Burden of Truth: 2.07 and 2.08 Review: ‘Never Face The Hangman’ and ‘The Right Road’

So I sat down to write a double-feature review of 2.07 and 2.08 the week that the finale aired, over a month ago. I got about halfway through and was…completely stuck. My family emergencies from earlier in the summer had lingered and I was suddenly lacking time, but in hindsight that excuse seems flimsy. I was just struggling to write. Don’t get me wrong, I adored the episodes and anyone who’s read even one review knows how much I love the show overall. But I think that ultimately became the problem…I love this show so much that no words could do it justice. Nothing I could say seemed to encompass how important this story is to the television landscape, or Canadian culture. It was daunting to talk about how this show makes me feel, and how deeply it moves me. 

But the show’s coming back! They’ve already started filming!! So if nothing else, I had to get it together so I can do this again next year. No news yet as to when the CW will pick it back up, but it seems safe to assume that Burden will air in the ‘ol home and native land™ sometime in the fall and then return to the US in the summer. Here’s what I had immediately after those wild final two hours, and what I ended up with. 

At the beginning of episode seven, Never Face The Hangman, we’re dealing with two major revelations that chart the course of the hour. The first is that Shane saw a second, most-likely-American woman in the hotel the night of David Hanley’s murder. The second is that Shane is, for lack of a more specific or appropriate term, currently off the rails. Though I’m not happy that Billy tries unsuccessfully to hide the truth from Joanna, she follows him to the motel and the ensuing argument occurs in short order: Billy agrees not to keep her in the dark anymore, but raises the ongoing question of whether Joanna’s handling this case emotionally. 

STAND OUT SCENE: KRISTEN KREUK

This leads us to our first stand out performances of these last two episodes: when Joanna races to Millwood’s old girl’s athletic field – now completely fenced off as a toxic waste site – and nearly dumps David’s ashes all over the grass. Joanna’s grief over her father’s death is palpable and excruciating; Kristen does an absolutely phenomenal job playing the scene with no words at all, only a visceral anger that dissolves into deeply physical sorrow. The camera lingers on her longer than might feel comfortable, but that’s the point. Joanna, for all her cool and collected calm and refusal to feel, feels intensely and it’s the least we can do as an audience to witness it in full. 

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Billy and Joanna’s chemistry is palpable even in quiet moments. He validates her grief for her father while they wrestle with the glaring problem of the case: Luna is innocent, but so far they have no other suspects. In another outstanding display of teamwork, it doesn’t take them long to figure out that the killer didn’t intend to kill David, but instead had been searching through his computer, which is equipped with advanced security. 

Millwood’s not exactly teeming with hackers, but of course Joanna’s got a guy. Billy wants to go with her to Winnipeg, but she insists that he stay and try and look after Shane. From here, episode seven splits neatly into four storylines before reconverging in the finale. 

Owen

Ever the best and most reliable cop in Millwood, Owen follows up the dark strand of hair from the crime scene that’s been missing from evidence. After confronting fellow officer Jason Boone for burying it, Owen takes him to an Indigenous neighborhood in Millwood to offer local kids toys and sports equipment. The image of the children completely ignoring the uniformed (and white) Boone in favour of plain-clothed Owen is powerful. The distrust of police runs so deeply that Owen has to shed his police uniform in order to be accepted by the kids of his own community. Though Boone isn’t exactly a changed man after this experience, he does give Owen a name: Neil Bellgarde. Turns out, he’s an Indigenous man – the father of the boy Owen caught stealing all the way back in episode one – and he was left to die out in the cold by police. 

Smoking gun for racism, anyone?

STAND OUT SCENE: MEEGWUN FAIRBROTHER

Owen talking to Neil’s son in the finale was an incredible callback to the season premiere. He takes back his words from that first episode, calling it an unfair burden to be better than a rigged system. Owen recounts his own experiences and eventually offers the boy a sacred eagle feather with an important reminder: 

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One could argue that Owen has spent so many years downplaying or turning away from his Indigeneity in order to be accepted in his role as a police officer in Millwood I can’t blame him, necessarily, especially with all the tensions brought to light this season. But Meegwun has played that excruciating dance with beautiful precision across two years, even moment to moment within the same scene. As much as Star Slade has definitely carried the season, Meegwun’s dexterity as an actor cannot be denied. He’s my favourite performer this year, and I got to tell him directly on Twitter. He’s the nicest. 

Luna

At Brockstone, Luna’s new cellmate forces her to reckon with how much this trial has changed her. Ashley, a fellow young Indigenous girl, refuses to be cowed by Luna’s newly rough and angry attitude. It’s honestly quite painful to see the normally bright and smiling Luna so hardened and cold, but we can hardly begrudge her knowing the treatment of these young women in facilities like Brockstone. The girls bond over their love of their communities and the open nature of their homes; it seems to remind Luna who she is. Her – and our – hope is newly rekindled when she offers Ashley advice and resources to deal with her legal ordeal. 

Billy

Billy’s realization that Shane is spinning wildly out of control leads to a gut-wrenching confrontation. His attempts to get help from a doctor quickly hit a wall; unless Shane is a danger to himself or others (which is quickly realized when Shane steals Billy’s truck and sets it on fire) then he cannot be placed at a mental health facility for care. So Billy makes a choice.

STAND OUT SCENE: PETER MOONEY

Watching the normally warm, kind, and moral Billy purposefully and cruelly tear his brother down is painful. He goads Shane into physically attacking him, which leads to an arrest that even Owen is unsure is the right thing to do. But to Billy, it’s his only choice. His reluctance drips out of every word, but at the same time he’s so convincing that you have to wonder if any part of him really dislikes his little brother this much. Peter Mooney plays the scene beautifully, leaving my heart in my throat when he turns away from Shane, in tears as his brother is dragged away. 

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Joanna

The reunion with Noah and Mara, predictably, doesn’t go as planned. It takes a little convincing for Noah to agree to hack David’s computer, but they quickly find the document David’s killer had been searching for: a contract with Lovand. I remember thinking weeks ago that the Lovand storyline seemed to wrap up a little too quickly – I’m clearly eating my words now. As if that weren’t bad enough, a warrant has been issued for Noah’s arrest; he and Mara are in hiding, and Joanna gets caught in the crossfire when the police suddenly storm their hideout. When the trio splits up, Noah disappears and Mara offers to help Joanna break into her father’s computer. 

Their attempts to trace Noah ultimately fail, since they just miss him at the airport and he’s now off to who knows where. As if that’s not wild enough, it turns out the call to the police came from inside the warehouse. It’s begun to dawn on Joanna: Mara would do anything to protect Noah. And when she finds Mara’s Californian driver’s license, it seems that anything might include murder. 

Which leads us to…

 

THE TRIAL 

Between Owen and Mercer on the stand, it’s not off to a great start. That being said, getting to witness Joanna ask the police chief, “Are you a racist?” in open court was probably one of the most jarring yet oddly hilarious things I have ever seen. Newsflash: HE’S RACIST. I also have to give it up here for my girl Taylor Matheson. Her last minute decision to play up her (admittedly, not exactly minor) brain injury so she wouldn’t have to throw Luna under the bus was truly game changing. We love true friendships in this house. 

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But the tide turns again when the Crown somehow digs up the angry voicemail Luna left for her sister so many weeks ago. Joanna quickly claims hacking, which could be plausible knowing what we know about Lovand. But it’s definitely a lie – it actually becomes a convenient excuse to bring Mara to court as an expert witness, as Billy and Joanna quickly realize that a photo of Mara hacking into David Hanley’s laptop exists. 

Every time I watch a courtroom scene, I am always reminded of the climax of Legally Blonde. It was the first time I’d ever really considered the job of a lawyer or the drama therin with any sort of thought. (Granted I was only nine at the time, but the sentiment still stands.) Joanna Chang, despite a few brushes with morality and legal ethics, is an incredible lawyer. Slowly trapping Mara through her interrogation and then producing her photo at the crime scene made for fantastic television.

The Crown defense doesn’t fight it – charges are withdrawn and Luna is free. 

I cried a bit, I’ll admit it. 

STAND OUT SCENE: STAR SLADE

The entire season is a stand-out for Star Slade, if I’m being honest. Every scene was masterful. But there had been a recurring conversation about the sky for the past two episodes…Luna denied this one symbol of her old life while locked away. As she steps out of the courthouse, she looks up at the full, beautiful prairie sky. 

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I cried again. And I desperately missed the prairies, which is where I’m from. 

The final ten minutes of the season both wrap up and set up storylines, giving us a glimpse of where we may end up in season 3. Luna moved to a different part of Winnipeg to reconnect with her community; her mother moves back to Long Grass, her ancestral reserve. Luna and Molly are still broken up, but who knows what’ll happen? Owen’s the new Chief! Mercer’s arrested! Billy’s moving to watch over Shane who is secretly refusing his meds…and Joanna. She finally lays her dad to rest.

And she’s supposed to go to Singapore. 

EXCEPT: 

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courtesy of marlahey on Tumblr

I have genuinely never gasped, out loud, so hard at television ever. I gasped so loudly that my cold just thought I was dying so I suffered through a massive cough attack. BUT IT WAS WORTH IT. Joanna’s speech about not being loved was already too much for me. You just know when Billy replies, “There are people that love you,” HE MEANT HIMSELF. 

HE LOVES YOU JOANNA PLEASE.

But Joanna coming back – choosing to stay, choosing the people that love her – I was a mess. 

The ultimate character development. 

I love her so much. 

I love Burden of Truth. 

I can’t wait for season 3!  Thank you to anyone who actually made it to the end of this review, or read a single one. Please watch this beautiful show and support some of the best Canadian content out there. See you in the fall! 

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