‘Burden of Truth’ Season One: What You Need to Remember

With spring almost officially behind us, it’s time to welcome in warmer weather and usher in the return of our favorite summer shows.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably tell I have already seen the entirety of season 2 of Burden of Truth. The season has already aired in Canada.  Therefore I am breaking down all the major things you need to remember before Burden of Truth‘s season 2 premiere on the CW.

Millwood is still a very small town

In season one, our protagonist Joanna Hanley was a big-shot lawyer at a major firm. She initially represented the pharmaceutical company that was sued by families in her hometown of rural Millwood, who suspected that a vaccine had infected many of their teen girls with a mysterious illness that caused uncontrollable seizures, tremors, and cognitive problems. When the vaccine was found not to be the cause, Joanna joined forces with former high-school classmate Billy Crawford to uncover the true source. Their attention eventually turned to the town mill, Matheson Steel, which pit employees against afflicted girls and their families; most notably, Ben Matheson – owner of the mill – struggled against his daughter Taylor, who was diagnosed with cancer due to the mill dumping toxic material and infecting the girl’s school soccer field.

Aside from the obvious toxic waste problem, Millwood revealed itself throughout season one as a true rural, blue-collar small town. In a small town, everyone knows not just everyone else’s name, but their business too. The affected girls became ostracized, and even though Joanna was returning as an adult, many people she knew growing up still remained. Joanna and her father left beneath a shroud of dark rumours (more on that in a second), and David Hanley seemed to have left no shortage of angry and disgruntled people behind. From the CW promo, the show will return to Millwood despite Joanna’s move to a big law firm in Winnipeg (more on that in a second), so here’s a rundown of the major characters still in town:

Owen Beckibie: the only Indigenous police officer in Millwood, friends with Joanna and Billy and helped them with their previous lawsuit
Dianna Evans: the school guidance counselor and old friend of Joanna’s
Gerrilyn Spence: Luna’s mother, previously linked with David Hanley
Chief Mercer: Millwood’s police chief, who Owen distrusts after being attacked in season one with Mercer making little effort to find his attackers.

Joanna gained and lost family in season one

As an initially equally cutthroat lawyer and emotionally reserved person, Joanna worked with her father David before being sent to Millwood on behalf of their client. When she arrived, Joanna found that many people held old grudges against David Hanley – particularly several women, one of whom actually punched her in the face at a bar. On top of uncovering the truth of what was poisoning the girls, Joanna also delved for the reason her father seemed so hated – that truth was so shocking that she ended up handing in her resignation from their firm. While he disguised his wife’s mental breakdown as her abandoning the family, David was actively pursuing very young – and underage – women, as young as teen Joanna at the time. This, essentially, was why they left town in such a hurry. One of those women was Gerrilyn Spence; her relationship with David resulted in a pregnancy, and Joanna’s half-sister: Luna, whose girlfriend Molly is one of the girls affected by the toxic waste. This revelation was made even harder to bear when David became lead counsel for Matheson Steel against Billy and Joanna, and he had her removed from the case due to a conflict of interest. Though she gets herself reinstated in a technicality, Joanna eventually has to resort to blackmailing her father in order to successfully reach a fair settlement for the girls.

At the end of the season, it’s unclear what else comes of the truth that David Hanley had a sexual relationship with an underage girl, because the only people who know the truth are Joanna, Gerrilyn, Luna, and Billy. But as the second major overarching plot line of the season, it is sure to return in season two. In the final minutes of the season one finale, Joanna is seen giving her name at the front desk of her new firm, and she calls herself “Joanna Cheng.” So not only has she emotionally distanced herself from her father, Joanna has cut all legal ties to him as well. As for Luna, she and Joanna had already developed a friendship before the truth of Luna’s parentage came out, as Luna was very interested in becoming a lawyer and learned from and helped Joanna and Billy out when they were struggling. I personally found their relationship one of the most interesting in the show, so I can’t wait to see it developed further this season.

Our ships are still (mostly) sailing

Speaking of Luna, she and her girlfriend Molly Crawford are one of the sweetest, normal high school couples I’ve ever seen on television, and one of the few openly LGBTQ I’ve seen on the arguably biggest Canadian network, the CBC. Despite Molly’s struggles with seizures and twitching from the toxic waste, she and Luna still go through standard high school relationship struggles. From prom to after graduation plans, the pair remain quite steady throughout the season and – despite my initial concern when Molly became ill – both are okay in the finale. They initially had plans to move together to Montreal when Molly was being courted by McGill University’s soccer team, but the seizures threw a wrench in that dream. However, with the two million dollar settlement as the named plaintiff in Joanna and Billy’s suit against Matheson Steel, Molly is now at least financially set for the foreseeable future, university or no. Here’s to hoping the girls continue to love each other and be happy!
The other major relationship of Burden ended in a large (technically still open) question mark: Joanna and Billy. I’ve been a fan of Peter Mooney since his role as Nick Collins on Rookie Blue years ago (another great Canadian series I’m obligated to now plug) so watching Billy, the underdog small-town lawyer, make heart eyes at Joanna at least once an episode was a particular joy for me. The unresolved tension between them was at times unbearable to watch (read: the prom episode) and it eventually came to a head when Billy asked Joanna to stay in Millwood and help him build his tiny practice into a real partnership. But as we talked about above, Joanna chooses to leave her father and Millwood (and Billy!) behind for a fresh start in Winnipeg. It’s where we find her at the beginning of season two, but as evidenced from the season promo, she and Billy definitely see each other again.

Like I said at the beginning of this article, I’ve technically already seen all of season 2 of Burden of Truth. But I mean it honestly when I say that Burden is one of the best shows I’ve had the pleasure of watching in years, and I can’t wait to re-discover it again with all of you.

Burden of Truth premieres tonight, June 2nd on the CW at 8/7c.


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