Previously on New Worlds: Beth was adopted into a Native tribe that was living on land Ned’s dad and Hope’s husband, Cresswell, wanted to settle. Cresswell got Beth’s boyfriend/husband to sign over the land and then wiped out his tribe with some poxed blankets, leaving Beth pregnant and out for revenge. She got it, delivering an arrow straight to Cresswell’s throat right in front of an astonished Ned.
Hope is wakened in the dead of night by someone hammering on the door. She wakes and opens it to find Ned, with Beth, asking for help and announcing Cresswell’s death all at once.
In England, Jeffries reports to the king and the Duke of York that Sidney has been jailed. Charles asks if this is the end of the plotting and Jeffries believes this should be it. York reminds Charles that Monmouth’s still running around, plotting, but Charles is not inclined to get rid of his own son. He gives permission to do what Jeffries likes with Sidney. Jeffries will be putting him on trial for treason, along with Abe.
Abe’s being beaten for information, but he’s not very forthcoming with it. Jeffries arrives at the prison and Agnes approaches and asks if she can pray with Abe. Looks like her scrofula might be back. Jeffries gives his permission and she goes into the cell, where a broken Abe lies on a pile of straw, unconscious. She whispers that she’s loved him for ages, then bends down and kisses him. He wakes and she warns him to lie still, then pulls out a vial of something, adds a few drops to water, and gives it to him, saying it’ll take away his pain. He drinks and almost immediately falls into a deep sleep.
Apparently she gave him Romeo and Juliet formula or something, because we next see him being carted out to a mass grave with other bodies. That night, Agnes and her grandfather sift through the bodies (ick) until they find him.
The following morning, Jeffries sends some guys to find Abe’s body so he can display his head on the city gates, but it’s gone. They figure anatomists must have been by.
Agnes and her grandfather have the body out in the woods, but Abe’s not coming around. Grandfather thinks she might have accidentally given Abe too much of the potion and decides to go ahead and bury him. Fortunately, Abe chooses just that moment to wake up. That was convenient.
Beth wakes in a bed at Hope’s house and seems to take a moment to remember where she is. Hope’s housekeeper or something scrubs Beth clean as Hope looks on. Hope coldly agrees to have Beth stay at the house and hands over her spare dress before ordering the housekeeper, to burn Beth’s Nativewear. She then tells Beth that she doesn’t mourn Cresswell, but if the Natives died of smallpox that was just God’s providence. Wow, when did Hope become such a bitch? That was such an unnecessarily heartless comment. Beth asks why God would want to exterminate such good people. Because he’s a jerk, apparently. At least, according to these people.
Ned goes to see his dad and finds Stackpole there, getting a payoff so he shares the proper story about how Cresswell met his untimely end. He saunters out and Hawkins angrily tells his son that all of Boston will think Ned murdered Cresswell so he could hook up with Hope, which means Hawkins will be paying off Stackpole to stay quiet forever. Ned asks his dad if he knew about the diseased blankets. Instead of answering, Hawkins points out that royal advisor, Randolph, and tells Ned the man holds their future in his hands and he’ll grasp at anything he can get to take down the Hawkins Bay Company and revoke the charter. They need a good story about what happened at that village.
Hawkins hands the deed to the property Masca’s people lived on to Randolph and tells him that the Natives killed Cresswell in a drunken fury. He tells Randolph that every town they found is another little piece added to England, but that nobody will venture into the wilderness for no reward. Ned buts in to say that the settlers want land, and that the land does not belong to the crown but to the people of Massachusetts. Sorry, Ned, but it actually doesn’t just because you say so. His father interrupts to say that ownership of the colony isn’t in dispute. Randolph calms down a bit and says that if the king is reassured that the colony will swell his own coffers he may be persuaded not to get rid of their charter. Ned rolls his eyes but his dad reassures Randolph that this will definitely be so. He also offers Randolph himself shares in the new town. Before he leaves, Randolph smirks and says he trusts Ned is ‘comforting’ the new widow Cresswell.
Speaking of, Beth’s trying to explain to Hope that she loved Masca, who believed she was sent by the Great Spirit to bear a son who would unite his people. Hope thinks the Spirit should have sent one of their own kind and accuses Beth of having forgotten who she was and where she came from. Beth said she did no such thing, but she did what she had to to survive. Hope apologises for having been a jerk, but she hates the Natives because they killed her mother. Ok, that’s kind of fair. Well, it’s fair to hate the actual Natives who killed her, not the entire race. Beth reminds her that plenty of ‘civilised’ men have dark souls. Hope places her hands on top of Beth’s in comfort.
Hawkins finds Ned drinking in the tavern and joins him, asking why he’s so angry. Ned says he feels no loyalty for England but instead considers himself an American. Well, good for you, Ned, but there is no American nation yet, so you still have to make nice with the king or risk being jailed or executed for treason. His dad tells him he bent the knee to Randolph because that’s the only way they can currently protect their liberty. Ned thinks his dad just wants to be able to continue being a land pirate who kills anyone who stands in his way. Hawkins offers to let Ned denounce him for just that, informing him that, if he did so, nobody would convict him for it. He says that Massachusetts is preserving its liberty by never asking the crown for help, which keeps English troops out of the colony.
Hawkins gets up and leaves, and Ned follows him out and yells at his dad some more for taking land from the Natives. Hawkins paints a picture of a magnificent nation of people free to be religious zealots who subjugate everyone who isn’t a white male and tells his son that this can’t happen if they let the Indians or ‘womanish sensibilities’ get in the way. He tells Ned he needs to get Beth out of town before she starts talking about who she is or what she knows and causes trouble. And then he collapses from a heart attack. Before he dies, he makes Ned promise to take on the chairmanship of the Hawkins Bay Company.
Ned takes Beth out to some house in the middle of the woods. She urges him to return the land to Masca’s tribe, but now he’s not sure what to do.
Back in Boston, he meets with the other leaders of the town and tells them he’ll take over the company. They applaud the news. There’s less enthusiasm for his announcement that he’ll be marrying Hope as soon as possible. You’re an idiot, Ned. You know that you’re already under suspicion of having killed Hope’s husband so you could have her, and this will just add fuel to the fire. At least wait a little while, this is rather unseemly. The others point this out to him, but he tells them to just ignore gossip. He moves on to tell them that they won’t be taking land from the Natives anymore or squeezing settlers for more money. They freak out, telling Ned that this will ruin them. Well, then, I think you all deserve to be ruined. If the only way you can stay afloat is by theft, then you’re pretty crap at land management. Of course, Ned’s also uninterested in making nice with the king. His stepmother reminds him that his father knew how to handle Charles, knowing it was best to keep bowing and scraping if it meant they could preserve the colony’s liberty. Hope tells her that soon enough there won’t be any liberty left to save, then tells Ned that he’s doing the right thing.
Abe lies shirtless in the middle of the woods, like you do, fantasizing about Beth.
Beth, meanwhile, is still in that house in the woods, dreaming of Masca telling her their son must lead his people. She’s had the kid, presumably some time ago, because that baby is HUGE and has a ton of hair. Hope’s housekeeper (Nunca, I think) brings him to his mother and Beth says she wants to name him after his father. Nunca says he can take the name when he’s older and ready to lead his people.
At Fanshawe House, Hardwicke’s moving in. Agnes nearly drops some vase and Hardwicke yells at her, in case we didn’t remember he’s supposed to be a bad guy. Agnes sees another maid removing Beth’s dress and is surprised, but Hardwicke growls that everything in the house is his. He then shouts at her to get on with her work and, startled, she drops the vase, which shatters.
When we see her next, she’s got a black eye. Lovely. She and her grandfather are staying at some hut somewhere with Abe. The men are reading a paper about Sidney being put on trial soon. Abe gets up and goes outside as Agnes begs him not to go to London, because he’ll be killed. He clearly doesn’t care. Her grandfather gently tells her that Abe’s heart is still with Beth, whom they think is dead.
Sidney’s on trial, which is being presided over by Jeffries. Abe shows up, with a hood drawn up over his head so he’s not noticed by Jeffries, and takes a seat with the other spectators. Sidney’s doing a fairly good job of holding his own, but we all know this is hopeless. Papers were found in his home that referred to the death of the king, which is treason, so he’s found guilty. Jeffries hands him a traitor’s death. Sidney turns to the spectators and says he’ll die like a true republican.
Later, he writes some letters as Abe is shown into his cell. Sidney gives him a copy of his writings and urges him to send them to his friends in Massachusetts. Abe promises to avenge Sidney, but Sidney tells him this is not the time for violence, because they need to show themselves to be better men. He urges Abe to remember that he’s a healer, and that skill will be needed soon.
Sidney is beheaded, so I guess he got some leniency (it’s a better death than being hanged, drawn, and quartered).
Beth is out walking with her son and Nunca. Nunca asks if ‘the strong one’ has sent a sign. I’m just now noticing that Nunca’s a Native. Sorry for being slow on the uptake there, but she’s dressed and looks exactly like the settlers, so it was a little hard to tell. They’re interrupted by the sound of shouting and go to investigate. They find a group of boys and young men being trained to beat the hell out of dummies while shouting ‘kill the devil.’ Nice. Beth’s horrified but Nunca quietly tells her that all boys must learn to kill Indians, under the law. Lovely. Beth, being the stupidest character on this show, which is really saying something, marches right up to them, brandishing her child, and tells them to look at her baby and tell her if he seems to be a devil. There’s a long pause, and then one of the kids grabs a nearby musket and fires it at her. Beth, did you seriously not see that coming? You just marched your baby into the midst of a group of frenzied kids being trained to kill people just like your baby. I seriously hope this kid takes after his father and not you, because if he takes after you this tribe is doomed.
Beth and Nunca flee back to the cabin and Beth says they’ll have to find another hiding place. Yes, Beth, because you ruined this one. Moron. Nunca goes to fetch help.
She sends Ned and Hope and Beth bitches at them for the law, like they have any control over it. Hope says there’s virtually no chance of the settlers and the Natives ever getting along, because the Natives will keep fighting to get the land back and the settlers won’t leave it. Beth asks Ned if he destroyed the deed to Masca’s tribe’s land and he regretfully says he can’t do that, because he’ll lose the support of the company, and if he does that, they can’t fight against the king. He tells her he’s trying to build up a new nation for free men to live in. She counters that this was a free land until the settlers arrived and reminds him that Abe championed the weak. Hope tells her that Abe is dead and Ned chimes in that they need to move her immediately. There’s a noise outside, and they go out to find Nunca, coming back with a contingent from the tribe. I guess she didn’t fetch Ned, then. Did he just happen to come that day on his own? That was convenient. Nunca tells Beth that they’ll take the baby far from the settlers, where he’ll be safe and will grow up to lead his people. The braves accompanying her start cheering, and one of them steps forward, prompting a clearly trigger-happy Ned to fire, killing him. Awesome job there, Ned. Beth shouts for everyone to just calm down and offers to go with the Natives. She approaches Nunca and hands her the baby, for some reason, and Nunca turns to go. Beth tries to follow but a brave holds her back and Nunca says she’s not one of them. Beth panics as the baby’s taken away, but to be honest, she doesn’t put up too much of a fight. She cries and Hope comforts her.
A man runs to Agnes’s place and begs Abe to come to the clay pits and tend to his son, who’s had his leg crushed. Agnes urges him to stay, because it’s too dangerous for him to go, but Abe does go and does what he can for the kid. When the boy’s father asks if he’ll be able to walk again, Abe can’t really answer. The man wonders how the boy will live and asks if this is all they have to look forward to: living under the heels of tyrants like Hardwicke. Abe responds by getting a group of like-minded folk together to tell them about Sidney and to read his pamphlet aloud.
That same pamphlet is being read to Charles after having been seized from a ship heading to Massachusetts. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only consignment of Sidney’s pamphlets heading to the New World. The Duke of York urges Charles to annul the charter and bring the colony to heel.
In Boston, shipments are torn open and homes and businesses searched for the pamphlets. Ned’s offices are searched while he pompously lectures the searchers and urges them to choose a side: England or Massachusetts. They ignore him. Once the searchers go, Ned brings out some curtains and unwinds them, revealing the pamphlet hidden in the folds. He tells Hope that he had one stashed in every bolt of cloth sent to Boston. Because nobody loyal to the crown would ever buy cloth, I guess.
A kid bursts in with the news that Charles is dead and Monmouth has raised an army and is ready to invade England. Ned realizes the news is already two months old and Beth appears and announces it’s time for her to go home. She explains to Ned that Monmouth would certainly pardon her. Why, because you two had dinner together once? Because Abe tried to kill his father? Ned points out that the rebellion could already be crushed but she doesn’t care, because she thinks England’s stirring again and that can only mean good things. Some official at the docks asks what her business is in England and she just tells him that she’s a freeborn Englishwoman. So, she’s allowed on the ship. Before she goes, she asks Ned if he thinks she’s foolish. Yes, Beth, you really are, for so many reasons. He doesn’t think so, though. He just thinks she’s full of love. He gives her Goff’s ring and hopes it brings her good fortune. She promises to return someday to find her son, then embraces Ned before boarding the ship.
Agnes and her grandfather go into the woods while he talks about how awful the new king will be. Agnes advises him to keep his head down and stay quiet, but he won’t do it. He finds his old armor from the Civil War, buried in the ground, and unearths it. He takes it home and shines it up, showing it off to Abe, who does not seem to approve. He also shows off some of his old war wounds. Agnes begs Abe to try and talk her grandfather out of joining the rebellion, but her grandfather won’t hear it. Abe tiredly tells him that the country will not rise up this time, but it doesn’t seem to matter. This man’s seriously determined. A few other old men show up, also with their old weapons and kit, and Grandfather embraces them.
Hardwicke stresses to Jeffries that King James has stopped work on the new palace that Hardwicke supplied bricks to, without having been paid. Jeffries says James has bigger things on his mind, and Jeffries will do everything he can to help put this rebellion down.
Hardwicke walks through his new clay pits, looks around, and announces they’re now closed, telling everyone to go home. Almost everyone is like, ‘fine by me,’ but the man whose son was injured asks Hardwicke what they’re supposed to do now. Hardwicke tells him to live off the land, like his ancestors did, but the guy reminds him that he turned all that land into useless pits. The man shouts that they have nothing and Hardwicke has everything, prompting Hardwicke to yell that he can take his republican views and never come back. Never come back to…the job that doesn’t exist anymore? Hardwicke, firing someone who’s already been made redundant is fairly pointless. Still, the guy backs off. Everyone starts to move away, but then the man changes his mind, turns around, rushes Hardwicke, and shoves his face into a puddle. The mob mentality takes over and other workers join in, kicking and beating the man until he’s dead. Oh, nice job, folks. I’m not saying Hardwicke was a good guy—a paper villain if ever there was one—but drowning/beating him to death is pretty horrible.
Meanwhile, Abe, who’s really taken to this non-violent hippie lifestyle of his, returns from a hunting trip to Agnes’s and finds a note from her on the wall, bidding him farewell and telling him she’s always loved him. She’s accompanying her grandfather to war, dressed as a boy and armed with an axe. This’ll go well for her, I’m sure.
Ned, looking pleased with himself, gets up from his desk, kisses Hope, and goes with her to that cabin in the woods for a secret meeting of Sidney followers. He passes out copies of the pamphlet and urges them to hold his words in their hearts and stand up to the tyrants. Unknown to him and the others, armed men are closing in. They take positions around the cabin, surrounding it completely and open fire, presumably killing those within.
Back in England, there’s fierce fighting going on as Monmouth tries to wrest the throne from his uncle. Monmouth himself, realizing his side’s defeated, hides amongst the bodies, dressed as a commoner.
Abe walks the battlefield in the aftermath, helping those he can as he searches for Agnes and her grandfather.
Beth arrives on British soil, stepping off the ship into a fog. As she walks along the quay, she just misses Abe, because there’s no cliché this show will leave untried. Beth asks someone what happened and hears that Monmouth’s rebellion was crushed. She seeks out the coach to Oxfordshire. Abe, meanwhile, gets word of Agnes and Grandfather from someone who thinks they escaped.
He manages to get a horse from somewhere and rides back home, while Beth takes the carriage. Along the road, the carriage stops and she gets out and slowly approaches a large tree. Agnes and her grandfather are hanging from it. Abe is already standing beneath it, staring up at them. He believes he’s brought this on all of them, but then he’s distracted from his grief by the appearance of Beth whom, let’s not forget, he thought was dead. They rush into each other’s arms and Beth VOs that they went back to the woods and helped heal each other’s wounds. She goes on to sing the praises of brave men and women who risk everything for liberty and love and says that love always endures.
The postscript says that the end of Monmouth’s rebellion marked the last attempt in England to realize radical dreams by armed revolt. Afterwards, James and Jeffries hanged and transported hundreds of men and women. James annulled Massachusetts’s charter and made the colony part of New England. It wasn’t until nearly 100 years later that the American colonies finally decided enough was enough, and most of those involved in the Revolution were inspired by Sidney’s writings. In fact, one of his quotes is still the state motto of Massachusetts.
Less fortunate were the Massachusetts Indians, who were completely subjugated by the colonists. So much for Beth being sent by the Great Spirit to prevent that.
Man, you guys, that was bad. Really, really bad. It’s a shame because it could have been good—it had an interesting premise—but it was let down by terrible writing and paper-thin characters. There was too much emphasis put on these stupid love stories we never had any reason to care about, and the real meat of the story—the struggle for dignity and autonomy—got completely overshadowed. And because the characters were so poorly realized, it was difficult to work up any excitement over what was happening to them. I honestly didn’t feel a thing when Ned and Hope apparently died, and Beth was so unbearably stupid I kept just waiting for her to die. Instead, somehow, everyone around her kept dying while she endured. Figures. I will say this: this definitely didn’t make me want to go back and give The Devil’s Whore another go, although I have heard it’s better.
To end on a trivia note: in keeping with the 30 British Actors Rule, I noticed at least three actors from Game of Thrones in this programme. The actor who played Ned also plays Renley; Sidney was also the late, lamented Maester Luwin, and Hawkins is also Roose Bolton. Also, the actress playing Beth played Isabelle Neville in The White Queen and that was Jeremy Northam totally phoning in an appearance as King Charles. Just FYI.