Damnation Review – Season 1, Episode 2: ‘Which Side Are You On?’

by Rachel Bellwoar

Damnation is making its episode titles count. Last week, “Sam Reilly’s Body” had no chance to rest in peace before it was found crucified in town. This week, the sign around Sam’s neck provides the name, “Which Side Are You On?” and a song that uses the question as a refrain.
Before getting into how people answered, though, the answer to whether Damnation is a show you should make time for is a much stronger ‘yes’ this go around. Either I was grumpy last week, or didn’t want to get my hopes up, but “Which Side Are You On?” does a lot more to show what Damnation has going for it besides its two, leading brothers.
Mainly this is done by accentuating the other characters. As we already knew, Seth (Killian Scott) was behind Sam’s crucifixion but since Creely (Logan Marshall-Green) was the one who killed him, suspicion falls on him. This leads to some great banter between him and Sheriff Don Berryman (Christopher Heyerdahl), but what makes it better is Don takes Creely’s message seriously. In a later scene it’s lamented that Don’s not a ‘blood hound anymore’ but if Seth’s being a man of the cloth is supposed to protect him, Sheriff Don doesn’t mind questioning him off Creely’s tip. He has every reason to want to pin the crime on Creely and the ability, going by his unlawful side businesses, to succeed, but some part of being a good lawman has stuck. He’s not the complete, crooked cop I pegged him out to be. He doesn’t let his dislike of Creely get in the way of his job and I’ll admit, I expected less.
As for why Don’s not Creely’s biggest fan, Bessie (Chasten Harmon) is revealed to be his daughter. That was not the meaning I took from the madam calling her ‘his girl’ (which was surely intentional). Last week, I mentioned being unsure how to feel about the main POC on the show being a prostitute, and the cast could use more diversity, but this episode gave a much better indication of the storyline Damnation has cooking for Bessie, and that does not include being restricted to a brothel bedroom.
Without the need for schooling from Creely or any man, Bessie is the one who stops the papers from reporting about Sam’s body and researches how other towns are reporting on the strikes. It’s a much better use of Bessie’s, and viewers’, time and goes to underline how often her intelligence is squandered. You forget what a privilege it is to know how to read. It’s not all longform letters. Creely doesn’t know what the sign says around Sam’s neck.
Speaking of newspapers, it’s interesting to see how un-ignorant they are about what’s going on in town. Of course, they were aware that food prices were fixed but it’s another thing to see reporter, D.L. Sullivan (Joe Adler), doing legwork for a story he won’t report. He’s interviewing people on the scene, yet nothing will be published. It feels more deliberate when the censorship’s that public, but Sullivan finds other ways to help Seth’s cause, like acting as their lookout during an (armed) picket protest. He’s so busy asking other people which side they’re on. Which side is Sullivan on?
Seth’s? While it’s unclear how receptive people are to their cause, Seth’s protest was a smart way of bringing information directly to the people. At the same time, Seth is catching a lot of attention for his video game like precision responding to the Black Legion shooting at his church. It’s very Terminator, very military, but not very preacher-y, and how long is he going to be able to keep that up?
The one character I continue to be unconvinced by is Connie Nunn (Melinda Page Hamilton). It’s clear she has a vendetta against Seth and is a bada**, but she’s one step too far-fetched for a show that already has a lot of big characters to support. Connie could lead a Tarantino Kill Seth film but she’s not the focus of Damnation.
A few other thoughts on “Which Side Are You On?”:

  • I’ll cop to being terrible at US geography, but the location changes are throwing me off a little, as to where characters are in relation to each other.
  • We don’t get an additional scene of the brothers in the same room but Creely visiting Seth’s wife, Amelia (Sarah Jones), is an awesome consolation. At first, from the way he was watching her get rid of Seth’s hammer, it seemed like some pining might be afoot. They already had Creely greet Seth with a ‘Hello brother’ last week. Why not go full Vampire Diaries and instill a love triangle, too? Maybe there was a love triangle at one time, that contributed to their rift, but the woman wasn’t Amelia, and the photo Creely found in Seth’s home wasn’t the obvious choice, of proof that he and Seth are brothers (this whole conversation takes place without Amelia realizing that). Instead it’s proof of the woman who was Seth’s former love. Is Creely concerned about Amelia’s safety or trying to sabotage Seth?

New episodes of Damnation air Tuesdays at 10 PM EST on USA Network.

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