Tag Archives: APTN

Review: Blackstone’s angels and demons

Blackstone is unflinching in its portrayal of the struggles facing a group of Aboriginal people outside of Edmonton. Need proof? Look no further than Tuesday’s “Sext Me,” which continued its examination of a people ignored by the population around them.

The body of a young Aboriginal girl is discovered in a desolate city park. She’s naked, but there’s nothing titillating about it. She’s a piece of meat left for someone else to find, a pitiful reminder there was no one to protect her from the dangers of drugs and prostitution. Her body exposed to the elements, not even the cops who arrived for the first call have bothered to cover her up. That was finally done by Det. Platt (John Cassini), who not only used his coat to at last give the girl part of her dignity but took responsibility for finding out who she was. This despite higher-ups telling him the city force didn’t have time for “the Indian cases.”

With Stu at his side, Platt ventured to Blackstone and discovered the girl’s identity. Ashley wasn’t part of the Blackstone band, but she was a friend of Marnie and Trisha, two girls who’d headed to Edmonton to make some money through prostitution. Alex’s dealing to the group seems to be the only tenuous tie they have to Blackstone, a thin thread that threatens to snap and lose them to early graves.

Drugs were also binding Andy: his grasp on health–and reality–is slipping. Full of anti-psychotics to try and stem his nightmares, Andy reached out to Daryl and begged for help. That came in the form of Dr. Crowshoe, but Andy suddenly clammed up and refused to talk about his deteriorating mental health. Baby steps, I guess. But having the ghosts of stripper Angel and demon Tom hovering over opposite shoulders while Andy stared wide-eyed into the distance signalled a man quickly getting to the end of his emotional rope. (Darrien telling Andy he’s plotting to break out sure doesn’t help.)

Gail, meanwhile, wasn’t in the awful, dark place she was last week. Yes, she lied to Leona about not having drugs in the house (why Leona hasn’t turned the place upside down searching for pills is beyond me), but she was at least sitting up on the couch rather than sleeping on it during the day. Natalie is still haunting her mother; again, baby steps, right?

Blackstone did offer two scenes of happiness. Wendy, Gina and Sarah had a downright giddy time strumming a guitar, playing soccer and laughing while sitting around a campfire. It was good to see Wendy giggling and acting like a little girl, something we haven’t really seen since early last season. The other bit of brightness came courtesy of Daryl. He’s clearly enamoured with Gina–he made her breakfast for the second time in two weeks–and was hurt when she had to run off with nary a sip of his coffee. Is Andy’s brother getting soft? Don’t bet on it.

Blackstone airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on APTN.


Review: Blackstone goes “Deeper and Deeper”

Tuesday’s new episode of Blackstone was called “Deeper and Deeper,” and from the outset it was obvious the title referred to Gail, Andy and Jumbo.

Gail’s descent into the rabbit hole of sleep to hide from the fact she stabbed Darrien advanced into dangerous territory. Her dreams were haunted by Natalie and soon her waking moments were filled by her too. Natalie asking Gail where Wendy had gone, taunting her to take more pills, imploring her to take a drink of alcohol (which Gail did) finally led to her offering Gail a knife and stating “there are faster ways to kill yourself.” Gail’s attempts to hide her lapses in time–and forgetting she had dropped Wendy off at Sarah’s house–were revealed to Leona, Marilyn, Wilma and Greg in a horrible public scene.

Actress Michelle Thrush won a Gemini for her role as Gail. It was well-deserved and she may just win a Canadian Screen Award this year. Her Gail is so tortured, so real, so pitiful … I wanted to look away but couldn’t, particularly when she was careening around the yard, trying to keep her numerous stories straight The only glimmer of hope by the end of the episode was that Leona realized how far Gail has fallen and will get her the help she so desperately needs.

Andy has been hitting the medication as well thanks to the stab wound he received last week. Of course, his father was there to mock and guffaw as Andy begged for more pain meds from the jail doctor. Angel, the stripper Andy shot to death, dropped by for a brief visit too, causing the former Blackstone chief to pee himself with fear. (Show creator Ron E. Scott advanced the overall prison story arc by having Andy converse with a young Native man who had been found guilty of manslaughter despite having an alibi. Andy promised to have his own lawyer look into the case, but he may be too drug-addled to make good on it.)

And finally there was Jumbo. Daryl’s right-hand man at the club has developed quite the addiction to online poker and was so desperate to play he took money from the night’s take to help supplant his gambling. He’s sinking deeper and deeper into debt (he’s going to lose the club’s money, of that I am sure) and Daryl is not going to be happy when he finds out.

Blackstone airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on APTN.


Link: Move over Lena Dunham, Mohawk Girls is where it’s at

From Ashley Csanady:

If you’re already sick of all the chatter about the fourth season of Lena Dunham’s Girls, which won’t even air on HBO until January 2015, the Canadian television gods are offering an antidote.

The cure is Mohawk Girls, and it looks like Sex and the City had a baby with a Joseph Boyden novel produced by Shonda Rhimes.

The characters are all strong, Cosmo-clutching women looking for the answers to life and love, all within the tight-knit setting of reservation life. Continue reading.


Blackstone goes behind bars for Season 4

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.


APTN sets Season 4 of Blackstone for Nov. 11


From a media release:

Blackstone, the critically acclaimed hit drama recently highlighted in the New York Times, returns to APTN for season four with eight new episodes. Winner of 28 television awards, Blackstone is an authentic drama that explores the raw and real dynamics of family, power and politics on a First Nation reserve.

This season, Blackstone delves into the often taboo topic of residential schools – and their lasting effect that reverberates in communities today, the high number of Aboriginals in prison, and the plight of missing Aboriginal women. Actors Jennifer Podemski and Glen Gould join the all-star ensemble. Produced by Prairie Dog Film + TelevisionBlackstone season four airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. starting Nov. 11 on APTN

The fourth season picks up on Blackstone as the community tries to rebuild after the reserve was set on fire. Manipulative and tormented Andy Fraser (Eric Schweig of Longmire, Maïna, The Last of the Mohicansfaces his demons in the remand prison while trying to elude a murder charge. Leona Stoney (Carmen Moore of Arctic Air, Supernatural, Godiva’s) searches for two missing youth when rumors arise they may be involved in an underground human trafficking circle in the city. Gail Stoney (Michelle Thrush of Jimmy P., Hell on Wheels, Fargo) continues to be haunted by the stabbing of Darrien, the death of her child, and past addictions. Actress Jennifer Podemski (Empire of Dirt, Jimmy P., Degrassi) joins the cast as a psychologist, Dr. Crowshoe, specializing in post-traumatic stress disorder. Glen Gould (Mohawk GirlsRhymes for Young Ghouls) plays estranged brother to Leona and Gail, Smokey Stoney.

Canadians can catch up on seasons 1, 2, and 3 at www.aptn.ca/fullepisodes/blackstone/. In the US, viewers can watch on Hulu.com and Hulu Plus. As well, Blackstone will be featured at the Canadian International Television Festival this November in Toronto.

Blackstone is produced by Prairie Dog Film + Television, with Ron E. Scott as Executive Producer, Writer & Director and Jesse Szymanski as Co-Executive Producer. The series currently broadcasts in Canada on APTN, in the United States on Hulu and HuluPlus, in New Zealand on Maori Television, and in Australia on SBS/NITV. Blackstone has been nominated for 75 awards, including Best Dramatic Series, and Best Dramatic Writing at the Canadian Screen Awards this year.

Blackstone is produced in association with Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), the Canada Media Fund, with the assistance of the Government of Alberta, Alberta Media Fund, with the participation of Rogers Cable Network Fund, and with the assistance of the Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit.