With a brand-new episode released every Thursday, the 2021 Showmax hit show “Dam” returned to the platform this February. The South African answer to a worldwide phenomenon like “Sharp Objects” garnered a lot of critical acclaim in its first season. A high benchmark was already set by the show’s makers, director Alex Yazbek and producer Gary King. The South African landscape shows a harmonious exchange between the domestic world and the fierce untamable wilderness, this time in the first two episodes, presence of a malicious element is felt.
Nature, which was both a nurturing and a destructive agent in Season 1 of “Dam,” seems to be humanized one step further in Season 2. Previously, in Season 1, we saw an Eastern Cape farming community struggling with drought. The barren conditions of the land reminded us of the Arthurian legend of the Fisher King. Incidentally, the little town under scrutiny here is also called Fischer Town. Yolanda (played by Lea Vivier), at the end of Season 1, found herself caught amidst the strange rituals of her townspeople, who bore the belief that she was gangraping a woman who abolished the curse of drought that had been looming large over their town. But coincidentally, the performance of the obnoxious rituals during the spring festival brought rain to their lands.
Though at the end of Season 1, we are left with the impression that Yolanda’s sister Sienna (acted by Natasha Loring) is aware of her Aunt Dora (Played by Antoinette Louw) and the townsman’s plan to violate her sister would break the curse of mythical tribal figure Mamalambo. The beginning of Season 2 makes sure to declare that Sienna is unaware of what happened to her sister.
‘Dam’ Season 2 Episode 1: Recap
The series resumes in a fertile rainfed backdrop three months after the Spring Festival. Sienna is distressed, and Yolanda is missing. The local police chief, Dirk (played by Francis Shoulder), is of the opinion that Yola has been abducted. On the other part of the town, we see Themba (Pallance Dladla), his aunt Lindiwe (Faniswa Yisa), and the local priestess Qaqamba (played by Thembisa Mdoda) are busy performing their rituals for their leader and Themba’s grandfather Lazarus in order to give him a proper final send off. Sienna attends the send-off ritual and assures Themba that Yola’s absence has made her the power attorney of her father’s properties, and she would like to return the land to Themba’s tribe, who are the rightful owners of Jacob Fischer’s property.
In the meantime, Clara (played by Tarryn Wyngaard), who was the victim of the previous year’s Spring Festival, encounters a girl in the mental asylum who is bleeding from all her facial orifices. She saw the girl being dragged by the asylum employees into a red basement. In order to cover up Clara’s rape, the town drugged her, proved her to be mentally unstable, and imprisoned her in the asylum. Dr. Nel, the vicious psychiatrist from the asylum, makes it very clear in the first episode that he would not allow the secret to be exposed under any circumstances; rather, he would hurt and physically destroy Clara in the name of preserving the secret.
After leaving Themba’s house, Sienna arrives at the dam, where the townsfolk are celebrating the first full-fledged monsoon in years. A spirit of celebration intoxicates the entire atmosphere. Amidst all this, no one seems to be really worried that Yola is missing, even though they try to show fake sympathy to Sienna. A very distressed Sienna indulges herself in alcohol, and her guilt over not being able to protect her sister makes her hallucinate—she starts seeing Yola’s ghost.
Meanwhile, Rudy’s brother Max is seen digging near the cave of Mamalambo and discovers a mass grave with numerous skeletons. Rudy asks Sienna to hand him over Jacob’s land because he wants to build a resort to bring money into the town. But Sienna refuses, saying that she would give the land only to its rightful owner. Hallucinations become a brooding trope in episode 1. Themba believes that he is hallucinating, too, when he sees a half-naked man in tribal attire. Charlton, Clara’s brother, highlights the fact to Themba that no matter what happens, the racial demarcations between the white and black people in the town will never be removed, and Yola will never be allowed to marry Themba. While returning home from his rendezvous with Charlton, Themba feels that he is being followed by some wild animal and runs up to knock at his aunt’s door. A match cut of this scene shows Yola at her father’s door, and she seems to have returned from the dead.
‘Dam’ Season 2 Episode 2: Recap
Yola’s return is a matter of great joy for the entire town. Rudy and Max come to welcome Yola with a bouquet of flowers. Earlier in episode 1, Franz, the local attorney, gave Rudy a bunch of alluvial diamonds. This forces us to conjecture that Rudy is perhaps digging near the cave, not for a resort but to satisfy his own greed for diamonds. Yola is not really herself. She seems to have major chunks of memory loss. In an instant, in episode 1, Rudy was seen instructing Dr. Nel to return Yola to her home. This, in turn, proves that everyone in town who mattered knew what was happening to Yola.
In episode 2, Dora tells Dr. Nel how proud she is of concealing their secret, and since the “not so good” doctor wants to keep the secret as it is, he gives Dora a bunch of pills for Yola that would keep her memory confined and lost. Sienna makes sure to make it clear that she no longer believes her neighbors and the so-called well-wishers. She decides to take care of her sister on her own. Meanwhile, Themba again sees that half-naked man and begins to follow him. Though he loses the man along the trail, Themba notices Max loading his truck with human remains—in short, he, too, discovers the mass grave.
Danie, a local and an accomplice in the Spring Festival crimes, gets attacked by an unknown animal, most probably a crocodile, in the waters of the dam. There is one very disturbing scene in the episode where we see a different Yola in the reflection of her bathroom mirror, smiling maliciously. Yola has no memory of Themba. She fails to recognize him, and obviously, all the love that she once felt for him seems lost at this moment. The town seems to be preparing for an event that involves a special dance called the Dance of the Children of Jacob. In that particular sequence of the episode, we see white people’s fear of miscegenation come to the forefront. Franz is shown a catalog of photographs of very young girls and given a choice to marry one of them, but Dora advises her not to choose someone too dark because it would affect the color of their children’s skin. Thus making the trope of a racial difference a repetitive issue in the entire narrative.
Episode 2 has a perplexing and disturbing ending. Firstly, we see Yola and Sienna in a bath, where Sienna discovers two tiny dots on either side of Yola’s temples. Perhaps it makes her suspicious. Sienna goes to the attic and discovers what looks like a film projector with some reels, and the moment she looks down through the peephole in the ceiling of her room, she is startled to see her own reflection dressed in all white, just like we had encountered an image of Yola in the bathroom earlier. Next, we move on to Max and Themba.
Since Rudy had asked Max to get rid of the skeletal remains, Max began to transform the bones into dust. But the moment he begins to do so, Themba seems to have some direct telepathic retaliation for that crime on his body—he starts getting fits, and his bones begin to turn. We are left to connect the dots and realize that these bones perhaps belong to Themba’s ancestors. Gus, who was Max’s accomplice, gets instant karma for his crime. Just like Danie, he, too, gets dragged into the water by the unknown animals. Themba somehow hobbles back home, only to get a worse attack. The episode ends on a cliffhanger as Lindiwe and Qaqamba hear a knock on their door. As Qaqamba rushes out to discover who it is, she is shocked to see the yellow raincoat of Lindiwe’s dead daughter Simphiwe handing to the front of their door, assuring her that some malicious, revengeful spirit is hunting them down.