If it wasn’t clear before, Damnation has father issues, as this week we get to meet Seth and Creeley’s pops, Gram Turner (Timothy V. Murphy), in some flashbacks to their childhood. The brothers have been in the foreclosing farms business since they were teens, but have changed roles since those early days. Seth, the strikebreaker, was Seth, the guy who made homeowners leave their land, and Creeley’s chip against dads developed when his abusive father turned him into the kind of guy who could kill as a job.
It would be easy to say Creeley’s completely changed from the man who was averse to violence, but what these flashbacks illustrate most of all is the man that Creeley is inside, and wants to get back to being. It’s possible that revenge plays a bigger role in the brother’s split then we realize. The Cynthia part of their history’s still fuzzy, but these flashbacks don’t feel geared to provide us with new information. What they accomplish is breaking the facades of these hardened men. Creeley wants Seth to confess to the murders that Seth framed him for, so his employers lose their leverage and he can stop antagonizing farmers. Seth is making this personal, but Creeley’s doing this so he can be free. Seth doesn’t grasp how much staying out of jail is his first motivation.
Creeley’s changed, in that he’s improved at shooting and being deceptive, but he hasn’t changed where it counts. Seth is the one who’s gone through the deeper transformation, as he admits to Lew this week that being the town’s preacher isn’t a means to an end anymore. On both the chance that he could help these people, and redeem himself in the process, Seth wants this, and when he talks about running away with Abigail, it’s because he thinks Creeley would follow. In that regard, he gives himself too much credit.
Where he’s right is in realizing that his role as preacher has changed and grown more serious. The people of Holden believe in Seth and we know this because of two scenes with the family that have been at the center of this conflict from the beginning, the Rileys. Sam, Jr. (Rohan Mead) and his mother, Martha (Philippa Domville), demonstrate two kinds of faith — blind faith, where Sam refuses to believe Seth wasn’t framed by Creeley, and faith with eyes wide open. Martha knows Seth is mixed up in things that a preacher ought not to be, but when she tends to Lew’s wounds after the carnival, she knows he’s been good to her family. In her, Seth will always find a loyal congregation member.
That’s what’s so great about the writing on Damnation. Most of the locals are aware there’s something’s crooked going on, but their power comes from deciding which story they’ll believe (and it doesn’t have to be the story that’s true). Don goes in on a lie with Abigail because it’ll secure him votes in the election, after his hands-off approach to being sheriff generates some complaints. It’s not the truth, but it’s the truth he chooses to support publicly, and that’s the story that will stick.
Some additional thoughts on “In Wyoming Fashion:”
- While the body on the Ferris wheel wasn’t my favorite storyline last week, it does, at least, have consequences in jail time for Creeley this week, where Bessie leaves the secret of her father’s identity in his hands.
- I’m not sure how Damnation managed to organically throw in a bank robbery at the end of this episode, but it’s such a classic of the western genre and Damnation makes the moment its own, by planning on using the money for the farms when they go up for auction. That nobody will question the farmers’ ability to pay is ludicrous, but the show established Lew as a bank robber, so this solution utilizes his skills, and the fact Lew seeks out notoriety, by taking off his mask, is a huge peek into how being raised by Seth and Creeley’s dad affected him. It’s also a decision that could connect Seth to the crime, since they’ve been seen together, and people are bound to talk.
New episodes of Damnation have moved to Thursdays at 10 PM EST on USA Network.