New Worlds episode 3 review

New Worlds makes for a good enough history lesson, but it's thin gruel as a drama...

This review contains spoilers.

Like a lecture on colonial capitalism from a fusty but well-meaning professor, New Worlds plods on. This week’s episode gifted us an extra twenty minutes of earnest political speechifying and imperialist hand-wringing.

Of the things New Worlds lacks – nuance, characters to give a damn about, dialogue that doesn’t thud like a washing machine being dropped down a set of steps – it certainly doesn’t lack for message. Political conviction is all it has. The by-product of New Worlds‘ determination to portray the avarice and violence of the ruling classes is that its characters feel more like avatars for constitutional opinions than they do people. Abe and Ned don’t have personal lives, only political ones; it’s what makes them so dreary to watch.

Perhaps if they could all stop speaking in cliché (“Go, live to fight another day” urges one of Abe’s men after falling prey to an animal trap, “They’ll never take me alive” Abe tells Ned) or every so often say something, anything, that isn’t a statement on the injustice of the monarchy, we might find it in our hearts to care when a musket is pointed at their head. Hearing them talk is like spending tuck time in the sixth form common room after a heated Government and Politics lesson. So many opinions, so little charm.

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Any expectation of getting to grips with Alice Englert’s promising character, Hope, this week was dashed. She and Ned jumped into bed like two kids who’d never heard of sin, despite being raised by a Pastor and a Puritan. Now her evil husband’s out of the way thanks to an ashes-daubed Beth, and Ned has lost faith in his land pirate father, the path’s presumably clear for the two of them to marry.

There was beauty at least in the latest chapter of Beth’s Mills and Boon romance: The Princess and the Brave. Gorgeous Beth and her equally gorgeous Native American lover traipsed gorgeously around that beach like Calvin Klein models for a new perfume – Eau de Colonial Guilt.

In the last three weeks, Beth has gone from debutante to outlaw to tribal bride, somehow without exhibiting an ounce of character. No sooner had she crossed the Atlantic than she’d found herself another dull idealist with whom to fall instantly and inexplicably in love. Masca seduced her with sweet nothings like “One day, I will reunite my people” and talk of tribal land deals.

Beth’s transformation from unwilling hostage to murderously loyal squaw was pathological in its speed, not to mention an exact repeat of her woodland captee-to-romantic-heroine role in episode one. If New Worlds needs some human psychology to delve into – and it sorely does – then why not have a go at explaining blank Beth’s Zelig-like compulsion to turn into whomever kidnaps her.

The unconscionable acts settlers committed against Native Americans deserve telling, of course they do. If history is written by the victors, then its victims deserve to be given a voice. Worthiness alone, however, doesn’t make for compelling human drama. As a history lesson, New Worlds does its job. As a story, it’s thin gruel.

Read Louisa’s review of the previous episode, here.

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