4 out of 5
Created by: Tony Elliott and Michelle Latimer
‘Trickster’ paints such a convincing and immersive picture of Haisla teen Jared’s (Joel Oulette) trials and tribulations, growing up in a rural Canada province, that it’s almost disappointing when it circles back around to its mystic angle: the appearance of Wade (Kalani Queypo), claiming to be Jared’s father – though Jared already has a man he calls Dad – and who is also maybe responsible for the various mind-fuckeries the kid’s been experiencing of late, which may or may not involve witches, and shape-shifters, and zombie-esque folk with molting flesh. But that stuff’s interesting too, right? And so it’s not wholly disappointing to shift focus onto that, especially as all of it is wrapped up in a layered study of Indigenous culture, mapped onto a family that’s in a constant push and pull with each of their own identities. So these storylines smartly overlap; they feed into one another, and they’re both worthwhile. It’s a lot for six episodes, though, and that’s the disappointment: while I think compression would be a better route for many shows, occasionally we get those that are so sharp on all their points that more room could do them some good, and that’s what we find here: Trickster builds up a wonderful network of characters around Jared, while also adding to its mysteries of mystic shit, while also being very, very smart and modern in its approach to representation of its Haisla inhabitants – not going out of its way to spotlight and forcefully educate, rather just casting correctly, soundtracking with (I’m supposing) all Indigenous-peoples produced music, and allowing its actors to bring naturalistic dialogue to naturalistic life. It’s so rich, and then we have to shed some weight because there are bigger things brewing which also need resolving: past traditions coming to the fore; Wade’s presence wavering between inspiring and threatening. This swings back the other way in the final episode, with the conclusion kinda sorta boffing it in order to fit into an hour episode, but then winning us back as the focus can once again expand to cover the entirety of Jared’s world.
The performances by Oulette and his mother, played by Crystle Lightning are spot-on, absolute keys in convincing us of the reality of their day-to-day existence from the start. The environment in which Jared lives is also breathing, and alive: the single parent trailer-park living, with electricity bills unpaid; his half-assed school presence; the side drug hustle; his half-motivating, half-chiding friends; the snarky girl (Anna Lambe) who’s moved in next door; the encroaching British Columbia woods; the stretches of land between homes and isolated businesses… Todor Kobakov’s score is another kick, emphasizing both the weirdness of Trickster’s occasional visions and then the shuffling-along isolation of Jared, and until we have to necessarily cross that line where things are explained, our writers and directors maintain a wonderfully balanced tone between truth and fiction; whimsy and drama.
Unfortunately, some controversy behind the scene caused the plug to be yanked on a second season, which was set up, and could’ve expanded on both of the sides of the story appreciably. …So maybe it’s time to check out the books and see where Jared’s headed.