National Geographic transports us back to the 1700s this weekend with Barkskins, but is this time travel worth a weekend binge?
Taking place in the New France settlement of Wobik, Barkskins opens with a brutal massacre before we meet Rene Sel (Christian Cooke) and his friend Charles Duquet (James Bloor), arriving alongside more newcomers. Both are taken to an open market where, once work is completed in three years, the refugees will be free and able to own their own portion of land.
Rene is sold to Claude Trepagny (David Thwelis), who also takes Charles on, and we soon meet Claude’s charge Mari (Kaniehtiio Horn), who is very protective of him. Just what will Rene and Charles do for Claude?
Elsewhere, mercenary Gus Lafarage (Matthew Lillard) talks with barrel maker Elisha Cooke (Thomas M. Wright) about how he executed the plan to kill the French settlers and turn the blame onto the Native American inhabitants, all in the name of claiming the land.
Meanwhile, representatives of the Hudson’s Bay Company, Hamish Goame (Aneurin Barnard) and Yvon (Zahn McClarnon) arrive at the inn owned by Francis Geffard (Adrian Hough) and his wife Mathilde (Marcia Gay Harden). The pair are in town to search for a colleague who has disappeared. Rounding out the key characters are Delphine (Lily Sullivan) and Melissande (Tallulah Haddon), two young women set to become Fillies du Roi, virgin wives for wealthy landowners.
The pilot, penned by Elwood Reid, manages to juggle the establishment of all these characters and stories, and that’s no easy feat. The opening itself will hook you, but this slow burn probably won’t be for everyone.
There is a wealth of talent here, with Thewlis and Gay Harden the standouts, although it’s great to see Sullivan, Cooke and Horn also make their mark.
Barkskins is dark and gritty, and while a little hard to follow at times, but with motives and secrets aplenty, it’s worth setting some of your weekend aside to check it out.
Barkskins debuts on Foxtel and Fetch TV VOD on Friday June 19, and will be broadcast as a marathon event on Sunday June 21 on National Geographic from 12:30pm