Trickster On The CW: You Should Watch It
Fewer networks (or almost networks, in this case) have been as creative with their pandemic programming as The CW. Unlike storied networks like NBC and CBS, The CW doesn’t have as deep a bench of original content. Unsurprisingly then, they’ve turned to other sources, including other countries, to fill the hours. See a show you’ve never heard of in the programming listings, like Devils, and it’s a good bet that it came from somewhere else. (In the case of Devils, it was a Sky Atlantic production from Italy.) More often than not, though, they borrow from our neighbors up north. And while I can’t speak for any of their other imports, I can heartily recommend Trickster on The CW.
Close Your Eyes and Let Me Spin You a Yarn: The Basics of Trickster on The CW
First of all, the series is an adaptation of the book Son of a Trickster. Author Eden Robinson set the book, now the first in a trilogy, in her own Haisla community in rural British Columbia. I haven’t read the book (yet), though, so I’ll just tell y’all about the series.
Joel Oulette and Anna Lambe, image via CBC/The CW
The show focuses on First Nations teen Jared (Joel Oulette). When we first meet him, he’s struggling. While both his separated parents are around, they’re not exactly responsible. Mom Maggie (Crystle Lightning), with whom Jared lives, is more into partying than parenting, for instance. His dad Phil (Craig Lauzon) seems nice enough, but has issues with alcohol. Jared is basically the man of both houses, as he’s the main support.
To make ends meet, Jared works the drive-through at a local fast food restaurant. Really, though, the job is just an opportunity for him to peddle his homemade MDMA. Even with that extra income, however, he’s barely scraping by. And then things get weird.
Just as it seems like life might be getting better–he meets cute new girl Sarah (Anna Lambe), for example–everything takes a sharp turn. His mom’s dealer keeps hassling Jared for the money Maggie owes. Then Jared loses his job when his mom causes a scene with a customer. Someone attacks and robs him at the abandoned house where he makes his drugs. Finally, Wade (Kalani Queypo) comes to town. He’s apparently an old friend of Jared’s parents, but there’s something off about him.
Oh, and I almost forgot: a crow is now talking to Jared.
Trickster Is An Indigenous Story with Universal Appeal
At its heart, the show is a compelling drama about the life of a native teen trying to make it in the modern world. As I’ve written before, like in my The Only Good Indians review, when you’re native, it can be easy to feel as if the deck’s stacked against you before you’re even born. The show deftly portrays this, folding in big issues like cultural identity, intergenerational trauma, and class without making it feel like a sermon.
Oulette and Kalani Quepo, image via CBC/The CW
And of course, the magic stuff helps. The show is also an effective thriller, fun at times and nerve-racking at others. Part of this is due to the writing, but a larger part rests solely with the actors. Oulette, for instance, is young and a relative newcomer, but you’d never guess from his performance. The show basically lives or dies on how good he is, and luckily, he’s good enough to be the center of the story. But he’s not the only one.
Lambe’s Sarah has a smaller role, but she’s just as captivating. Lightning, as his mother, also is impressive, etching out a believable portrayal of a woman who will do whatever it takes to protect her child. And then there’s Queypo as Wade, who shifts so easily between friendly and unnerving that it’s mesmerizing. While Jared is the center, Wade is also a bloody, beating heart in the story. (This show might not be anatomically correct.)
All of this adds up to a show worth watching. Yes, it’s a supernatural thriller, which we’ve seen plenty of. But it’s also a series with a unique focus. To put it another way, what a blessing and a joy to see so many native faces onscreen. To put it another other way, watching it made me hit both the hootin’ AND the hollerin’ buttons. Native characters so rarely get the chance to be centered in a TV show’s story, particularly a modern-set story. That makes this show special, especially for a show broadcast in the United States. That isn’t the reason you should watch it, though. You should watch it because it’s a good show.
Trickster is on The CW on Tuesday nights at 8/9 EST. You can also stream the episodes on Wednesdays on The CW’s site.
featured image via CBC/The CW
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf. Email her at email@example.com.