There’s only one question on everyone’s mind right now: who killed David Hanley? In Sunday’s episode of Burden of Truth, the quest for the answer begins. But as I suspected in last week’s review, Sam Mercer remains The Worst and seems determined to get to his version of the truth, no matter the cost. So hang on, friends. It’s gonna be a tense ride.
As the score plays over David’s body being taken away and a stricken Taylor and Shane watching on, Joanna gets ready to face the day after spending the night on Billy’s couch. Guilt By Association does a great job here of showing us a familiar feeling – how routines and habits, or clothes and jewelry, can sometimes feel like safety or armour in the face of the most difficult moments in our lives.
Friends are great too – Billy is Joanna’s constant shadow as she identifies her father’s body but refuses any actual comfort; her instinct to remain emotionally closed off definitely isn’t going to hold out as she heads to the police station to give a statement. Her resolve wavers again when she’s told how her father died, but Joanna is still calm when she points them to Ben Matheson. Despite the fact that he lost everything due to the suit against the mill, Joanna doesn’t think he’s capable of murder. And so a classic television sequence begins, where one interrogation blurs into another and our expansive cast must reckon with how this one death affects them all.
Owen and the chief figure quickly that David Hanley was killed by a blow to the head, most likely by someone he knew. Problem is, there’s no shortage of people who had issues with the former lawyer. Suspicion immediately falls on the multiple women David wronged, and so one by one they’re brought in for questioning. Both the mayor and real estate Agent Erin Karr refuse to be bullied by Mercer, but that leaves only one major character.
Luna and her mother have an equally uncomfortable morning. Luna admits to having seen David Hanley the night before, but before the Spences can get into an important conversation, there’s someone at the door. It’s the police, and they have questions for Gerrilyn. Mercer’s racism comes out full force as he interrogates her, but not only can she do nothing against him, Owen is effectively powerless too. When Gerrilyn is finally able to see Billy, it’s only after a degrading strip search and photos. Owen is deeply concerned that Mercer is just on a massive power trip – especially when he disregards clear physical evidence that would exonerate Luna’s mother – and brings his concerns to the mayor, but without real evidence there’s nothing to be done, yet anyway.
The strange and uncomfortable dynamics of this case come to head when Joanna and Billy have a frank discussion about Gerrilyn; he is adamant she didn’t kill David, but Joanna doesn’t seem convinced – not until she forces herself into Gerrilyn’s interrogation room to ask herself. The shot of both women standing on either side of the room is one of my favourite of the episode – the angle slightly unbalanced and off-kilter, neither really knowing how this interaction would play out.
As an audience, we can see the truth of Gerrilyn’s words in her face, and Joanna can see it too. That would’ve been a particular kind of new trauma to bear, if her sister’s mother had killed their father, and as much as a dark part of me would’ve felt justice served, I’m glad that Joanna’s now done away with that thought and is focused on finding the true killer. So much so in fact that she breaks into the crime scene and finds a spot of blood that the Millwood PD missed. I had to laugh a little when Joanna, in her tirade about the ineptitude of the police, seems to forget she’s speaking to Owen (who graciously pretends she didn’t break several laws), but the fact remains: the police department is awful. Now whether that’s through inexperience or the direct, purposeful negligence of Mercer still remains to be seen. But Joanna still manages to ascertain that someone else bled in the room and used a motel towel, which is something David Hanley would have never done.
Luna, for her part, encounters Shane and Taylor at Billy’s house. Shane’s convinced he’ll be in trouble for being the one who was supposed to stay in that motel room, while Taylor described to police an argument she heard through the wall the night of the murder. The episode lingers often on what seem like nerves and anxiety on Luna’s part – more, perhaps, than just concern for her mother. Meanwhile, Billy has to put aside his own shock at Joanna’s willingness to overstep boundaries when they return to the station to defend Gerrilyn. With the help of witnesses, her lack of defensive wounds, and the uncashed cheque from last week, Mercer has no choice but to release her.
Just when it seems we might finish the episode without a prime suspect, Joanna catches Luna in a lie – she also catches the Spences about to leave town. Her sister rolls up her sleeve to reveal the long scratches David left on her arm; her fight was the one Taylor had heard through the wall. Joanna accepts the story Luna tells about their argument – namely that she’d left their father very much alive – and urges her sister to go to the police. But Gerrilyn is not convinced that’s the best idea.
Burden of Truth’s determination to stare into the face of current Canadian struggles with racism against Indigenous peoples is my favourite thing about the show. This is the reality in which so many people live and it’s rarely discussed in mainstream, popular discourse in the country. While Long Grass is not a real First Nation reserve just as Millwood is not a real town, Luna and Gerrilyn still reflect real people. There is true, genuine danger in their lives that doesn’t exist for others like Joanna or Taylor; even though Joanna insists she can protect Luna, there is a significant risk here.
The next morning after Luna says a ritual prayer with the tobacco in a cigarette, she decides to go to the police. However, they’ve already decided to come to her. Many of Burden’s most emotional and powerful scenes are done without dialogue; Luna being placed in the back of a police car and driven away is one such scene. She scrambles to get ahold of Molly as Joanna and Billy scramble to see her and come up with a game plan. The long pull back of the camera to frame Luna crying behind bars in the station is without a doubt the most gut-wrenching of the episode and the season so far – I literally think about it all the time.
Our final scene calls back to the premiere as Joanna shows Billy the angry voicemail Luna had left her. The silent question is clear: what are they supposed to do with it? Though it’s clearly going to come back to haunt them, Billy just nods and Joanna deletes the message. We know from last season that Joanna is willing to go to great lengths to find the actual truth, so it should come as a surprise to no one that Joanna is willing to break even more rules to protect her own family. But with Mercer leading the charge against them, it seems like an uphill battle.
Burden of Truth airs Sundays at 8/7c on the CW.