As its title would imply, Damnation’s eighth installment is ultimately a meditation on “The Goodness of Men.” Is Seth Davenport ever really able to overcome his past and find the good within himself? Is Creeley Turner? These questions—and some answers—arise in this latest episode. Catch up on that and more in our recap.
Seth and Creeley find a mutual friend in Bessie
Bessie has made a habit of meddling in Creeley’s business since bringing him to her bed, and episode 108 proves no different. Only this time, her meddling cuts closer to the bone than ever before. Last we saw Bessie, she was fleeing through the night from the Black Legion men she saw meeting with Holden’s new banker, John Dyson. Coming through to the other side of the corn crop, she takes refuge the next morning hiding out in Seth’s church. When Seth and Amelia find her there, she pleads with them to protect her, despite their obvious differences—and they comply, putting her in the closet while unmasked members of the Black Legion (led by Tanner Phillips) force their way into Seth’s church in search of her. (Fittingly enough, Seth has prepared a sermon about “evil men who put on a mask of goodness,” saying that the truth will come out when the mask slips and that a reckoning will come.) When the intruders and congregation leave, Bessie explains her situation from the night prior and offers information in exchange for Seth and Amelia’s protection. She not only reveals that the new banker, funded by the DuVall family, is paying the Black Legion to rid Holden of its strikes once and for all, but that the Legion is led by Melvin Stubbs (who’s running against Don Berryman for Sheriff) and that Creeley is also being paid by the DuVall family. This all strikes up a mutually beneficial relationship between Bessie and the preacher and his wife, and Bessie agrees to help Amelia write her latest newsletter pamphlet detailing the identities of the men she saw at the Black Legion meeting. Amelia also brings DL Sullivan (who’s clearly in love with her) onboard to help establish through his reporting the DuVall family as the benefactors of these farm buyouts and to reveal Stubbs as the evil bigot he truly is.
That’s not all, though. Later on, a meeting between Seth, Amelia, and Bessie is interrupted by bullets through the window. Looking through the threshold, Seth sees his brother standing outside waiting for him. Creeley doesn’t know at this time that Bessie is inside with his brother and Amelia, and after some painful deliberation (he’s shown mournfully burning an old photo of he and Seth together), it’s clear that he’s prepared to put the preacher into the ground. Seth goes out to meet Creeley for a good old fashioned shoot out, but before either pulls the trigger, Bessie jumps in between and talks Creeley down. “I don’t like either of these pompous cocksuckers anymore than you do, but they just saved my ass,” she says. (Quite the way with words, hasn’t she?) Both Creeley and Seth put down their guns, but Seth still challenges his younger brother to kill him for his freedom. He promises to go stop the Black Legion from taking over the town and killing Sam Riley, Jr. and Bessie—and after that, Creeley can kill him. “I won’t scream,” he says, though he may be eating his words by episode’s end….
Seth tries—and fails—to thwart the Black Legion’s efforts in Holden
In an effort to stop the Black Legion’s next move before they can make it, Seth goes back to Myron Eddins’ butcher shop to learn what’s in store. (You’ll remember that Eddins is the Black Legion member who tried to kill Seth before, but when he was overpowered by Seth, he agreed to give up information on the Legion in exchange for his life.) After a brief scuffle, Eddins concedes and tells Seth that the Legion is planning on making an example out of Sam Riley, Jr. and stealing him away from Berryman’s precinct to hang him in the street as penance for killing Pete Collingsworth—a crime we know he didn’t commit. Seth tells Berryman about the Legion’s plan in the hopes that he’ll move his cell to a safer location, but Berryman doesn’t bite. So the preacher takes matters into his own hands. The next morning, Seth and Preston Riley (Sam’s uncle) go to the jail to set Sam free, buy they find his cell empty. Did the Black Legion already get to him, or was the butcher lying about his plan? Seth returns to Eddins’ shop for the truth, but the Legion had somehow pieced together that Eddins was working with Seth and killed him. They strung his dead body up on his meat hooks in the freezer, a sign reading “SNITCH” hanged around his neck.
That’s not the only time Seth fails to keep the truth from members of the Black Legion, either. Turns out, Creeley didn’t burn that photo of he and his brother all the way through, and when they’re raiding Bessie’s room at the brothel after being unable to find her, Tanner Phillips finds the photo on the floor, its edges crisped. They also find a number of letters and documents hidden under her mattress; their exact contents are still unclear.
Seth ends the episode with a noose around his neck
“The Goodness of Men” ends, ironically, by highlighting the very worst of what men can be. While Seth was sealing loose ends with Creeley (for now) and acquiring information from Eddins (which ended up being unhelpful), Melvin Stubbs and his Black Legion successfully lured Deputy Raymond Berryman over to his side; Raymond clearly has hopes of retaining his position in the department in the case Don loses the election to Melvin. It’s Raymond who ultimately frees Sam Riley, Jr. from his cell and into Melvin’s arms, where he’s promptly tied at the wrist and led by a chanting mob of hooded Black Legion men into the town center. Their brutal attempt to get Sam to confess to his sins (see: killing Pete) and pledge allegiance to the flag and the Black Legion ultimately fails; Sam refuses to cooperate. That’s when they tie the noose around the young man’s neck, and all hell breaks loose. Preston calls for a brawl and all the striking farmers descend on the Legion with shovels and makeshift weapons in-hand. Sheriff Berryman tries to call everyone to order, but to no avail. It’s at that point that the Legion reveals their machine gun from DuVall and shoots out into the crowd. Those uninjured are left paralyzed with fear—all except Seth, who, disguised as a Legion member, makes a last-ditch attempt to free Sam from the noose. But he’s caught, unmasked, and brought to the front of the crowd himself. “Two agitators for the price of one,” on member says while tying the noose around Seth’s neck. Seth looks out terrified into the crowd to find Creeley coldly looking on from afar, waiting for his brother to hang.
- We learn more about Connie this episode as she tends to Brittany, who’s struck with a fever that won’t break. Brittany asks her in her daze why Connie hasn’t taken down the bad man (Seth) yet, and she assures that she will—that she’s just waiting to make sure that it’s the right bad man and that it’s just the one. She seems to think that Amelia may be just as guilty for her husband Leonard’s death. While being tended to, Brittany also pleads with her new mother to not leave her. “I don’t have anyone else,” she says. Connie responds characteristically harshly: “Feeling sorry never helped anyone, just focus on getting yourself well.” And later, we also get some insight as to why Connie’s taken such a maternal liking to Brittany. It’s unclear whether she was fabricating the story for Martha or not, but Connie tells her housemate of how she and her Leonard lost their first daughter at age three when strikers refused to let the proper medicine come into town. She tells the story with such anger and bitter conviction that we wouldn’t be surprised if it was not only true, but if it fueled her hatred of the striking man.
- Amelia and Seth are further on the rocks when neither of them will tell the other of their respective pasts—Seth as to why he framed Creeley for the murders that put him behind bars and Amelia as to why she at first refuses to go to her father’s textile factory to hand out pamphlets. Concurrently, Amelia is getting closer to DL; she later joins him on the journey to Tintern Textiles to spread the word of her father’s wrongdoing and injustices.
- Creeley and Bessie finally admit to one another—in so many words—that their relationship is much more than a business transaction, and it’s lit by Bessie’s sentiment that “family’s a curse.”
- And lastly, we get a flashback to Seth’s time with Cynthia and get a better understanding of why Seth blames Creeley for her death. When Seth and Creeley are told by their father that the next families they’re to kick off the land include Cynthia and her father, Seth and Cynthia make plans to run away together. But under the pressure and intimidation of his father, Creeley can’t keep his brother’s plans a secret and tells him everything he knows. As Cynthia and Seth are readying their escape from her farm, Creeley arrives on horseback apparently to warn Seth that he told their father what he’s up to. But before Seth can retaliate or any conclusion is drawn, a gunshot rings out behind them. We’ll have to wait till next week if that was the gunshot that ultimately ended Cynthia’s life.