Trickster is a darkly compelling watch with plenty of rich storytelling and Indigenous folklore

The Indigenous talent at every level of the storytelling makes this show uniquely refreshing

Crystle Lighting plays Jared's mother, Maggie, with aplomb and showcases strength, heart, spirit, and a take-no-shit type of attitude. Courtesy of CBC

By: Meera Eragoda, Arts & Culture Editor

All those headlines you’ve been seeing about Trickster being the must watch show of the fall? They’re not wrong. Trickster just aired the first of its six-episode season on Wednesday, October 7 and I’m hooked.

Based on Eden Robinson’s best-selling novel, Son of a Trickster, the show is a coming-of-age story about Jared, a boy who is navigating the effects of colonialism on his family while still trying to be a teenager, and is set to a backdrop of magical realism and Haisla  and Heiltsuk mythology.

The cast is stacked with Indigenous talent from director and writer Michelle Latimer, an Algonquin-Métis woman, to actors Joel Oulette (Jared), Crystle Lightning (Jared’s mom, Maggie), Anna Lambe (Sarah), Nathan Alexis (Jared’s best friend, Crashpad, who every should want as their best friend), and Kalani Queypo (Wade).

Unlike other coming-of-age supernatural shows (I’m looking at you Netflix’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch), the acting doesn’t feel wooden and the show doesn’t feel overly dramatic for the sake of it. While Trickster is a supernatural show, it also incorporates very real aspects of Indigenous experiences, making for more substantial viewing — though it’s not without its moments of levity.

Even watching as a non-Indigenous person, it’s clear from the first episode that the show navigates the intergenerational trauma that Indigenous families face in a very nuanced and caring way — an effect of Indigenous people telling their own stories. Maggie, one of my favourite characters, is shown as a deeply caring and loving mother who is full of life. A badass who will do anything for her kid, she also struggles with mental health issues for which she self-medicates.

The casual racism that Indigenous people face is also touched on when a customer at the fast food place where Jared works tells him that he’s a hard worker and “not like the others,” a perpetuation of problematic stereotypes. The very capable and intelligent Jared works on the side selling ecstasy which he makes himself, doing so in order to support both his mother and father. It is clear he is tasked with this unfair burden because of Canada’s long history of ignoring and undermining Indigenous rights and sovereignty. 

Issues such as the pipeline are given prominence with scenes of oil and gas workers driving to the LNG pipeline. Sarah, a foster kid who has just moved in next to Jared, is a strong advocate and activist for Indigenous rights and hers is an important voice to feature in a show on a mainstream network.

Trickster navigates all of this in a very compelling way while also spotlighting Indigenous folklore with the arrival of Wee’git — the Haisla iteration of the Raven known for being a trickster. The arrival of Wee’git has Jared seeing his doppelgänger at a house party and elsewhere, leaving him questioning his sanity. Add in mysterious strangers at the bus stop and talking Ravens and it’s clear that his life is about to change in a major way. The way the episode leaves off makes it apparent that there will be plenty more dark, supernatural goings on to come which certainly has me eagerly anticipating being wrapped up more fully in the story.

With an Indigenous cast, Indigenous director, based on an Indigenous authors’ book, and replete with Indigenous storytelling and folklore, this really is the first show of its kind to air on a major network like the CBC and it’s well worth the watch — even if just to see history in the making.