Damnation premieres November 7th, 10pm on USA.
By Chris Flanagan
There is nothing entertaining about the Midwest in the 1930s.
Because of this, it is extremely difficult to get audiences to care about any story that takes place in that era. Damnation does try, but sadly it does not succeed.
The show follows Seth Davenport, a man who is posing as a preacher in a small Midwest town in order to incite worker’s riots against the banks that exploit them. As the banks become aware of this, they attempt to thwart these strikes by hiring strikebreakers, who most notably among them is Seth’s brother, Creeley Turner. Turner provides one of the only exciting moments of the first episode by killing the lead farmer on strike with a point blank shot from a revolver that you don’t see coming. That and the anarchic sermon delivered by the masquerading preacher are the only two moments of worth to take away from the show in its early episodes. In short, Damnation does very little to pull you in and keep you interested.
The writers to pay attention to this weaving storyline of strikes, farmers, and banking fraud, but in truth I struggled to even remember the main characters’ names – let alone anyone they came into contact with over the course of the season.
One of the most glaringly obvious problems of the show is its utter reliance on the two male leads to carry almost the entire weight of the plot on their shoulders. While both Killian Scott (Seth) and Logan Marshall-Green (Creeley) are great actors and do a solid job of keeping this show semi-afloat they cannot do all of it by themselves. The screenplay favors them, keeping the ancillary characters on the bench to mull around in the background until they have to step to the foreground, recite their lines and receive their paychecks. It’s painfully noticeable and is something you would think would evolve over several episodes but does not. There are several smaller storylines that are mixed within the main plot with the farmers, but they are meaningless and take too long to build to any real feelings of tension or worth. I’m sure they will play a hand in the larger narrative at some point, but during the course of the episode it is easy to see that they serve as a device to give the male leads a break from screen time almost as if to prove “yes, yes, we promise we have other people in this town!”
I can’t say that I had high hopes for Damnation, but I thought it would be better than it was. It did nothing to grab me and even after I forced myself to watch more than just two episodes thinking that it would just take time to develop a better narrative it only dug its head further beneath the sand. USA Network has had a string of interesting and fresh shows recently and I admit that I have enjoyed the risks they’ve taken in more serious and dramatic stories, however, I can say with certainty that they whiffed with Damnation. That’s okay to some degree because they can’t all be winners, but I just hope that they can quickly regain their footing.
What hurts the most is that Damnation isn’t a poor show. It’s just poorly written which results in the product being uninteresting. It’s a shame because the male stars are very strong and capable actors that actually have a decent supporting cast around them, however, they are rarely used to their potential. It’s best to not waste your time attempting to become invested in this drama.
I give Damnation a D-.