Damnation: The Emperor of Ice Cream | Season 1, Episode 4 | Rating: 11/11
Much of this show is about the sinister nature of the American dream and nowhere is that more embodied than in Connie Nunn. This week, she’s taken young Brittany (played by Alexis McKenna) to Detroit where a group of auto workers is striking. The workers are being led by a man named Ear Donahuel, so Connie shows up at his home pretending to be a door-to-door saleswoman. Using Brittany to lower the wife’s suspicions, Connie gains access to the house and finds out where the strikers are organizing. She hits their hideout, killing everyone except one man who has one of Seth and Amelia’s pamphlets on him. Now she knows that they’re in Iowa so a confrontation is imminent.
Coming off the penny auction victory, Seth and Amelia are feeling like they’re in a good position to negotiate food prices with the distributors, but Creeley and the banker have a new plan to break the strike, and it involves ice cream. Initially, the banker arranges for someone else to come in and bring milk to the local ice cream shop. With the farmers united, the milk doesn’t make it through, so Creeley tries a different tack: divide and conquer. He approaches a Black farmer named Victor about the milk prices and, during the negotiations, offers the milk farmers twice the current price for their milk while keeping the corn farmers prices the same. Obviously, the corn farmers won’t agree, but Victor wants to break the strike and sell the milk. This leads to an old-fashioned wild West stand-off with Creeley defending Victor and the ice cream shop owner and corn farmers threatening everyone with guns. Seth is caught in the middle as he tries to talk down both sides, but when the corn farmers start shooting there’s nothing but blood and milk running through the streets.
It’s another victory for Creeley, but also a small one for us as we learn we learn more about him through Seth. Creeley and Seth are half-brothers who didn’t meet until Seth was 8-years old and his father brought Creeley home. Creeley grew up in a brothel (which explains why he chooses to live there and his affinity for Bessie), never learned to read and – apparently – wasn’t manly enough for their father after being raised by women. Given how their father treated him, it’s no wonder Creeley has created this hard image for himself but, despite Seth’s assurance to Amelia that it’s just an act, Creeley has become a cold-blooded killer.
This is evidenced by his relationship with Bessie. Although he is softening towards her, and she to him, right now he’s not going to let himself go there – especially considering that their last excursion ended with him being hanged. Bessie is also trying to distance herself and focus on her goal which is to buy her own farm and her father offers to help her put a down payment on a farm if she gives him dirt on Creeley.
Every week showcases great performance but this week Victor (played by Arnold Pinnock) gave an outstanding performance. As Victor points out, this depression may be hard on White farmers but for Black farmers, there’s always been a depression and you understand his desperation to sell his wares and take care of family despite everything. The interplay of race and economics at the center of this story about the American dream is beautifully crafted. Damnation could also be called “damned nation” because all of these characters are forced to – eventually – reap what they’ve sown.