A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Damnation is a dark drama set in a 1930s Iowa farming community, with violence, language, mature sexual themes, and other aspects that make it best for older teens. There are many bloody deaths: shootings, stabbings, an attempted lynching. A man is shot suddenly in front of his adult son; another man carries his dead body around to upset his friends and relatives. Many scenes are set at a brothel, with lounging workers in lingerie and a madam who inspects a customer's genitals by splashing them with Lysol (no private parts are visible). A man hires a sex worker and sneers that she'd better stay on his "good side" if she wants to "walk at the end." Characters kiss in bed and have sex with moaning, thrusting, and the woman's bare backside visible. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," and "a--hole," among other words, and sometimes has a racial or sexual tinge: "rancid whore," "dark meat." This drama is set during Prohibition but characters still drink at speakeasies and at home.
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What's the story?
In Depression-era Iowa, DAMNATION zooms in on a small farming community that's attempting to fight back against the big-money interests who want to break their fledgling cooperative. With everyone broke and starving, people are looking for change, and two warring factions are rising: labor, led by charismatic fake preacher Seth Davenport (Killian Scott), and capital, under the brutal direction of tight-lipped tycoon banker Dan Donohue (Calvin Rumple) and his hired strike-breaker Creeley Turner (Logan Marshall-Green). What no one but Seth and Creeley know: The men have a secret bloody past, and this isn't the first time they've faced off. As the tensions rise in this tiny town, the only thing that's certain is that there will be blood, and it won't be long in coming.
Is it any good?
You've seen the "two antiheroes dueling" concept at work on TV before, maybe too often, but this show's 1930s setting and periscope into Depression-era politics gives it some juice. There are wagon wheels and cloche hats, and a newspaper office filled with clacking typewriters, and brothel workers slinking around in white chemises, rifles and whisky and moonshiners. There are heroes setting their jaws in preparation for dark deeds, and women who barely speak except to draw out said heroes.
There is also, to Damnation's credit, the stereotype-busting character of Connie Nunn (Melinda Page Hamilton), a Pinkerton detective who's on the trail of our faux preacher turned labor instigator Seth. With her well-modulated voice and icy eyes, her hidden motivations and confident demands of those around her, she's a lot more interesting than the grim guys she's surrounded by -- particularly after she saunters down a forest path with a picnic basket, methodically assembles a gun, and then uses it to pick off demonstrators during a clash. What's her angle? How is she related to Creeley and Seth? Her nettling presence lends spark and fun to this show's weathered-wood-and-gray-skies aesthetic, which can sometimes veer into grimness.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why criminal settings, particularly ones connected with illegal drugs, are so common for modern television dramas. What dramatic possibilities does Damnation offer? Find out when your teens are ready for complex content like this show.
Movies and TV shows often communicate with a characteristic color palette: Cheerful musicals will have eye-popping bright colors, horror productions will have lots of red and black. What's the color palette of this drama? What does it tell you about the tone or content?
How many female characters are in this show compared to male characters? Who are the most important female characters? How can you tell? Do these characters seem as important as the male characters? What about the way that the show depicts male and female characters brings you to this conclusion?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love drama
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