“The Milk of Human Kindness” Burden of Truth 2.03 Recap and Review

So that big climax I’ve been expecting since the beginning of this season? It happened, way sooner and not at all how I expected – the final in a series of important confrontations that occurred this week. Rather than spoil it right out of the gate, I’ll take a cue from The Milk of Human Kindness and wait till the end of this recap to share my reaction. Suffice it to say, I have thoughts. Fair warning: this is a long recap/review. We have a lot to talk about. Let’s go!

Joanna vs Lovand

To begin, despite Joanna’s best efforts, Noah and the Lovand case are commanding all of her time and attention. Things are going from bad to worse: the defense contractor is now attempting to smear Noah online. Joanna’s rebuttal is a clear, concise personal statement, but she still doesn’t quite understand why Noah won’t pull down the app that scrambles Lovand’s data gathering software, currently embedded in a game. That is, until Noah and Mara make her play the game herself.

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In case anyone else is like me and lacks a lot of higher tech prior knowledge, our hacktivist trio offer a helpful refresher on the stakes in this storyline. In a nutshell, Lovand is trying to monopolize the data-mining industry through various contracts, using the game to prove the power of their software and deeply invading the privacy of players who are none the wiser. One such contract is even represented by Joanna’s former work, CTS. Noah’s app, however, scrambles the personal data collected by Lovand and jeopardizes all these deals.  

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After Joanna plays through a level, Noah and Mara show her what Lovand has learned about her through microexpressions. The results are painfully stark. In addition to ‘Early Childhood Trauma,’ the game goes so far as to cite ‘Orphan or Parent Neglect,’ and ‘Reactive Attachment Disorder,’ which according to the Mayo Clinic’s website is defined as the following:

“Reactive attachment disorder is a rare but serious condition in which an infant or young child doesn’t establish healthy attachments with parents or caregivers. Reactive attachment disorder may develop if the child’s basic needs for comfort, affection and nurturing aren’t met and loving, caring, stable attachments with others are not established.”
                                                                                                        (“Reactive attachment disorder” 2017)

A visibly shaken Joanna demands the game be turned off, but she’s more determined than ever.

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As the online attacks against Noah mount, she and Mara discuss how he’s handling the stress – which is to say, not well. Mara is equally determined to find her boyfriend a way out, grimly fearing that Noah may go down the same way as his friend Jared who comitted suicide. She asks Joanna get in touch with her father to learn more about Lovand’s contract, but when Joanna gets him on the phone, she struggles as he tries to convince her to meet in person and cannot get the answers they need. Joanna tells Noah to try a YouTube video speaking directly to his audience, but in it he violates his NDA with Lovand and winds them in even more hot water. To make matters even worse, Teddy pulls Joanna off the case in order to woo a big pharmaceutical client instead.

Noah is at the end of his rope, and so admits defeat and signs the original injunction documents from Lovand. Mara however, is not dissuaded from the cause and storms off. Back at work, Joanna confirms a suspicion that Sunil has been working for Lovand and helping them bug her office; he is immediately fired and Joanna returns to a meeting with Lovand. Armed with the private information the game gleaned from some of Noah’s friends, Joanna forces their hand and forces Lovand to drop the charges against Noah.

Joanna has won, though Lovand clearly won’t go quietly. For now, they celebrate.

 

Billy vs. Shane + Taylor vs. Ben

Before we get into the second major plot of this episode, I want to check in with Billy and Taylor. Shane’s efforts to wheedle Billy about their father take a more dramatic turn this week when Shane and their sister Wendy conveniently get stranded outside their dad’s trailer. Billy comes to the rescue, but refuses to go inside. Later, amidst a series of games for the family Crawford Cup, Billy realizes that Shane removed a part of Wendy’s car in order to doctor a meeting between him and his father. He’s furious and the truth comes out: not only was their father extremely abusive, he abandoned the family when Billy was only eight, leaving him to be a primary caregiver to both of his younger siblings. Understandably, Billy wants absolutely nothing to do with him.

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Elsewhere, after reading the letter that her own dad sent, Taylor decides to return to Millwood to see him. Despite her best efforts at reconciliation, Ben Matheson is still unwilling to own up to and apologize for his choices that lead to his daughter contracting cancer. Despite being in remission, Taylor still struggles daily with her memory and has to write everything down in order to get through her day. After the blowout, she calls Luna who promises to come over with a pizza, but gets stood up at the last minute. Honestly, Taylor Matheson deserves the world and everyone needs to just let her be happy.

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Gerrilyn and Luna vs. David

Luna has officially begun volunteering in Winnipeg with Bear Clan, who patrols the streets picking up and safely disposing of used needles, and handing out granola bars and fruit to anyone in need. She’s rescued from a fight between two men by another Indigenous woman named Doreen, a young single mother. Luna later learns that Doreen is a sex worker, when she and a fellow volunteer watch Doreen approach a car whose owner had already tried to snub another woman by skimping on her usual payment. It’s clear that the man in the car reminds Luna of her father when she remarks:

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The writers and director of this week’s Burden of Truth must be commended not only for that uniquely powerful line of dialogue, but for the careful and deliberate way this scene/story was framed; it is not a disparaging or a judgement of Doreen or of sex work, but specifically of men like David Hanley, who prey on vulnerable women in precarious positions, and the societal structures that enable their behaviour. There is also an even bigger danger to Indigenous women who undertake sex work. According to a 2014 position paper by the Canadian Public Health Association, Indigenous (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis) women “represent a disproportionally large proportion of sex workers in Canada,” but also “experience rates of violence 3.5 times higher than non-First Nations, Inuit and Métis women – a risk that is further heightened for First Nations, Inuit and Métis sex workers” (CHPA 2014).

Luna is frustrated that more isn’t being done to help solve this, which she vents later to Molly, who doesn’t understand. Tensions between the pair have started to boil over, so Luna hitches a ride with Taylor back to Millwood in order to see her mother and Taylor her father.

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Speaking of Gerrilyn, David Hanley has the deeply enraging nerve to saunter into The Boot to offer her an off-the-books settlement of five hundred grand. He claims that she’ll get next to nothing in court, but of course doesn’t understand that money isn’t why Gerrilyn is so intent on pursuing her case against him.

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The most frustrating part of this scene is the way he tries to Gerrilyn into tearing up the cheque, but of course an amount that means nothing to him could be life-changing for her – and he knows it. There’s something incredibly cruel about David’s incredible lack of regard for other people; it’s not just that he doesn’t care, he goes out of his way to twist an invisible knife to remind other characters of the demons and struggles that he helped bring into their lives. Gerrilyn hangs onto the cheque, but with excellent aim she shatters a glass on the wall next to David’s head as he leaves. I really feel for Gerrilyn, despite the way she was framed as oppositional to Joanna for much of season one. She really did her best and doesn’t deserve to suffer because this man has an ego the size of Mars.

The final confrontation of the episode is unintentional. Luna, at the motel to meet Taylor, walks up just as David is returning to his room. Her simmering fury boils over as he mentions the settlement that Gerrilyn has kept a secret, and so Luna follows him into his room to unleash all her frustrations.

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David, being the gem of a person that he is, calls her a crazy bitch and attempts to call the police. Luna lunges for his phone and a struggle ensues – one that we don’t see the end of.

 

David Hanley’s End

As Joanna celebrates her victory with Noah, she gets a call from Billy. With all the noise, it’s hard to hear, but the emergency lights reflecting off Billy’s face and the police tape cutting through the frame tells us all we need to know.

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David Hanley is dead.

The Milk of Human Kindness’ final minutes are some of the most powerful yet this season. I thought that the episode would end on Joanna’s face as she receives the news. However, Burden’s sombre, almost disconcerting original score carries us through her driving home alone and stricken in the dark, David’s body and hotel room being processed by police, and Luna returning home to Gerrilyn and both women lying awake. We saw Luna crying alone after bailing on Taylor earlier in the episode; we are perhaps meant to infer that Luna was the one who did it, but things in Millwood and on Burden are never that simple. Star Slade has been phenomenal in this episode and something tells me that she’ll be the heart of the rest of this story.

While I’m shocked that this is now the major mystery and new driving force of the season, I’m also extremely frustrated that Gerrilyn will now never receive the true justice that she deserves. Death is obviously the ultimate punishment, but now all of our characters are left to pick up the pieces and figure out what this means for them. I cannot imagine how Joanna feels; despite her father revealing himself to be truly The Worst, she clearly has deeply complicated feelings about him and their relationship. I’m also very concerned about how the clear bias that still remains in Millwood’s police force (and namely in Sam Mercer) will affect how the investigation into David’s death is conducted. 

But if there’s one thing I’m sure about, it’s that Joanna has someone to lean on in Billy. Kristin and Peter are amazing scene partners and I can’t wait to see them together again. It’s probably a little awful of me to be glad my ship is still sailing in the midst of chaos and tragedy, but I truly despised David Hanley and I’m not unhappy that he’s dead. The final scene of the episode, played with no dialogue, is of Joanna appearing at Billy’s door in tears.

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She’s home, she needs him,  and they’re going to get to the truth together.

Burden of Truth airs Sundays at 8/7c on the CW.

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