This Damnation review contains spoilers.
Damnation Episode 3
Everything isn’t as it may seem in tonight’s episode. Members of the Black Legion appear normal in daylight, but their hearts are dark and their agenda is sinister. Who are the allies and foes in Holden County? The sheriff and his sister-in-law brothel madam are on opposite ends of the farmer’s strike both for financial reasons. We discovered last week that the sheriff is Bessie’s father. Their relationship is strained at best and must be kept a secret. Sheriff Berryman loved his black mistress more than he loved his white wife, a fact lost on his biracial daughter who lives and works in her aunt’s brothel.
The life of a black prostitute in a predominately white town must be precarious even if her father is the conflicted sheriff who can’t publicly acknowledge and protect her. Bessie can’t enter through the front door of his house for fear of being seen by nosy neighbors and passersby. What value is placed on her life? What consequences would she suffer if found alone and defenseless? What fate would befall the sheriff in an election year if it’s discovered he has an out of wedlock black daughter? Would the God-fearing white majority, including the secret members of the Black Legion, vote for him to serve another term? Bessie and Don aren’t the only people in town harboring secrets and lies.
Amelia doesn’t know who she’s married to in the body of Seth. It’s one thing to agree to disagree on not talking about one’s past, but Seth’s rehearsed narrative and omissions might backfire because Creeley is determined to undermine him. Who was the woman, Cynthia, to Seth? Who and or what was the cause of her death? Seth’s not forthcoming with details, but I wonder if Creeley’s to blame for her being six foot under in a pine box.
What’s beneath Creeley’s bravado and attempted swagger as he tries to disrupt and end the strike? What must it take to admit to himself and Bessie that he’s powerless without her reading skills? He says and does things that have obviously been effective with previous women from all walks of life. They’re both outcasts trying to prove themselves to anyone who’d care to pay attention, but not too much. Bessie’s a survivor. She’s saving her earnings for a safe home anywhere else but Holden County.
The world hasn’t changed all that much since the events in “One Penny.” Bankers are still taking advantage of people, and some politicians and law enforcement officers are primarily concerned with their own best interests. The farmers and miners didn’t willingly abandon the strike which impacts them more than corrupt officials, the next low blow was seizing and auctioning off their family heirlooms and homes. Hungry and homeless aren’t the best foundation for a rebellion. A public auction of one’s public property buckles the knees and breaks the spirit. Bibles are neither sacred nor exempt from the auctioneer’s item list. Religious hypocrites aren’t a rarity, they’ve existed since time began, and will persist until the end of time.
Times are tough for everyone on Damnation. Most children aren’t spared life’s hardships, and one in particular, Brittany, is carried away by Connie after she murdered her father. I’ve no idea why Connie’s leaving several dead bodies in her wake as she pursues Seth, her husband’s alleged assassin. She doesn’t understand precise messaging and moderation, as she’s started schooling Dear Child, her pet name for the orphaned Brittany, in the ways trickery and beguiling common folk.
Viewers might want to keep a scorecard for character affiliations and loyalties as the episodes unfold. What purpose does the Black Legion serve other than a Midwestern offshoot of the Ku Klux Klan? Referencing last week’s episode title, “Which Side Are You On,” I ask that of the fine gentlemen under the black hoods and robes. I don’t see them associated with the newspaper, the bank, or the out of town instigator who refers to the locals as the “unwashed masses”.
Seth and Amelia inspired the farmers and together they changed the outcome of Martha Riley’s farm auction. The reprieve will be short-lived because the corrupt overlords will regroup and return with additional strikebreakers or employ stronger tactics. The momentum shift allowed Seth to trust Amelia with the truth about Creeley and Cynthia. Is Cynthia dead due to a traveling con that went wrong?