Though it’s mostly flown under the radar since premiering last month, Elwood Reid’s Barkskins has taken some big swings. Based on the Annie Proulx novel of the same name, the series follows the lives of colonists in New France, including that of René (Christian Cooke), an indentured servant and woodcutter (or barkskin), and Charles (James Bloor), a thief who’s much more honest about his opportunism than his fellow settlers. The tone can veer wildly among the many narratives, but so far, Barkskins has at least been an entertaining mess. There’s a mystery element led by Hamish Goames (Aneurin Barnard) and Yvon (Zach McClarnon), which becomes less interesting as time goes on. But as the wealthy outsider Claude Trepagny, David Thewlis vamps in a story that can be decidedly unromantic about frontier times.
As the tavern keeper Mathilde, Marcia Gay Harden is also determined to improve her fortune and that of her new “wards,” the soft-spoken Delphine (Lily Sullivan) and Renardette (Lola Reid). Mathilde sees an opportunity for expansion, with room for women to gather away from the men and maybe even scheme. In this exclusive clip, she tries to inspire her young charges to be more enterprising, but they’re not as quick to pick up the lesson as she might like.
Barkskins airs Mondays with back-to-back episodes; “Buttermilk” and “The Wobble” are on tonight starting at 9 p.m. ET.