Following his dynamic performance as Khal Drogo on “Game of Thrones,” and before his stint as Aquaman in the upcoming film “Justice League,” Jason Momoa is headlining the new Netflix series “Frontier.”
The show explores the wild and violent world of the 18th-century North American fur trade as numerous factions, ranging from the British Empire to a band of ragtag renegades, vie for power. Though the show boasts an intriguing setting and intense action, “Frontier” does little else to elevate itself above the recent crop of historical dramas.
Momoa stars as the ruthless Declan Harp, a half-Irish, half-Native American outlaw who wages war against the Hudson’s Bay Company and their fur trade monopoly. Momoa’s intimidating physical presence and natural fierceness are on full display, though his character lacks dimension beyond that physicality. That is, Declan appears as a force of nature rather than as a fully realized character.
That choice may have been successful had Momoa been surrounded by compelling characters and strong performers. Apart from English actor Alun Armstrong, who plays the scheming Lord Benton, few actors give interesting or even competent performances. Still, that failure may be more applicable to the series’ writers, as most of the characters are thinly-veiled stereotypes and archetypical cut-outs.
Like Momoa’s previous series, “Frontier” is a panoramic sweep of action that follows a wide range of characters and storylines that often intersect. Given the relatively uninteresting nature of some of the characters and actors, several storylines can be a bore to sit through. Others are so far removed from the action that they can be even more tedious. Thankfully, the series’ main conflict between Momoa’s Harp and Armstrong’s Benton is action-packed and engaging enough for absent-minded enjoyment.
While the cinematography and design of “Frontier” sometimes falter, temporarily turning its look into that of a poor History Channel reenactment, the show’s visual depiction of the untamed New World is one of its strongest features, especially considering how little the era of North American colonization has been depicted on the small screen.
Not only does “Frontier” shed light on an often neglected time in history, it does so with a unique atmosphere of political scheming and lively adventure.
Unfortunately, the show’s focus on political deceit over moments of genuine human emotion can be overpowering at times, which adds to the general unlikability of the characters.
Despite middling to lackluster reviews, “Frontier” has already been renewed for a second season. Hopefully, the series can maintain its cinematic quality while improving upon its many characters and plotlines in upcoming episodes.