Tennyson Duvall (Zach McGowan) brings Creeley out to an empty field with a shovel, and asks him which he’d like to hear first, the good news or the bad.
Since Creeley chose the good, it’s only right to start with Damnation‘s best and, in the season finale, the best is getting to see Tennyson Duvall live up to his stature. Everything’s been connected back to him, including Cynthia’s death, so it was important that the show present him as a man who could conceivably gain and retain that much power.
In an episode where a lot of things went according to plan, Duvall’s shooting of Martin Eggers Hyde (Gabriel Mann) didn’t. Anyone who’s seen a mafia movie knows you don’t get driven out to the middle of nowhere to dig a hole, unless it’s your grave. It turns out Duvall didn’t sign off on Hyde’s approach to breaking the farmer’s strike. Whether he’s more upset for personal reasons or PR, Duvall is many things that are horrible and cruel but even he denounces the Black Legion. For associating the Duvall family with their racist organization, Hyde gets shot and Creeley is given the option to replace him as Tennyson’s employee.
In that moment, Duvall proves he’s no fool and, after killing Hyde, it’s just him and Creeley in that field. He doesn’t need back-up to feel secure in his position. This is how strong he is alone.
On to the bad news side of the episode, after learning it was Abigail, not Seth, who killed her husband, Connie confronts Abigail and the final scene is Seth returning home to find fresh blood. We’re meant to be in fear for Abigail’s life, but the trouble is this cliffhanger has no backbone. Especially after episode nine, the show has given viewers nothing to believe they’ll see this threat through, and that leaves the ending regrettably lifeless.
Our imaginations are supposed to run wild when we don’t see Abigail, but that just means the show can reel back on her injuries. I’m not at all concerned about her life being in danger, and if I’m wrong, I’ll eat my hat (and make sure it’s a Stetson), but Preston (Teach Grant) is still alive after being shot in the tractor. If they were going to kill Abigail, Damnation would’ve done it already.
And finally, the election. Melvin Stubbs (Paul Rae) winning sheriff, despite a last-minute surge of votes against him, was a major setback for the series. USA Network hasn’t renewed Damnation, but the prospect of what that could mean for season two was huge… until Don killed Melvin and his lackeys, leaving Holden without a sheriff.
This isn’t a lament for Melvin, who was a monster and leader of the Black Legion, but Damnation can’t solve all its problems with guns, especially when it’s unwilling to see its heroes take the same losses (losing D.L. was a big deal but there were other problems with his character being eliminated). A better decision for Don’s character arc, than for the show, nobody wanted to see Melvin sheriff of Holden, but this wasn’t the way to take him out, when so many aren’t aware they had elected a monster.
Damnation aired Thursdays at 10 PM EST on USA Network.