Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground
S1 episode 9 Aired on January 2, 2018

If you thought the stakes were high in the previous installment of Damnation, you better hold on tight for the penultimate season 1 episode, “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground.” Some of our favorite players don’t make it out of this one alive. Catch our recap below.

We learn the exact circumstances of Creeley’s arrest

Episode 109 of this sprawling USA Network drama opens with a flashback to 1924 Wyoming. Last we were here, Creeley had squealed to his father, Gram Turner, about Seth’s plans to run away with Cynthia before they can make their way out. Now we begin this episode inside Cynthia and her father Reverend Alistair Rainey’s church, and Gram and his colleagues have the preacher and his daughter held at gunpoint. Seth enters, hysterical and desperate to save Cynthia’s life. But in just a few quick moments, Gram shoots both innocents dead. Seth goes ballistic, shooting down all of his father’s men and finishing the scene by stabbing his father in the chest with a butterfly knife, killing him. Seven are left dead in all. Before fleeing the scene with Lew Nez, who arrives just after the violence ends, Seth -- unable to bring himself to shoot his brother -- knocks Creeley unconscious and leaves him there for the police to find him. They indeed do, and by sunrise, Creeley is behind bars for murder.

Creeley puts the past behind him (for now) to save Seth

Cut to 1931 Holden, and Seth is about to be hanged alongside Sam Riley Jr. by members of the Black Legion, who’ve all but taken over the small farm town. But as the noose is tied to the pickup truck and the vehicle inches forward, Creeley, overcome with a protective rage, pulls out his pistol and kills the driver and those Legion members surrounding the scene. He moves the pickup back so others can help Seth and Sam escape while he wards off other gun-wielding Legion men, and then they’re all off in the truck with the remaining Black Legion shooting at their dust. Stubbs, who’s still not publically out as the leader of the Legion, is left dumbstruck at Creeley’s betrayal to Martin Eggers Hyde and DuVall’s instruction. Later, Stubbs assures banker John Dyson that more Legion members -- upwards of 100 -- are headed to Holden to topple the strike once and for all. Tanner, meanwhile, reveals that he found the burnt image of Creeley and Seth; the true nature of their relationship is finally known by the men they most wanted to keep it from. John rings Martin to update him on the situation in Holden.

Creeley, meanwhile, is not exactly met with open arms when arriving to the Riley farm with Seth and Sam Riley Jr. in tow. Martha first greets him with a rifle threateningly cocked at his head for killing her husband and putting her son behind bars, but Seth and Sam talk her down, saying that there’s bigger problems afoot with the Black Legion. Their personal matters will be taken care of later. Now that Seth and Creeley are working together toward a common cause, it leads to the most honest conversation they’ve had to date about their past; they admit that they both lost something the night Seth killed their father. “A brother,” Creeley says. “A future.”

But Creeley thinks he’s paid for the sins of his past, while Seth still hasn’t paid for his; he never let Cynthia know who he truly was. But with the Black Legion coming, the mounting resentments are for now put aside. 

The farmers join forces and beat back the Black Legion

Just as night falls, the Black Legion descends, and though they have power in numbers, the farmers -- now joined by dairy farmer Victor James, who arms them with military-grade weapons from his war days (guns, dynamite, grenades, and more) -- have the upper hand in their Riley farm fort. They take the Legion down one by one, but their numbers seem endless. Matters are made worse when Tanner breaks out an artillery gun after Victor explodes dynamite on an unsuspecting group of his hooded enemy. Seth, Creeley, and their company retreat inside and it’s quickly evident that the only way to take the Black Legion down is by way of Victor’s grenades. Preston Riley, in an effort to make amends for ratting out Sam Riley Jr., volunteers himself to provide a distraction while the grenades are put into place at the gun. Seth takes the grenades from Victor to do it himself: He knows that in the end, Victor has a family to look after. Preston jumps in his tractor and steers it toward Tanner and his gun while a swarm of Legion men open fire on him and the machine. He’s shot dead before much lasting damage can be done, but it provides the exact distraction Seth needs to sneak around and put two grenades at the base of the gun. The weapon is blown to smithereens, and the Legion begrudgingly retreat.

Amelia and DL Sullivan are captured by the Black Legion

It’s worth reminding readers that the entire time the Black Legion has reigned down on Holden, Amelia and DL have been off to Amelia’s father’s textile factory to spread the news of their strike. Here, DL learns just how different Amelia is from her businessman father; he, for one, hired strikebreakers to beat the women working at his factory when they tried to unionize.

“Yes, my family knows what I do,” Amelia tells DL. “They’re the ones who put me on this path in the first place.” They then make their way back to Holden with their newspapers listing the Black Legion’s members’ names (including sheriff recipient Stubbs) in the trunk of their car. Upon reaching the town limits of Holden, however, they’re pulled over the Black Legion’s roadblock and checkpoint; in the time they’ve been traveling, the Legion has all but taken over the county’s public spaces. The Legion soon enough find the defamatory newspapers and detain DL and Amelia, bringing them back to Stubbs for their punishment. DL, ever the gentleman in love, claims that the newspaper was all him and Amelia had nothing to do with it, but he cuffs the two of them anyway and puts them bound to a table in a vacant room.

With a shard of glass DL sneaks into his pocket, though, he manages to cut himself and Amelia loose from their rope. (He also confesses to her that he’s dedicating his book, God’s Body, to her and that he’s even written her a few poems, adequately putting to rest any doubts that he’s head-over-heels with Seth’s take-no-prisoners wife.) They’re planning their escape from the Legion HQ when a hooded member finds them untethered, but before he can respond, DL grabs him in a chokehold, holds his gun to his head, and orders him to lead them out of the warehouse. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they’re ambushed, but DL shoots them all down. (Remember: He’s a sharp shooter from his days in the family carnival.) But just as they’re about to exit, Stubbs finds them and knocks DL unconscious with the butt of his gun. “You two done gone and done it now,” he says.

DL tragically pays the ultimate price. After the Black Legion flee the Riley farm, a lone horse enters the property with DL’s corpse hanging off the back of it. Plastered to his chest is a copy of his newspaper, and written in his blood is the message that Stubbs has Amelia, and unless Seth hands himself over to the Legion, Amelia’s life is next on the line. That’s when the screen cuts to black. Stay tuned for the season one finale!

Additional Takeaways:

  • Connie learns that she’s been chasing the wrong man all along. If we were getting hints that Connie isn’t convinced that she’s on the right mission to take Seth’s life, this week confirms it once and for all. While readying for the Legion’s arrival, she casually asks how Seth sought revenge for Amelia’s first husband’s death. Did he kill the strikebreaker? Turns out he didn’t; someone beat him to it. It shuts down everything Connie has known in the aftermath of her husband’s death; Seth is no longer her enemy. We later see her grappling with this revelation while the women are holed up inside the Riley home and the men fight outside. On the brink of tears, she attracts Brittany’s attention. “What’s wrong, Mother?” she asks. “It wasn’t him,” Connie says incredulously. “The preacher wasn’t the bad man. There are too many bad men. I can’t stop them all.” But she does stop several of them when three members of the Black Legion come barreling through the doorway into the house and she promptly shoots them dead one by one. “You don’t get to do that,” she says. It’s the moment we realize that Connie just may end up on the right side of history in this fight.
  • Bessie learns the true identity of her mother. Her father, Sheriff Don Berryman, orchestrates an escape plan for Bessie and the rest of the women from the brothel to stay protected outside of Holden, but it breaks his heart that his daughter still doesn’t trust him. As far as she knows, he abandoned her at the orphanage all those years ago because her mother was also a sex worker. But once they’re safe, he reveals the truth. Her mother’s name was Pearl Louvin, and she was a black blues singer that he fell in love with while married to another woman. While he tried to be a good father to Bessie and lover to Pearl, it became too much for the both of them; she was always on the road for her career and he had a wife and family of his own. It broke both their hearts to give Bessie up for adoption, but he wants her to know that it was love that brought her into the world, nothing less. He then leaves Bessie to listen to one of her mother’s records. “Motherless Child” plays from the record player. Bessie mourns for her loss but it’s also the most whole version of her we’ve seen to date. She finally knows who she is.
  • Bessie’s arc ends this episode with her regrouping with Berryman and Berryman confessing to “playing all the angles as if I could outsmart my own life.” His main goal while sheriff was to prepare Holden County for the industrialists to take over, and he sees now how violent and hateful these men truly are; he in part blames himself for the rise of DuVall in Holden. He also reveals to her, though, that he knows Creeley was convicted of murder in Wyoming some years ago. Bessie claims he was set up, but Berryman believes the papers; he hands her the clips. She takes one look at the newspaper in her hand and says that she has to find Creeley. We’ll have to wait till next week to learn why.

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