The Republic of Sarah is too daft to be taken seriously, but it has some potential as a small-town drama if it recognizes the value in its relationships and setting.
This recap of The Republic of Sarah season 1, episode 1, “Pilot”, contains spoilers.
The CW’s The Republic of Sarah begins as another tale of anti-corporate small-town pride and then quickly takes a left turn so sharp I thought for a moment that it was a joke. It still might be, in all honesty. The speed with which the show’s pilot clears a towering narrative hurdle suggests to me that there will be many more like it to come; when reinventing the bucolic town of Greylock, New Hampshire as an independent country is a one-episode matter, then everything else seems like a comparatively small affair.
That’s the hook, anyway. Greylock is a no-account little place, except, wouldn’t you know it, it’s sat on a fortune of coltan, a goldmine of mineral wealth that is particularly attractive to Lydon Industries, a typically ruthless state-backed mining company willing to jump through any and all hoops necessary to line its pockets – including displacing Greylock’s humble citizenry. Enter idealistic high-school history teacher Sarah Cooper (Stella Baker), who has other ideas.
Sarah discovers almost immediately that Greylock exists between the United States and Canada though not as an official part of either country, so if it were to “secede from the Union”, so to speak, and become its own independent country, then Lydon would be out of luck. This all involves a shifting tidal bed and some Native American precedent that is woefully underexplained, but no matter. Sarah proposes independence to the townsfolk, and they vote in favor, which at the end of The Republic of Sarah episode 1 has landed her in jail for sedition.
This is difficult to take seriously, but it’s sped through so quickly that one gets the sense you’re not supposed to. Instead, it provides the backdrop for a small-town tapestry of interlocking people, relationships, and agendas. Lydon’s chief legal representative is Sarah’s estranged brother Danny (Luke Mitchell), who left behind their abusive alcoholic mother (Megan Follows) and his fiancé Corinne (Hope Lauren) and has only returned to sink the place. That complex family drama is at the heart of the show much more than the smattering of issues that Sarah is likely to come up against as Greylock becomes its own sovereign nation. There’s also a potential romance for Sarah – this is a CW show, after all – in the form of Grover (Ian Duff), providing she can find time for that in amongst all her new leadership duties (and, you know, federal prison.)
It’s too early to tell how The Republic of Sarah will shape up. There’s a moderately interesting cast and setting here, but its blink-and-you’ll-miss-it plotting makes those things difficult to invest in. If the show recognizes that its value is in the relationships and not the logistical woes of governance, it can definitely make a case for itself, but thus far what sets it apart is also what makes it a bit too silly to be taken seriously.