So does Creeley want Seth dead or doesn’t he? That’s the propelling question of Damnation’s fifth hour, titled “Den of Lost Souls.” Below, we break down all the goings-on of Holden, Iowa -- including the hitman sent from Des Moines to kill Seth and Amelia, and the long-wanted bank robber, Lew Nez, who brings the old pre-preacher Seth out to play.
Martin Eggers Hyde, PhD tries to get Seth out of Holden for good.
“Den of Lost Souls” opens in Des Moines, Iowa, with Martin Eggers Hyde, PhD eating a steak and meeting with Creeley. He’s none too happy with his strikebreaker’s progress in the small town of Holden. It’s been a long two-and-a-half weeks since he went down there on his client’s dime and still, the strike stands. Eggers Hyde has a feeling it has something to do with the preacher, especially after the Riley’s penny auction with his own Tuck Tandy. Plus, the three “common Chicago street goons” he hired to intimidate Seth never returned. So without warning to Creeley, Eggers Hyde declares that he’s hired a professional hitman to take the preacher and his wife out of the picture and free up some room for Creeley to finish the job. This seems to put Creeley on edge. (Indeed, he later tells Bessie while she’s cutting more hash marks into his side that he can’t let Seth die at the hands of the hitman; “I need my brother alive,” he says). But his employer is quick to put the cowboy back in his place. We learn that Eggers Hyde freed Creeley from a prison in Wyoming so that he could be his go-to strikebreaker. Unless he wants to go back behind bars, he’s pretty much on Eggers Hyde’s beck and call.
But Creeley devises a plan of his own.
Not wanting his half-brother to face the music quite yet, Creeley makes it his mission this episode to find the bodies of the three Chicago men who were first sent to attack Seth. Scouting the fields surrounding the Davenport residence, he eventually comes upon a stray dog with a human hand between its teeth. He follows the dog back to the bodies’ makeshift gravesite to find a pack of strays digging and gnawing at the freshly dug dirt. Sure enough, Creeley finds the bodies he’s looking for on the Davenport property. After several attempts to warn Amelia that she and her husband are not safe here and that his employer sent someone to kill them, his words have still not been heeded, and he turns to blackmail. Later at the carnival’s big night, Creeley brings the body of the “goon” intruder that Amelia shot dead and sneaks it onto the Ferris wheel. As she looks at the corpse in horror, Creeley whispers in her ear that he knows where the bodies are buried. “You sure you don’t want to leave town?” he asks. More on that fateful night at the carnival in a moment.
The arrival of the carnival marks new threats to Holden.
Also in the opening sequence, a mysterious figure is shown hitching a ride with the traveling carnival, and he gets off just outside of Seth’s church while he’s preaching in the countryside. We’re at first led to believe that this man could be the one hired to kill him, but we learn soon enough that Seth’s longtime childhood friend, wanted criminal, and, because they grew up living on the same property under the watch of his father, practically brother, Lew Nez. (Did we not say to remember the name?!) Lew immediately brings out a side of Seth that we’ve yet to see; he’s more carefree, plus he takes to quenching his thirst with straight tequila.
Their first hours together are largely spent reminiscing on their childhood (they’d pick on Creeley by calling him “Squeeley”) and trying to concoct a plan where Lew, whose poster is still hanging in Berryman’s precinct, could safely stay with Seth for a few nights. That’s what leads them to dressing Lew up as a fellow preacher in a clerical collar and heading on down to the carnival to show off their skills with a handgun at the booth games. But that comes after they drunkenly kidnap Rumple and threaten his life on the railroad tracks; the banker eventually promises to skip town and stop the farm foreclosures. Lew’s firebrand nature and Seth’s old ways are making them act out -- we’ll have to wait and see how long they can keep it up. Meanwhile, the carnival also brought the real figure threatening Seth and Amelia’s life to town. Posing as a vacuum salesman, Studs Eshleman is the true hitman eyeing his two targets from afar the whole time they’re out that night.
Creeley saves Seth from Studs Eshleman and certain death.
While the hitman’s identity is not revealed until the final third of “Den of Lost Souls,” it soon leads to a near-fatal shootout between Seth, Studs, Lew, and...Creeley? Studs is keeping an eye on Seth and Amelia throughout their time at the carnival, but eventually loses them within the interactive ride from which the episode gets its title. Exiting from the other side without Seth in sight, Studs then spots Lew chatting with another blonde -- and he doesn’t yet realize that there is more than one “preacher” on the premises. Studs gets his gun cocked and ready with its silencer intact; but when Seth and Amelia join Lew and his lady friend, he panics and isn’t sure which one to shoot. It’s at that moment that the body Creeley stowed on the Ferris wheel is found, and a young girl lets out a shriek. Startled and shaken all-around, Studs pulls the trigger and clips Lew on the shoulder, revealing his vantage point and missing his target completely.
While Amelia is frozen in horror at the sight of the man she killed just days before, Seth and Lew grab their guns and chase Studs by foot into a nearby corn field, where they promptly separate and lose track of one another. Lew is distracted by firecrackers he mistakes as gunshots, but Seth eventually lands eyes on his target and shoots Studs in the stomach before following him into a dark, empty barn. He has Studs cornered -- for a moment. Seth thinks Studs is done for and lets his guard down while demanding to know who he’s working for, but then Studs grabs the upper hand once again, sitting on top of Seth in the middle of the barn floor, his gun cocked and pointed at his head. Before he can pull the trigger, though, Studs is knocked off of Seth, unconscious.
One may assume it was Lew coming to the rescue, but you’d be wrong: None other than Creeley now stands over Seth. Instead of killing his brother (which he’s vowed several times now to do), Creeley gives Seth an order and an ultimatum. He says shaking with rage and on the brink of tears that he’s going to take Seth into the police. “And you’re gonna confess to the murders you framed me for back in Wyoming,” he says. “I’m done being punished for your sins.” Seth looks up at his brother, horrified. And the screen goes to black.
- Seth and Amelia seem as if they’re in a better place than ever before this episode. Seth continues opening up about his past, candidly telling her, for instance, of his childhood relationship with Lew (while still, of course, remaining guarded about the greater details). And when the “old” Seth rears his head thanks to some alcohol, they can’t keep their hands off of each other, kissing passionately in public and even getting intimate in the secluded darkness of the Den of Lost Souls carnival ride.
- His romantic life might be on the up and up, but as we saw in that heart-stopping conclusion, not all bodes well for Seth. That’s also indicated when Seth reluctantly sees the fortuneteller, Tiresias, at the carnival. “Clearly you’re not who you’re claiming to be,” he’s told. “If you would only stop running from your past, perhaps then you would not be so fated to repeat it.”
- Amelia and DL are also becoming closer, though it seems for now as if DL is the only one crushing on the passionate and inspiring woman behind Dr. Samuel T. Hopkins. As was previewed in the last episode, DL ends up reporting on the working man’s strike, after all -- just not for his Tribune. Amelia and he end up taking the reports he’s written on Holden’s current events and sneaking into the newspaper’s printing press to create an underground paper of their own. With the help of his family of carnies (we learn that DL’s family travels with the carnival, and that he himself is likely the sharpest shooter in all of Iowa), the paper will spread around the U.S. and hopefully ignite uprisings and strikes coast to coast.
- Bessie works with Berryman, after all, but manages to keep the true brotherly relationship between Creeley and Seth a secret. By sneaking through Creeley’s belongings, she finds the phone number of one Martin Eggers Hyde PhD, and calls him posing as one of his client’s assistants. That’s how she learns that the name of the benefactor of Holden farm foreclosures is DuBois. She hangs up on him before being asked too many questions about her identity, but the phone quickly rings on her line; will Eggers Hyde find out that Creeley is letting secrets slip through a prostitute? That aside, she brings the DuBois name to Berryman, and he’s satisfied; he pays the rest of the downpayment she needs for a house of her own.
And lastly, Rumple and Creeley continue working together. It was questionable at first whether or not Rumple survived his run-in with Seth and Lew, but he made it out alive -- just covered in his own piss and scared half to death. When Creeley finds Rumple walking alongside the road and the banker exclaims that he’s leaving town, though, the cowboy refuses to let him off that easy. He demands that Rumple does him a favor, “or else you’ll be leaving this fucked-up town in a pine box,” he says. We’ll have to see next week what that favor exactly entailed.