Even the moon shimmers like precious metal over the horizon of Dominion Creek, as though the Yukon’s promise of gold, at the end of the 19th century, climbed right into the sky. When the first of the Connolly brothers reached this frontier town, in the first series of An Klondike (TG4, Wednesday, 9.30pm), it was literally raining gold nuggets, thrown down from a balcony by a lofty saloon baron. But the richer promise of Dominion Creek in Dathaí Keane’s compelling North Western is that here everyone can make themselves anew. It’s a kind of fool’s gold really, because the old world is always rushing hard after them.
The sly joke beneath the series is that its persuasive vision of a gold rush town, all tobacco-brown shacks huddled under washed-silver skies, is filmed in Connemara. It fits with the language, bilingual, but predominately as Gaeilge. No one ever gets too far away from home.
As the second series begins, the three Connolly brothers – impetuous pretty boy Séamus (Dara Devaney), gruff pretty boy Tom (Owen McDonnell) and holy pretty boy Pádraig (Seán T. ó Meallaigh) – have standardised their beard lengths but begun to diversify their money-making schemes. After the incineration of a saloon and the sabotage of a gold mine, they have opened up Dominion’s first bathhouse. Maybe they’ll clean up.
The town, however, is getting grubbier, teeming with injustices from without but mostly from within. Robert O’Mahonny’s Klondike King, though deteriorating, still menaces, while Ned Dennehy’s brutal enforcer Irish Pat is avoiding his come-uppance. But with a family like the Connollys, suggests writer Marcus Fleming, who needs enemies?
Besides the beauty of the filming and the energy of its telling, the pleasure here is to see life reduced to an addictive game of chance. “In the Klondike there is no real commerce,” reckons Megan Riordan’s Estella Hopkins. “Everything is simply gambling dressed up.” (She herself is a bit of a wild card.) The frequent refrain of Soapy Smith (Michael Glenn Murphy), who spins the roulette wheel along with several other cons, may as well be the show’s motto: “Will lady fortune caress you or scorn you?” As they say in the Yukon, sin a bhfuil.