Sorry for the lateness of this recap everyone! We celebrated Canada Day this weekend up in the Great White North, and I snagged opening day tickets to Spider-man: Far From Home (it’s amazing) so I didn’t get this review out as fast as I would’ve liked. But it’s here! Let’s get into it.
Every time I think the stakes on Burden of Truth cannot possibly be raised higher, the show continues to leave me high key full of anxiety with its incredible twists and turns and character struggles. This week is no exception; the breakneck pace of this season leaves me little chance to catch my breath.
Hungry, Cold and Tired opens with one of its best dialogue-less sequences: Luna being processed after her arrest. Photo after photo is taken and the final shot before the title card lingers closely on her eyes; the lighting is dark and cold and the dread created is truly unsettling. In the station lobby, Joanna worries over Luna’s vulnerable position; she a young Indigenous woman in the hands of a corrupt, racist police chief and we all know that Mercer is ready and willing to break standard rules. Billy tries again to offer her comfort in a difficult situation, which only makes Joanna snap and retreat further into her furious focus on Luna.
Mercer begins his interrogation with a very concerned Owen looking on. Outside, Joanna and Billy balk at the possibility Luna may be sent to Brockstone, a female juvenile detention centre, if she does not make bail at her hearing. Joanna’s disbelieving question, “Brockstone is still in operation?” tells us pretty much all we need to know about what kind of place that is. As Mercer continues to coax Luna into a version of events that will suit him, Owen grabs Joanna to force him to stop; it looks like she barged in, but we know better. Owen’s truly on our team. To that end, the ever racist Mercer removes him from the case and cuts off one of Luna’s only defenses.
Elsewhere, Taylor grapples with what she knows is the truth: Luna could not have killed David. Taylor wants to submit her journal as evidence, but her father tries to dissuade her. There’s an attempt in this scene to humanize David Hanley and sympathize with Ben Matheson, but Taylor isn’t having it and neither am I. Go rule the world, girl. I’ll hold your flower.
Back in court, things have taken a turn for the worse; despite Joanna’s best efforts, Luna is denied bail and sent to Brockstone. The team scrambles, and even Gerrilyn questions how Joanna can represent Luna when their father is the victim. Billy broaches the idea of a more experienced criminal lawyer, but Joanna is adamant that she will move heaven and earth in order to free her sister.
(Side note: the lawyer representing the Crown in this trial is none other than Matt Gordon, aka Oliver Shaw of Rookie Blue, and it’s lovely to see him on my screen again and get a tiny show reunion between him and Peter Mooney. Between Burden, Rookie Blue, and great Canadian series’ Saving Hope and Flashpoint, I’ve spent many years with the same actors and actresses and I love it.)
Luna is unwelcome by her cellmate at Brockstone, another Indigeneous girl, while Taylor has successfully gotten her audience with the police. But the interaction does not go as planned. Instead of accepting the journal as proof of Luna’s innocence, Mercer decides to paint a road-trip joke the girls made about David Hanley as evidence that they conspired together to kill him. God, he’s truly awful. He’s taken David’s position as The Worst character on this show and I love to hate him. As Joanna and Billy struggle to come up with one clear theory to fully exonerate Luna, Mercer’s scare tactic with Taylor moves quickly. Her journal is taken in as evidence and Ben lays out the truth: Taylor can be charged with murder if the jury believes she and Luna planned to kill him. Stuck without Billy to advise her, Taylor is effectively blackmailed into testifying against her friend or be stuck being accused alongside her.
Have I mentioned I hate Mercer?
With Taylor forced to amend her statement, Owen surreptitiously relays the news to Team Luna; her charge can now be upgraded to first degree murder and carry a sentence of 25 years. The way Billy has to continuously play devil’s advocate for a single-minded Joanna feels painful; he’s not being unreasonable, though there’s a particularly dark ache when he wonders aloud of Luna really did kill David. That ache is tempered with sweetness in their next scene where Billy finds Joanna outside on his dock. They commiserate over their terrible parents and lay out the stakes of this case: because they destroyed evidence, it’s Luna’s freedom against their licenses and careers. Joanna knows which way she’s turning.
At Brockstone, Luna struggles to adjust. Her cellmate, initially unkind, tries to help her, though a basketball game gone awry only serves to show us and Luna how hardened and angry all these girls are. Even worse, Luna is sent reeling after learning that Taylor will testify against her, and again after the story her cellmate tells: she has been at Brockstone for three years awaiting trial, and rejected a plea that her terrible public defender advised against. Now, a plea is being offered to Luna: four years if she pleads guilty. Again with Gerrilyn speaking directly to her daughter, we’re reminded how the rules of the game are always different for the Indigenous; the system is often unduly cruel.
Owen, plagued by the unethical moves by the police department, goes directly to Billy’s house with the investigation files. It’s filled with crime scene photos, but Joanna refuses to cower in front of Billy. Instead, Joanna heads to the crime scene itself. Armed with the file, the photos, and her phone, she walks herself through the night’s events. In a stunning cinematic sequence, Luna’s statement plays over key pieces of the case lit as though by a spotlight as Joanna struggles to keep it together. Her recount eventually leads her to the bar across the street from the motel, where a strange American woman was seen by the bartender potentially watching David’s room.
It’s a huge break. There could have been someone else.
The revelation feels too late; Luna’s bright personality is already retreating from her mother, and she breaks up with Molly in a scene that’s agonizing to watch, as Luna feels almost cold while Molly breaks down. By the time Joanna sees her again to discuss the plea, you can see how scared and unsure Luna is. They lay out the options together, but the decision is ultimately up to Luna. The last minutes of the episode ratchet up the dramatic tension, but with three episodes remaining in this season it feels inevitable: Luna refuses to plead guilty. Now, a trial looms.
Though this episode may have seemed uneventful to some, I really appreciate Burden’s desire to show us the (albeit still fictionalized) realities and processes of a criminal case such as this. It feels slow moving and frustrating and filled with a lot of paper, but affects real people in real ways. Like last season, neither Joanna nor Billy shy away from the jargon or labour of their work, nor does the show gloss over Luna’s experiences at Brockstone, a place that mirrors any number of detention centres around the world. These are truths, and we can only expect to uncover more in the final three episodes of the season.
Happy Fourth of July everyone! Burden of Truth airs Sundays at 8/7c on the CW.