Spoiler Warning: Episode details below!
Which Side Are You On?
Episode 1 of USA Network’s Damnation ended with the corpse of Sam Riley nailed to the Bank’s door with a sign hung around its neck asking “Which Side Are You On?” I knew I needed to pick a side: either The Flock led by Reverend Seth Davenport (Killian Scott) or The Strike Breakers led by Creeley Turner (Logan Marshall-Green). I had hoped I would be able to choose by the end of the second episode aptly titled “Which Side Are You On?” The choice is not an easy one and the revelation at the end of Episode 1 that Seth and Creeley are actually brothers lets you know that the battle between the two is about much more than just The Farmers vs.The Bankers.
Our second episode opens with Seth standing naked outside his house washing off the evidence of his misdeed from the night before. He assures his worried wife Amelia (Sarah Jones) that the Sheriff will not suspect the local preacher of nailing Sam Riley up. Seth is convinced that Creeley will be blamed and driven out of town. He tells her that nailing Sam’s body to the Bank’s door felt like “touching God” giving us a glimpse into what I perceive as a touch of madness.
We then move on to Creeley and Bessie Louvin (Chasten Harmon), the prostitute Creeley hired to be his “reader” in Episode 1. Bessie reads the letter that was sent to Creeley from Martin Eggers Hyde, Ph.D hiring him to break the Farmer’s Strike in Holden. Creeley then receives news of Sam Riley’s body and he heads to town, bringing Bessie so she can read the sign for him. Outside the bank he runs into Sheriff Don Berryman, played by the very talented Christopher Heyerdahl, who immediately accuses him of nailing up the body. Creeley informs him that crucifixion is not his style, and hints that it had religious undertones, insinuating correctly, that it was The Reverend that did it.
Meanwhile Reverend Seth is riling up the farmers, who believe Creeley is responsible for crucifying Sam’s body, by using his rallying cry from Episode 1 “We Need to Break Their F*cking Backs“. He convinces them that they are God’s Chosen People and that they need to starve the town for 40 Days and 40 Nights. He tells them they need to ban together to stop the Banks from taking their farms. That they need to continue their strike and refuse to sell food to the Grocers who are fixing prices.
As everyone is leaving the Reverend’s meeting they are shot at by The Black Legion. Seth pulls out a pistol and with one very accurate shot hits one of them as they drive off in a truck. If it wasn’t already clear to everyone before this that Seth is not your average Reverend – it certainly should be now. When asked by a Reporter who was at the meeting, “what kind of Preacher carries a pistol and shoots like that?” One of the farmers responds “a well prepared one.” Seth then vows to find out who is coming after them.
Only A Biscuit…
While this is happening, Amelia is packing up the hammer Seth used to nail up Sam’s body in a picnic basket. As she’s leaving her home on her motorcycle, Sheriff Berryman stops by with Sam’s body in the back of his car. He not-so-subtly lets it be known to her that he may suspect her husband. He then asks to check what’s in the basket. I was sure that he was going to find the hammer but all he came out of the basket with was a biscuit. Amelia ends up tossing the hammer into a pond.
We then find ourselves in Des Moines, Iowa where Holden’s local Banker Calvin Rumple (Dan Donohue) is meeting up with Hyde (Gabriel Mann), the man who hired Creeley Turner to break the Farmer’s Strike. This scene seemed to be there as a chance to explain why The Banks and the Elite were working so hard to destroy, in Hyde’s words, “the unwashed rural masses”. He explains that with the invention of machines to do the work these people are no longer needed. He tells Rumple it is time to foreclose on the Farmers and start auctioning off their land to the highest bidders. I’ll admit it was a surprise seeing a Twinkie reference made by Hyde in this scene. I didn’t realize that Twinkies were invented back in 1930.
In Harlan, Kentucky we meet back up with Connie Nunn (Melinda Page Hamilton), who we had briefly seen in Episode 1 hunting for Seth, who she says killed her husband. After luring a miner’s daughter out of the house (the one redeeming thing she has done) she proceeds to shoot the three men in the house when they won’t give her information on Seth. Connie is another strong female character in a show that is full of them. In my opinion, from what I’ve seen of her, she is even more ruthless than any of the men. When the little girl discovers her father’s dead body she runs from the house and sees Connie. We are left not knowing what happens at this point, but I’m not convinced that she won’t kill the poor girl.
The music in this episode has been great! Laura Marling’s “Devil’s Spoke” is playing as Reverend Seth and the Farmers come marching into town with picket signs and it sets the mood perfectly. As Seth addresses the crowd he spots a member of The Black Legion who then retreats into the Butcher Shop followed by Seth setting up a very tense scene.
The member of the Black Legion shoots at Seth and we see blood splatter, but as it turns out – he only shot a pig’s head. Seth then jumps him, driving a sharp bar into his shoulder, knocking him down. As he straddles the man he demands to know who sent The Black Legion after the farmers. When told they sent themselves Seth puts his pistol in the man’s mouth. I was on the edge of my seat just waiting for him to pull the trigger. Then Seth sees a cross marked on the floor and decides not to kill him. Is some of his Preacher Act starting to rub off on him? He tells the man if he wants to live he needs to start giving him information on The Black Legion.
Who is who?
Throwing us another plot twist… In the first episode we discovered Seth and Creeley were brothers. Now we find out that Sheriff Berryman is the Father of Bessie, the prostitute that is helping Creeley. I’m going to be expecting great plot twists in every episode now. It will be very disappointing if we don’t get one.
This episode ends with Amelia coming home to find Creeley waiting for her. He warns her that Seth is not who she thinks he is. He is very dangerous and he’s trying to save her life. When she does not believe him, he shows her a picture of Seth with another women. He tells her he tried warning her too and she didn’t believe him. Creeley leaves and Amelia hides the picture as Seth returns home. We fade out with more great mood setting music, Natalie Merchant singing Florence Reece’s 1931 “Which Side Are You On?”
So… which side am I on?
At this point I’m pretty sure, although I side with the Farmers against the Bankers, that I’m on Creeley Turner’s side when it comes to the brothers. Of course, with this show, that could all change with the next episode.
Watch Damnation on USA Network Tuesdays at 10/9c
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