, but in the short term, it does take care of the problem. Sir George agrees, then gathers the residents of Jamestown together and announces it shall be so. Messenger et al sulk a bit. Everyone loves Sir George. I’m a little confused as to why Jocelyn did this. I mean, maybe she was doing Alice a favour, here, either because she likes Alice or wants to keep her quiet, but I don’t really see what she hopes to accomplish by turning Renwick, Messenger, and Farlowe, three of the most powerful men in the colony, against her and, by extension, her husband. She makes it clear she intends for Samuel to be governor someday, and for that to happen, she’s probably going to need the support of these men. And they didn’t even make fools of themselves, so…I don’t know what she’s doing here.
Silas returns, without Henry, wailing that his brother’s dead. He doesn’t seem quite upset enough for some, so Alice urges him to lay it on a little more thickly. And then the two of them go and make out in a field that night. Jesus, you two, at least try to be subtle? Especially since–dun dun DUN!–Henry’s not really dead! He’s horribly burned, yes, and currently surrounded by a bunch of armed natives, but not dead! We’ll see how that turns out.