The North American history that is poetically taught in schools romanticizes the atrocities of colonization. This version of the truth paints the attacks on Indigenous people as a necessity rather than acts of intentional violence. Continual genocide and forced assimilation, boarding schools, and theft of land are just some of the traumas that have happened in the five-hundred years of bullshit that still haunt multiple generations of Native families. What the powers that be didn’t realize is that the truth always creeps out and makes itself known.
Trickster, a new television series by Michelle Latimer (Frontier) and Tony Elliot (12 Monkeys, Orphan Black), explores the depth of intergenerational trauma that has manifested in Indigenous communities. The story is based on the novel Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson and involves some unknown dark and supernatural substance that slowly seeps out from the characters and the land.
Jared (Joel Oulette) is a high school student who doesn’t realize how chaotic his normal is. His capricious mother, Maggie (Crystle Lightning), adds to the unpredictability while financially, Jared is in charge of his ex-addict dad (Craig Lauzon). Of course, the only way to make enough money to make ends meet while dealing with extreme debts accumulated by parents is to make and sell a party drug. As if selling your own special product through the drive thru at your fast food job isn’t enough weird for one teenager, Jared also starts seeing things. Crows begin to talk, mysterious doppelgängers emerge, and the return of a stranger (Kalani Queypo) from his mother’s past brings Jared’s identity into question.
Latimer, who also directs Trickster, is an impeccable world builder. By the end of the second episode available to me, I felt almost a déjà vu-like sensation. Had I been here before? Every detail is perfectly in place as the slow but steady pace creates something familiar and warm, despite the hints at the malevolent force that is yet to make itself known. The use of various reds and oranges along with stylistic bird’s eye view shots add to a tension that envelopes every moment. This same tension thickens with every instance of oddity that Jared sees. Are these things really happening, or are they all in his head?
The imagery of this dark force that is coming to light seems tied to the intergenerational trauma that Maggie inherited from her ancestors and passed to Jared. Pain, resulting from colonization, can make for quite a heavy burden and could manifest into something sinister. The habits we form out of need for survival are not always something pretty but they are a necessary evil to keep from going extinct. Our duty as Indigenous people is to take the opportunities we have for healing and defeat whatever unresolved anguish is left in our bloodline. We only get stronger with every generation.
Trauma does not just hurt the human body but also affects the land. Our Earth is alive. She feels the pain of overpopulation, resource extraction, and gentrification. In fact, she also has been holding onto the last five-hundred years of her destruction, waiting for her moment to release this built up anger. Trickster hints at this through the inclusion of commentary regarding pipelines and the oil industry. Big tanks are driving in the background on the two lane back road, and Sarah (Anna Lambe), a new girl in town that is sure to flourish in this fictional television story, puts up “NO PIPELINE” posters in town. The violence perpetrated on Indigenous people also damages the Earth and vice versa because we are all connected. This means the threatening force that Jared is becoming aware of is something more powerful than he can imagine.
The first two episodes are a tease in the best possible way. Latimer knows about horror, which is evident in the various Cronenberg nods that can be seen throughout the set, and she uses the techniques to her advantage. Add a beautiful cast of Indigenous faces and a soundtrack full of Snot Nosed Rez Kids and Trickster becomes a series full of potential. I can’t wait to watch the rest of the series’ first season.
Trickster began airing on CBC Television in Canada on September 17th.