Frontier’s top billed actors are Jason Momoa and Landon Liboiron, but its female characters are the best part of the show.
It’s hard to outshine Jason Momoa, both in real life and on screen, but while I love Declan Harp with a bloody passion, I can’t help but be drawn to the women on this show, and Frontier season 2 is no exception.
This article contains major spoilers for Frontier season 2.
When we last left Harp, he was half dead on a mountainside somewhere. A compassionate man and his adorable daughter rehabilitated him while life elsewhere trudged on. Furs were stolen and traded. Bars were claimed and reclaimed. Innocence was taken more than once. In the end, everyone found a way to survive for one more day.
Well, almost everyone.
Life in the New World is not easy on anyone, but least of all for the women. They must be cunning and strong, both physically and mentally. Or at least really, really lucky.
Life at Fort James, and especially outside of it, is daunting, to say the least. Frontier’s female characters always seem to find a way to hold on as best they can, and for that, they continue to be the best part of this show.
Grace Emberly (Zoe Boyle)
Anyone who has seen even one episode of Frontier will know why Grace deserves her time in the spotlight. Taking place in the late 1700s, Ms. Emberly is a bit of an anomaly. She’s a businesswoman and an entrepreneur. She pays to learn the town’s secrets so she’s never out of the loop, and she always seems to find a way to get what she wants. Oh, and she refuses to wear a dress.
Trouble always seems to find Grace, usually in equal measure because of her beauty and cunning, but she typically gets out of it one way or another. In Frontier season 2, she marries Captain Chesterfield so he’ll lift the bounty on Harp’s head. What follows is a back-and-forth between the two that continues to escalate until it begins affecting everyone around them.
What I love about Grace is that she never waivers when it comes to her own morals. She refuses to be anything other that what she is. She marries Chesterfield to save Declan, but she refuses to bed the Captain. She fiercely protects the women she employs and makes it well-known that her establishment is an alehouse, not a whorehouse. The people of Fort James would probably be a lot better off if they just listened to Grace Emberly from time to time.
Sokanon (Jessica Matten)
Is there anyone more fierce than Sokanon? Where Grace’s strength lies in her ability to manipulate the people around her, Sokanon has a warrior’s spirit. That’s not to say she isn’t intelligent — her tactical brain is part of what makes her so important to Declan Harp. Her loyalty to her brother-in-law has caused some friction with her people, but Sokanon knows Harp would get himself into too much trouble without her.
I love Sokanon’s quiet demeanor. She speaks when she has something to say, and when she has something to say, people listen. Her relationship with Michael felt right for a time, but that time may be past now. After the death of Wahush, whom she had been promised to, and Michael’s betrayal over selling the furs to their enemy, Samuel Grant, I’m not sure there can ever be anything else between them.
But Sokanon has a bigger battle ahead of her. After discovering that white men are kidnapping and trading young Native girls, sometimes forcing them to work as whores, she is granted leadership of a party to stop the trafficking of her people. By the time season 2 ends, she has yet to set out on her mission, but it’s only a matter of time. And if I were those white men, I’d run. Chances are Sokanon will still find them. But at least they can say they tried.
Elizabeth Carruthers (Katie McGrath)
Mrs. Carruthers isn’t a particularly likable character, at least when we first meet her, but she’s as shrewd of a businesswoman as Grace Emberly. When she’s first introduced in Frontier season 1, we quickly learn that she is not to be trifled with. She may be be a widow, but she’s not in mourning. As a matter of fact, she’s fully prepared to take over her husband’s business, and in her capable hands it can truly thrive.
Unfortunately, a prospective investor will only talk about business to her husband. To solve this problem, she “enlists” the help of the Brown brothers. Like many of the other women in this show, Elizabeth is cunning, but unlike many of the others she’s also incredible wealthy. She uses her money to manipulate the men around her into doing her bidding, and it works like a charm.
Or, at least, it works until it doesn’t. Unfortunately, Mrs. Carruthers (never Brown, though I did enjoy seeing a softer side of her when she was with Douglas), meets her untimely demise in Frontier season 2. It’s a violent end for the character, and it was a death I was hoping we could avoid. She had a way of getting under men’s skin, as Josephette put it, and Elizabeth poked and prodded Samuel Grant one too many times. It’s particularly unfortunate because she had him right where she wanted him, but in the end, his swings were deadlier than hers.
Clenna Dolan (Lyla Porter-Follows)
Poor Clenna hasn’t had control over her own life since we first met her in the Frontier season 1 premiere, but she’s made do with her situation as best she could. While in London with Michael, Clenna was nothing more than a street rat. Then her brother was killed and she was thrown in jail. After that, she was brought all the way to America as a bargaining chip against Michael, found herself with a broken leg, and ended up in the middle of the feud between Elizabeth Carruthers and Samuel Grant.
Clenna hasn’t taken hold of her own agency yet, but I hope that moment is coming soon. She’s allowed both Elizabeth and Samuel to use her to their own ends in order to survive the New World, but now that her leg has healed properly and she’s been trained as a proper lady, the world may very well be at her feet.
If she stays with Samuel Grant and continues to be useful to him, she’ll live a comfortable life, though it may be at the expense of her relationship with Michael. If she ever returns to London, she’ll be alone, but she’ll have skills that can aid her in reclaiming her destiny. She made a huge mistake killing Wahush, which will certainly haunt her in one way or another, but perhaps this will drive her to be more proactive in her own life.
Mary (Breanne Hill)
If ever Grace Emberly had a protege made in her own image, it’s Mary. Not only does she help Grace run the bar, but she’s invaluable in gathering information to make sure Ms. Emberly is always one step ahead of everyone else. Mary is not above using her body to manipulate men, but she stays true to herself. At the end of the day, Mary has kept autonomy over her body, despite the situation she’s been forced into.
That situation season 2 has presented to Mary is one where Imogen in running a whorehouse out of Grace’s establishment while she’s away in Montreal. Mary doesn’t agree with Imogen’s tactics and does everything in her power to keep her virtue, as well as that of a young Native girl. Part of the reason why I love Mary is because she’s so unassuming — beautiful, quiet, pure — and yet she can take care of herself. She’s killed more than once in self-defense. Now it’s a matter of seeing how she changes because of that.
Imogen (Diana Bentley)
It’s not easy to like Imogen. When we first meet her in Frontier season 1, she’s sent as a spy for Lord Benton to work in Grace’s alehouse. There came a time when Imogen was forced to choose sides between Lord Benton and Ms. Emberly, and thank goodness she chose the right side. Unfortunately, that didn’t last long, as Imogen decided to sell out Grace in season 2 in order to keep the whorehouse running so she could be in charge of the girls.
On the other hand, I can respect Imogen for her self-assurance. Where Grace uses her wits as a weapon, Imogen uses her womanhood. She knows her sexuality can manipulate men into doing what she wants. Can we truly blame her for her tactics? Just because she doesn’t hate being a whore doesn’t mean she wouldn’t rather be living a better life. She’s making do with the life she’s been given. She truly cares about the girls in her service, and that, at least, is a very thin silver lining for her character.
Josephette (Karen LeBlanc)
We don’t know much about Josephette other than what we learned in the Frontier season 2 finale. Mr. Carruthers treated her like a slave, while Mrs. Carruthers treated her like a confidante. After Elizabeth’s death, Josephette was put in charge of running the business, much to Malcolm Brown’s ire. It’s certainly a large task, and for a Black woman, she’ll find plenty of obstacles standing in her way if she can’t convince the Brown brothers to work with her.
I’ll be interested to see what happens with Josephette in Frontier season 3. She’ll have to rely on Douglas Brown in particular to make sure the business stays afloat, but she’s already proven to be quick on the uptake. She knows how to run every inch of that business, and if the Brown brothers are smart, they’ll treat her as an equal partner.
Chaulk (Kathryne Wilder)
We know as much about Chaulk as we do Josephette. We know Chaulk is not a boy like everyone believes, but rather is a young girl in disguise. It’s a good disguise, too, but Lord Benton, trapped in a cell on a boat headed to London, guesses the truth about her. She begs for his confidence, and he grants it to her, which earns her loyalty. A large part of the reason why Lord Benton is able to escape is because of Chaulk.
In the final moments of the Frontier season 2 finale, we see Chaulk in a boat with Lord Benton, who has captured Grace and stolen her away to another fort where he has men loyal to him. Chaulk also noticed that Mary enticed a patron into a back room before he wound up dead, and that’s sure to come back at some point. Chaulk is a wildcard at this point because she’s loyal to the series’ main villain, but that’s mostly out of naivete. If she learns the truth, will she end up betraying Benton and helping Grace instead?