“The Republic of Sarah” starts straightforwardly enough. Opening in the idyllic New Hampshire town of Greylock, the show introduces us to history teacher Sarah Cooper (Stella Baker), her friends, and to her own surprise, her estranged brother Danny (Luke Mitchell). Though he abruptly left Greylock, their abusive alcoholic mother (Megan Follows) and his fiancé Corinne (Hope Lauren) years ago, he’s now back as a representative of an overbearing oil company that’s ready to use every legal loophole available in order to bulldoze the entire town and dredge up the riches lurking right underneath. Almost despite herself, Sarah finds herself stepping in front of the first bulldozer, readying for an all-out fight to save the town she loves.
So far, so classic. But what “The Republic of Sarah” does next is what sets it apart, for better and for worse.
Rather than just try to protest the corporate invaders, Sarah digs up the town’s history to discover that it lies at a unique point between the United States and Canadian borders and, thanks to an ever-shifting tidal bed, was never formally claimed for either country in its current form. She therefore proposes that Greylock break away from the United States to form its own country — a wild idea that, sooner rather than later, a vast majority of the town signs onto.
The speed with which Jeffrey Paul King’s new CW show runs through its story in order to get past the logistical inconvenience of its premise is whiplash-inducing. In the first episode alone, Sarah launches a successful outreach campaign, holds a vote, and gets sent to federal prison for sedition once it passes in her favor. Her ensuing trial takes about three (3) minutes before “The Republic of Sarah” — or more to the point, the Republic of Greylock — is back in business. In a world of bloated streaming dramas taking entire seasons to get to the point, it’s rare for me to say the following, but: This show really could have benefitted from slowing down.
At the very least, “The Republic of Sarah” does a decent job fleshing out the world of Greylock beyond Sarah alone with a sprawling cast of other characters. Beyond her family and Corinne, there’s also Grover (Ian Duff), her requisite friend with which she shares just a smidge too much romantic chemistry for them to ignore. AJ (Nia Holloway), their friend and local cop, has a secret of her own. The show even includes a passel of earnest teens, including the (former) mayor’s daughter Bella (Landry Bender), her sensitive new boyfriend Tyler (Forrest Goodluck) and surly L.A. expat Maya (Izabella Alvarez).
The balancing act between all the intersecting storylines is solid, if perfunctory. With that many characters, and an extraordinary amount of plot to burn through in every episode, not everyone gets enough to do — least of all Tyler, the lone central Native American character on a show that could not exist without the Native American precedent Sarah finds in the town’s historical maps.
Each episode, Sarah and her trusty band of unofficial advisors have to deal with new problems facing a fledgling sovereign nation: hostile neighbors, border control, inflation, disobedience, et cetera and so on. They tend to figure each out by the end credits, even if they have to make some tough decisions along the way. Because for the most part, the Republic of Greylock is mostly just doing its best to stay afloat. Each solution generally follows the example of the country it recently left; despite its colorful new currency, Greylock isn’t trying to reinvent anything so much as replicate what it knows on a smaller scale. It’s more interesting to imagine what a more imaginative version of this new country might have looked like if the show were willing to go there. But just like its newly independent residents, “The Republic of Sarah” is just doing its best to tread water without sinking under the weight of its complex premise.
“The Republic of Sarah” premieres Monday, June 14, at 9 p.m. on The CW.
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