Burden of Truth

5 out of 5

Created by: Brad Simpson

covers season 1 through 4

While its story is incredibly compelling – in its first season, and pretty equally so across the remaining three – there’s something more impressive that nudges Burden of Truth beyond its legal drama structure, and into something more affecting, and enduring: its memory.

Ingrained within many of the season-long court cases that consume attorney Joanna Chang (Kristin Kreuk) and her eventual partner Billy (Peter Mooney), there’s a look at long-term effects: how things led up to the current mire of the various big business manipulations that swarm the small town of Millwood, Manitoba, and how the fallout of one small cases will / does balloon into a larger reaching affect. And then bound to that is the history of the characters, and the town itself; Joanna returns there – her hometown – as part of a Toronto-based law-firm, representing her corporate client, only to have her eyes opened to the reality of what’s going on, switching sides to represent the locals. Billy has a testy past that sways his actions and impulses in the present; cop Owen (Meegwun Fairbrother) and Luna (Star Slade) – a young girl her grows up over the course of the series and often assists Joanna / Billy with their cases – are often caught between their indigenous heritage and trying to balance responsibilities of their daily lives, not to mention batting away the casual (and direct) racism of the townsfolk.

And then, from a more top-down perspective, it’s the memory of the show’s writers: almost the entirety of the cast carries over from season to season, and they are directly changed by what we see. While some new, twisty, no-way-we-can-win-this case is always at the forefront of things, because the writers are mindful of their characters’ evolutions – with the actors very much bringing that to life – there’s always a very realistic interplay between their actions in and out of court, and we have a better understanding of how and why they may react as they do. The title takes on several layers, but remains very true to the spirit of the show: knowing the “truth” of a matter – in quotations because that can be relative – and burdened with that knowledge because of how it may impact others truths. And more succinctly, that it’s nice to take the money and run in a case where a corporation has the right lawyers and right attitude, but maybe there’s a reason to keep fighting for the little guy.

If that sounds a bit too wholesome David and Goliath, creator Brad Simpson and his team of creatives keep that in check: we also question sometimes what side we should be on, and the balance between Joanna’s team triumphing and getting swallowed up by some new tactic from the opposing side is precarious – we’re never too far ahead, never too far behind. Memory comes back around: while the “wins” can seem idealistic, we followup with the impact upon Millwood, or Joanna’s reputation. It’s all wonderfully tied together; there is no A-story or B-story.

…Excepting, perhaps, season 2, which has to navigate finding a way to bring Joanna back to Millwood for another reason, and the intersection between a tech-focused case on which she works and events back in her hometown are rather bumpily intertwined, as though redirected once a third season was secured. However, the show earns back its good graces by season’s end, and 3 and 4 return it to the heights demonstrated throughout every episode of season 1. And because that average is way better than usual for a multi-season show – because the positives are so much better written, and acted than most of its genre peers – I’m good with overlooking that slight blip, allowing Burden of Truth onto that shortlist of nearly perfect shows that are worth more than just the entertainment factor they offer, whether on a first view or returning views.