Klondike (Discovery Channel) Series Finale 2014 Review

And the award for most depressing miniseries of the year goes to Klondike.

Nature always wins, was my takeaway from this dedolate tale. Humans pillage the land, some turn into criminals, others maintain their integrity, but they all die. They fall through the ice like Meeker, end up shot over a claim like Byron or just freeze to death because they don’t have the common sense to treat the men in their service with respect like The Count. The best anyone can hope for is to offer something back to the world, even if it is nothing more than hope, as did the Reverend. He dies too, but at least he gets to witness his funeral and see the impact he left on the town.

The final installment of Klondike was full of awe-inspiring landscapes. Winter descended on Dawson, but there was beauty in its ruthless violence. Bodies piled up that couldn’t be put into the ground, while Bill continued his quest for revenge. His journey nearly cost him life, but Belinda, wonderful, tough Belinda, came to his rescue literally pulling him from the snow and ultimately killing Goodwin, Byron’s killer, for Bill. In her mind, it was a way to protect his innocence, but she couldn’t give him the one thing he needed– her. She was too proud to go back to America, where women could not, in the year 1897 be the masters of their own fate. Instead, she stayed behind and built a hotel that no one would ever visit because Dawson City’s rush was as fleeting as life itself. The town dried up quickly as the miners headed to Nome, chasing another dream of riches that would take most of their lives. According to the end, Belinda dies penniless and a housekeeper (which is actually not completely factual, her real ending doesn’t sound quite so dire) and Bill, despite freeing himself from the Yukon’s grip returns in 1901 and is never seen again (I cannot confirm whether or not that bit is true– but it makes for a suitably sad ending). Elsewhere, the Tlingits held accused of Byron’s murder are freed after their people lay siege to the jail. They at least get to live out their lives.

Overall, Klondike was an admirable effort from Discovery, but despite several terrific performances, it never quite rose above a sea of western style tropes. Revenge, fighting against nature, the fragile work of establishing aq “civilization” in the wilds; we’ve seen it all before. It was gorgeous to look at, but the miniseries was never fully absorbing because its message was so mundane. It was a pleasure to see Madden take the lead for once, fully transforming from a boy to a hardened man in six hours, but the tale could have been told in four. What’s more, the defeatism of the ending made the time invested feel wasted. Yes, everyone dies, but wise men stay on their orange groves, living out their days in the sunshine as long as they can. Chasing fortunes rarely ever pays off, and watching the miners march toward another spot of land they can fight over and damage didn’t inspire me to want to see what happens in Nome. I suspect it would be more of the same: death, destruction, lives ruined, rocks fall and everyone dies– that sort of thing.

Klondike was wrapped in a picturesque grandeur, but inside there wasn’t a nugget of gold to be found, just a few sparkly platitudes and the message that hope is far too simplistic of a notion to hang an entire miniseries on.