Blackstone isn’t afraid to tackle unsavoury issues with an unflinching eye. Issues of alcoholism, abuse, murder and conspiracy have been the cornerstones of the APTN series. Season 4–premiering Tuesday with eight new episodes–is no different as it follows fallen former First Nation Chief Andy Fraser (Eric Schweig) into prison. Is he there because the murder he committed has finally come to light, or because he set fire to the community’s offices? That isn’t clear at first. What is clear is that Andy is a little out of his depth in a jail packed with men who want to do him harm.
“I think it would probably shock a lot of people regarding the percentage of Native people in prison,” show creator, executive producer, writer and director Ron E. Scott says. “There are 12 per cent Native people in Canada but 80 per cent of the population in prisons in Western Canada are Native people. Why? The big commentary there is to relate it to the generational dysfunction in the residential schools where the kids weren’t given proper mother and father role models.”
That lack of a proper role model is certainly reflected in Blackstone. Andy is accosted in prison by a man claiming to be his son while back at home Alan’s (Justin Rain) attempts to distance himself from Andy only causes him to act more like the man he despises.
Meanwhile, Gail (Michelle Thrush) and Leona Stoney (Carmen Moore) are struggling to fill the role of mother to Wendy Bull (Miika Bryce Whiskeyjack). When Blackstone picks up three months after the events of the Season 3 finale, that trio is still struggling to overcome the vicious attack made on them by Darrien Tailfeathers (Julian Black Antelope), who is in the same prison as Andy. It’s not easy. Wendy and Gail are suffering from nightmares, and Gail relies on old habits to get through the day.
“One of the big reflections on addiction is that it’s something that they have to live with for the rest of their life,” Moore says. “In Gail’s case, she hasn’t equipped herself to deal with the trauma that she’s faced and the violence that she’s faced over the last few years of her life. It’s starting to manifest in some really negative ways. Gail will go on a journey that none of us will expect.”
Upcoming storylines this season include the possibility of a human trafficking ring in Edmonton, fracking on Blackstone land and new Chief Victor Merasty (Nathaniel Arcand) attempting to clean up the mess Andy left behind. There aren’t a lot of light moments on the gritty drama, but there is definitely one concerning Victor and a certain lady in his life.
“There’s a glimmer of hope right there,” Moore says with laugh. “Victor is learning that it’s tough to run a reserve, and he’s got a love interest this year that is exciting to see. We’ll have to see how he handles that.”
Blackstone airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on APTN.