Let me just say: the opening minutes of Burden’s season two premiere are straight up terrifying. From the echoing of Joanna’s heels in an empty parking garage to the fact that someone hacks and takes control of her car, we’re in for a wild ride this season.
Episode one, “Salesman, Cheats and Liars,” picks up roughly a year after the events of last season. Joanna and Billy defeated her father and his law firm, and successfully brought justice for nearly a dozen teenage girls who were poisoned due to Matheson Steel secretly dumping toxic waste in Millwood, infecting them with seizures, twitching, and in Taylor Matheson’s case, cancer. Joanna is working at a new law firm in Winnipeg, while Billy is still in Millwood helping residents near and far pick up the pieces after their town was ruptured to the core.
After a computerized voice speaks to the terrified Joanna through her car, the episode flashes back to the previous day – Billy texts about seeing her at an award lunch they’re receiving, and Joanna meets Noah: a young, paranoid hacktivist who claims his old employers are after him over an app he created. They’re using legal action to try to force him to take it down, and since Noah turns up to Joanna’s office only an hour before they’re due in front of a judge, it’s clear that she has her work cut out for her with this new client. He also knows a lot about Joanna and the Millwood case, so much so that it unnerves our favorite emotionally withdrawn lawyer – especially when he hacks her internet search history just to prove a point – so their dynamic will be a fascinating one to watch.
And as if her day wasn’t crazy enough, Joanna also runs into her father. David Hanley insists he’s trying to “get better” (whatever that means), that his relationship with Joanna “is the most important thing in the world to him,” (please) and if that weren’t enough to make me want to claw my eyes out, the issue of Gerrilyn and Luna returns immediately. Not only is Joanna horrified (as am I) to learn that no official charges are being brought against David for having a sexual relationship with a minor, David attempts to defend himself by claiming, “We’re talking about a matter of months,” and that Gerrilyn had been working in a bar when they met. Before I can vomit all over my television from disgust, Joanna dismisses him – but, as I suspected in yesterday’s article, neither David Hanley nor this story-line seem to be taking a backseat. The show immediately cuts to Luna receiving the news from Gerrilyn; Luna calls her sister Joanna in turn and leaves an emotional message, claiming that David “is going to pay for what he did,” and that “he’s going to get what’s coming to him.”
We can only hope so.
Back in Millwood, Billy is trying to help Ben Matheson in the last stages of a bitter divorce with his wife and pretend he doesn’t also know Taylor’s whereabouts, since Taylor refuses to speak to her parents and has left for the city. After Joanna bails on the award luncheon (and receives a painfully uncomfortable talking to from her boss about opening up to people), Billy delivers a letter to Taylor from her father. Though her health and memory are slowly improving, she has to write everything down in order to remember. She seems determined to carve a new life for herself on her own terms, which I greatly admire.
Just when I thought Billy and Joanna wouldn’t see each other at all this week, he surprises her at work with some stolen luncheon snacks and adorably talks about sharing custody of their award. And even though Joanna makes a hasty exit, Billy still pulls her into a hug and asks that she take care of herself; it’s the first time Joanna looks happy or even relaxed this episode and my heart leaped and broke at the same time. She later tries to make more personal conversation with her associate, who points out that Joanna’s office is bare of anything meaningful. Joanna eventually puts up her and Billy’s award, which – my heart. Billy returns to Millwood to drink and gets a ride home from Owen, where they find a man in his boxers eating cereal in the dark. Shane Crawford, Billy’s little brother, is home.
Besides our two leads, many familiar faces have returned for season two, and judging from this episode, will play more major roles than last year. Both Luna, recently moved in with Molly, and Owen, still working as an officer, seem to be at the precipice of huge personal journeys. Something I have always loved about Burden is its refusal to shy away from its Canadian identity and with that, the presence and struggles of its Indigenous communities. Luna meets the Bear Clan after a reluctant night out with Molly, who walk her home; Owen is forced to have a frank conversation with a young teen who stole from a store about the distrust and bias that many in places like Millwood have against them as Indigenous people. Their presence in Millwood is highlighted in season one when Luna brings Joanna out to their reservation to meet her grandmother, but it seems like a struggle between the Indigenous and the not will be a focal point of season two – especially with people like police chief Sam Mercer making disparaging comments about the supposed town gangs.
The final scenes of the episode brings us back to the opening moments: Noah accosts Joanna in the parking garage and claims his life is in danger. In a nutshell, the coding of his app allows a facial recognition AI to register and learn almost anything about a person, from their political leanings to their gender identity and sexual orientation. Lovand, the defense contractor behind a new game embedded with this technology, aims to use the code to study its players, and eventually enter all forms of tech. His app is the only thing currently in their way.
Noah seems pretty certain that someone had broken into his home, and now that Joanna is linked to him, she is in danger too. She gets her car, and we are brought back to the beginning. The disembodied voice from her car warns her to drop the case, or else, and her car returns to life.
Is anyone else’s heart still racing? The premiere has set up multiple stories and directions, which is slightly different from last year’s singular focus on the Millwood toxic illness mystery. When and how all these characters come back together – if they do at all – remains to be seen. I, for one, cannot wait to find out.