The Emperor of Ice Cream
S1 episode 4 Aired on November 28, 2017

Several revelations come to light in Damnation episode 104. Connie is hot on Seth’s trail; Amelia is enlightened to the brotherly bond between her husband and the strikebreaker; and, perhaps most notably, the townspeople of Holden learn to not “underestimate the power of ice cream.” All that and more below. 

Connie takes on the autoworkers in Detroit; gets a lead on Seth.

Now with Brittany under her wing, Connie takes on the role of monster mommy, carting her around the U.S. of A. to take down the “bad men.” This episode, titled “The Emperor of Ice Cream,” opens with her pulling into Detroit to find one Earl Donahue leading the autoworkers’ strike; he chants “Our movement united will never be divided!” That’s Connie’s cue to spring into action.

Posing as a traveling perfume saleswoman, wife to a striking factory worker, and mother to Brittany (the young girl is meant to “provide a pleasing counter-balance” to Connie’s aggressive demeanor), Connie invites herself into the Donahue home while Earl is out protesting and strikes up a friendly rapport with his wife, Zelda. That rapport, of course, is strictly a guise to assess the premises and see how best to rid the world of Earl, a decidedly bad man.

Later, Connie waits for Zelda and her daughter to leave the house while Earl and several other autoworkers scheme inside before she knocks with a “surprise gift” for the man of the house. She enters the living room and promptly shoots them all dead. Before the final autoworker succumbs to his fatal shot, however, Connie finds him holding a pamphlet written by Dr. Samuel T. Hopkins (who we know is Amelia and Seth). Apparently Connie knows it, too, and she learns that the unfortunate striker received the pamphlet in Iowa. With that, she rushes back the driver’s seat beside Brittany. “Not all of them, Dear Child,” Connie says when Brittany says she got all the bad men. “There’s still one in Iowa. The worst man of all.” We can only assume that Damnation will bring Connie and her husband’s murderer together at last.

Creeley and Bessie’s relationship further blurs the line between business and romantic.

If the previous episode saw Bessie’s feelings for Creeley getting the better of her and running to her estranged father for help, this week saw her dealing with the aftermath of those actions -- from Creeley calling her out and clarifying that theirs is strictly a business relationship (though it’s safe to surmise that he has feelings for her, as well), to Sheriff Berryman demanding that she get dirt on the mysterious cowboy so he can lawfully kick him out of Holden.

Whether or not she’s totally happy with her business-only relationship with Creeley, Bessie is more than happy to take his money. He generously throws her a $100 bill for “saving his hat” when he got caught up with the Black Legion and she adds it to her growing pile of crisp bills, which sit in a jewelry box with a child’s drawing of a dream house on it. Berryman knows what his daughter is saving up for, too, and says that if she helps him get rid of Creeley, he’ll consider the down payment she needs for that house and will make it worth her while.

It’s clear that Bessie and Creeley care for each other no matter what they’re willing to admit -- both give in to a “little tenderness” later in the episode -- but Creeley is so coldhearted and Bessie is so desperate; there’s no saying where their arrangement and relationship will ultimately fall.

The farmers disrupt Rumple’s ice cream scheme.

Rumple devises a plan to get Holden back on the bank’s side by providing the local ice cream man, Archibald Weems, with the milk he needs to make his tasty product from an out-of-town dairy supplier. He admits that they have the upper hand after the Riley’s auction, but that “they underestimate the power of ice cream.” Creeley thinks the plan is sure to fail—and sure enough, it does. Seth and the farmers are armed and blockading the road into town when the foreign dairy suppliers come trucking in. Rumple and Creeley watch regrettably from afar as their fresh milk barrels are shot and leaked onto the ground, and the sellers are dunked and drenched in their own product. The scene leaves Seth confident enough to call for a compromise between the bankers, the food suppliers, and the farmers for a fair and livable wage. 

Creeley learns that when divided, the strikers will fall.

After watching Rumple’s grand plan fall to pieces, Creeley realizes that the reason the farmers are gaining momentum is because they’re working together, corn and dairy farmers alike. Divided, they’ll fall. That’s when he turns to Victor James, one of the lone African American dairy farmers on strike who, day to day, is struggling with the rest of them to care for his wife and children.

Creeley sees Victor as a weak link because compared to the corn farmers who simply sit on their endless supply of corn, as a dairy farmer, he’s still put to work every day to tend to his cows. The cowboy corners Victor in his own barn and plants the idea in his head that he has it worse off than his corn farmer counterparts, and that “no matter what that preacher says, it’s every man for himself in this world.” He persuades Victor into thinking that it’s just him that puts food on his kids’ plates. 

Then later, while at the “bargaining table” in Archibald’s ice cream parlor with food distributor Melvin Stubbs, Rumple, and Creeley on one side and Victor, Seth, and Wendell, a corn farmer, on the other, Creeley causes a divide yet again. When Seth presents Stubbs with his desire for 30 cents per gallon of milk and 12 cents per bushel of corn (twice as much as what they’re currently going for), Creeley has Stubbs agree to the 30 cents for milk but decline the increase for corn. In fact, he takes it one step further and halves what he’s currently paying for corn. While Wendell argues that he and the rest of the farmers say no deal, Victor bends to the bait and takes his deal for the dairy farmers. That’s when a full-on fight breaks out between the two farmers, and while Seth stands to break it up, Creeley sits back in his seat, smiling and shooting his brother a wink. It was almost too easy to get the farmers to break.

Victor takes his dairy to town with fatal consequences.

This hour of Damnation wraps with a major shootout between Creeley and the corn farmers -- all caused by dairy farmer Victor bringing his product into Archibald’s shop. Unable to persuade his one-time co-striker Victor to break the deal and get back on the line, Seth hitches a ride with the dairy farmer into Holden. There, Creeley is waiting for them outside Archibald’s parlor, armed and ready to shoot should anyone try anything troublesome (and based on the corn farmers armed with rifles on the rooftops above, trouble is definitely on that afternoon’s menu).

As Victor begins unloading his milk, Wendell appears from around the corner, rifle raised to Victor’s chest. Before he can do anything with it, though, Creeley fires off a round straight into his head, splattering blood all over his ice cream and across his brother’s face. Seth remains on the ground, dumbfounded by how he lost control of his farmers. Creeley then takes down the rooftop shooters one by one, and in the end, Victor gets his money and Archibald gets his milk -- for better or worse. It’s a testament to the power of ice cream, indeed.

OTHER TAKEAWAYS

  • Amelia is slowly warming to Seth’s secrecy while continuing to get more information out of his past. She assures him that she’ll never be the “picture of girlish innocence or goodness” that Cynthia Jo Rainey was, and such a claim just seems to bring them closer with a lustful affirmation of “thank God” from her preacher husband.
  • Seth also reveals that he and the strikebreaker, Creeley, are half-brothers. Creeley was the son of his father and a woman from the local brothel. His childhood was spent being doted on by the establishment’s prostitutes and not learning the expected skillset or personality of a “man.” Their father beat him regularly for it, and Seth would often intervene and received beatings of his own. Seth believes that beneath all his external hardness, Creeley is still the gentle and sensitive boy he always was. “So what’s going to happen when you have to choose between furthering our cause or protecting your brother?” Amelia asks. “Any brotherly love we had died with Cynthia. I never should have protected Creeley in the first place,” Seth says. “And if he makes me kill him, I will.”
  • Despite being present for every major event of the strike thus far, DL Sullivan has yet to report on any of it in the local Holden Tribune. Amelia goes down to find out why -- and what she finds is a young journalist forced by his editor, Burt Babbage, to write about Hollywood glamour and the town’s upcoming carnival instead of the newsworthy events happening in his own town. Amelia forces her way to Babbage’s back office, yelling at him and saying that he’s failing at his responsibility to tell the truth. She leaves in a fury with DL close behind. DL says that he wants to help the cause by reporting on it, but he can’t lose his job, to which Amelia says to change his name if that’s what he’s worried about. (That’s when she winkingly reveals herself as the true writer behind the beloved Dr. Samuel T. Hopkins.)
  • And lastly, we don’t know his purpose in Damnation quite yet, but we’d bet we should be paying attention to Lew Nez, whose poster in Berryman’s precinct is yet again singled out. Remember the name.