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'Barkskins' Episode 2: Women on the Nat Geo show seek new life from old ambitions

Now aware of Claudette's true life, which is in stark contrast of the picture Mother Sabrine paints - Delphine and Melissande must be cautious when selecting their husbands
(National Geographic)
(National Geographic)

Spoilers for 'Barkskins' Season 1 Episode 2

Every day young women from France are brought in to New France so as to be matched with husbands, start families and repopulate the colony for its prosperity. Not so surprising for a story that is set in the 1690s, the women are rejected and confined to contribute only to certain work in society, majorly concentrated only around repopulation. 

Melissande (Tallulah Haddon) and Delphine (Lily Sullivan) are two such young women who are brought in from France. Upon arrival, they are entrusted to the care of Mother Sabrine (Leni Parker), who is to check their virginity and teach them the manners of a wife. Melissande and Delphine are to find themselves right matches but it is not all that easy. Even as women from France are brought in every day, to populate the colony of New France, they are still living the same old life they were in the old land.

As it turns out, Melissande is actually escaping something from the old land. When Mother Sabrine tries to check if she is a virgin, she discovers that Melissande has actually had an abortion or a miscarriage. But Melissande begs her to not reveal this secret and send her back for she is looking to turn her life around and begin afresh. Her plan is simple, she hopes to marry rich and affluent so that never again in her life will she need to worry about any money.

On the other hand, Delphine is nothing like her companion. In fact, we hardly get to see her in the first two episodes. Quiet and reserved, Delphine is always thinking about something, however, we just don't know yet. It is clear that Delphine nurses within herself a secret, but what is it, will it be out soon?

Mother Sabrine, in order to show the new batch of young girls what married life is like in New France, takes them to visit Madame Claudette (Rose-Marie Perreault). Claudette's house is in the middle of nowhere in the forest. When the party arrives, they are greeted by a very exasperated Claudette who ventures out of her house surprised to see them there.

(National Geographic)

A very evidently nervous and fidgety Claudette can hardly keep up with this entire party brought along by Mother Sabrine. After she has been missing from the gathering for a long time, Mother Sabrine sends Melissande to go look for her. That's when Claudette expresses her true concerns. As it turns out, she is now pregnant with her husband's fourth child in close succession. The last pregnancy nearly killed her and this one is already not easy. Melissande gives her the courage to change this around when she suggests she should eat a certain root to induce a miscarriage. 

Claudette's situation highlights the state of the Filles Du Roi (King's Daughters), women who immigrated to New France as a part of a program sponsored by King Louis XIV of France, offering a keen exploration of the concept. The idea was to boost New France's population growth by encouraging male immigrants to settle there and by promoting marriage. After Claudette eats the roots, she enters a pond as the foetus bleeds through her into the water - an extremely intense scene with a powerful shot at the heart of it - relieving her of her doom. 

Now aware of Claudette's true life, which is in stark contrast of the picture Mother Sabrine paints - Delphine and Melissande must be cautious when selecting their husbands. How much will money and values weigh against one another?

'Barkskins' airs on Mondays at 9/8c on National Geographic.