Monday, January 23, 2017

Pilot Review: Frontier

Frontier (Netflix)
Premiered January 20

The latest of Netflix’s almost weekly new series is actually an import from Canada that was broadcast originally on the country’s Discovery Channel, marking their first original scripted series. It’s a recent trend that networks which previously have been home exclusively to nonfiction and reality series are beginning to enter into the increasingly popular are of scripted television. The opening credits reminded me a lot of “Game of Thrones,” the series that made this show’s star, Jason Mamoa, famous. I’ve seen him since in “The Red Road,” which I liked a lot, and here he’s taking on a very villainous role as an infamous fur trapper known for brutally dealing with anyone that crosses his path. The slow exposition of this pilot got a would-be thief indebted to his imperial captors, and now it looks like he’s going to switch sides and try to work against the British, though his motives are still to protect everyone from harm. As usual, actor Christian McKay is well above his material, and at least he’s elevating his drunk priest to become the second most magnetic character on the show, after Mamoa’s skilled torturer. Captain Chesterfield, who initially seemed like one of the good guys, is particularly despicable, just one of the many characters whose low likeability factor makes this show unappealing. I think this show is designed for people who really liked “The Revenant,” but it’s not as finely-made and its characters are considerably weaker and pettier, probably because they weren’t real people. I’ll take a pass.

How will it work as a series? It sure didn’t take them long to find one of the most wanted men, so I’m not sure what that says about what this show has in store for the future. This first season is only six episodes, so I guess time is a luxury that doesn’t really exist here. Things are sure to be gratuitous when it comes to sex and violence, and I don’t think the quality of this show’s writing back all that up the same way “Game of Thrones” can.
How long will it last? Netflix and Discovery actually renewed this show for a second season back in October before it premiered the following month on Discovery in Canada, which is obviously good news. Reviews in the United States haven’t been great, but I think if people like watching this, which I think some might, it should do fine for a few seasons.

Pilot grade: C-

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