The third episode of the Showmax series “Dam” has dropped, and just when you are starting to feel the fatigue caused by the psychological convolutions, the adrenaline rush in this episode activates your brain once again. Season two of this critically acclaimed show had a mellow beginning, and the first two episodes hardly contributed much to further the plot. Even when we see a lot of the supporting characters gaining foreground treatment, the purpose behind them still remains obscure. Now, before we move into what happens in the third episode, we need a quick recap of what has been going on in the quaint Eastern Cape village known as Fischerhaven since the narrative resumed. Yola returned home after a suspected kidnapping. She was kidnapped around the spring festival. For the sake of increasing the fertility of the land, the residents of Fischerhaven engaged in the obnoxious act of ceremonial gang rape. Every year, either these girls went missing, or they were institutionalized in the local mental asylum. Yola (played by Lea Vivier) returns home, but she has lost all the memories of the recent past—she doesn’t remember being kidnapped and perhaps being subsequently raped.
In episode 3, Yola’s memory begins to come back to her in snippets. Yola had also forgotten the tender moments she had spent with Themba. Themba, who can be tagged as the champion of his tribal community, on the other hand, had discovered the now town chief Rudy’s (played by Laudo Liebenberg) brother Max (acted by Gerald Steyn) digging a mass grave. In fact, on Rudy’s command, he had unearthed the bones and ground them into dust. According to him, it was the only way he could hide the mass grave. It was an audacious decision on Max’s part and probably even a willfully naive move to dismiss the fact that these were probably the bones of tribal people who were mass murdered to make way for the settlement of the white European population.
Themba suffered an epilepsy-like attack the moment Max was grinding the bones of his ancestors into dust. This, in turn, pointed out for the first time that earlier generations of Themba’s clan were trying to establish a telepathic connection with him. It almost felt like a ghost from the past was trying to reach out to him. Max, while sorting out the bones, saved a skull that had a bullet wound on it. Incidentally, in the first two episodes of Season 2, Themba starts seeing a tribal man dressed in rags. We do not get the information if that figure is a figment of Themba’s imagination until the third episode. There is also the unsolved mystery of the old projector and the film reels that Yola’s sister Sienna (played by Natasha Loring) discovers in the attic. Moreover, the viewer is still kept in the dark about the monster that resides in the waters of the dam and the adjacent rivers that have pulled down Max’s criminal accomplices, Danie (played by Charl van Schalkwyk) and Gus (played by Scott Pringle) into the depths of the dam’s reservoir.
Episode 3 begins with Themba making a trip down to Max’s ranch in order to interrogate Max about his recent excavation of the bones. As a matter of fact, Themba had saved the lower jaw of the same skull that Max had saved as a souvenir. Max had earlier tried to feed the bone dust to his goats. But the animals refuse to take the fodder. The moment Themba arrives at Max’s ranch, he can hear the voices of his ancestors speaking to him through the goats. The human attributes given to the goats might seem unrealistic to audiences who are unaware of the tribal customs. It is a common practice among indigenous groups to humanize animals.
Following the advice of his ancestors, Themba walks into Max’s house and discovers the skull. The moment he picks up that skull, he sees that half-naked man again, but this time only close enough to spot the bullet wound on his head. This is indication enough that he was indeed dead, and probably the settlers of the town had something to do with his death. Themba leaves the ranch to run down to the police station. He informs Abel, the residing policeman, about what he saw at the site of the excavation. Abel does not believe Themba and demands to see the spot. Once they reach the river cave, there are no human remains to be found.
Meanwhile, Dirk, the officer in charge of Fisherhaven, discovers Danie’s dead body near the dam. According to the resident wildlife expert, Anton, he was killed by either a crocodile or a river monitor. It is really disturbing to watch the scene where Daniel’s remains are discovered. Director Alex Yazbek deliberately foregrounds the hanging guts of the dead body to portray the unforgiving side of Mother Nature. Now coming back to Max and Themba’s track of the episode, the two men engage themselves in hand-to-hand combat the moment Max discovers that Themba knows what he did to the human bones. The scenes filmed inside the carpenter’s studio are raw, and the enmity during the fight between the two characters feels very real. Max makes the extreme decision to shoot down Themba.
When all his means to murder Themba are exhausted, Max plants a piece of Yola’s undergarments that she was wearing at the time she went missing into Themba’s rider’s jacket that he had absentmindedly left at Charlton’s mud hut near the river cave where he (Charlton) illegally grew and stored marijuana. Dirk, who was trying to solve the mystery of Yola’s kidnapping, discovered the hidden mud hut, and there he discovered Themba’s jacket. Yola’s underwear in that jacket’s pocket misleads him to believe that Themba was involved in Yola’s kidnapping. Within no time, Themba lands on the police’s list of most wanted; Charlton, the local bartender, is forced to divulge false information regarding Themba as Rudy coerces and manipulates him, saying that he would help in his sister Klara’s so-called new ‘treatment.’ All the treatment that Klara is receiving is confinement in the basement of the mental asylum because she remembers that the townsfolk had sexually violated her. Themba becomes a fugitive and decides to skip town to avoid getting arrested by the policemen. Themba’s aunt Lindiwe reaffirms Themba’s love for Yola, reminding the police that he could have never done anything that could hurt Yola.
The last episode saw the return of Simphiwe’s yellow raincoat. Qaqamba, the tribal healer, believes that the raincoat is possessed by Simphiwe’s spirit only because Lindiwe never performed Simphiwe’s last rites. The raincoat attacks the girl named Allegra, to whom Lindiwe had handed down the raincoat. Before Qaqamba could successfully displace the raincoat, Allegra threw it on a truck loaded with domestic animals. In this episode, we also learn that Simphiwe had died under mysterious circumstances, and the townspeople definitely had some connection to her death. Qaqamba, who was once disowned by her family for possessing the talent for witchcraft, narrates her personal history to Sienna only after she prophecies that Sienna might be pregnant. Sure enough, Sienna takes a test to discover that she is indeed pregnant.
Sienna had been taking care of Yola herself. On the day of her mother Yvette’s home visit from the asylum, she had to go in for some work at the nursery. She leaves Yola in charge and asks her aunt Dora to help them. Yvette, who does not exchange a word with anyone, spots the film reels on her dead husband’s table and tries to fix them on the projector. Dora keeps on warning and threatening her about curtailing her privilege of home visits. But why does she do so? What has been filmed on those reels? Well, we do get an answer at the end of the episode. Those reels are actually home videos that have the childhoods of Yvette’s daughters recorded on them. Once Yvette leaves, Yola begins to rewatch those videos, and sure enough, her memories begin to wander back. At the end of the episode, we find Yola trying to recreate the moment before she went missing. She seems to fall into a trance. In her dream, she visualizes herself under the water, where the giant eggs of an unknown animal are resting in a nest. And next to it is a dead body, whose identity still remains unknown.
We are left with numerous unanswered questions like: “Whose dead body does Yola find? What happens to Themba? Will Yola’s memory completely return? etc. To find the answers, we shall have to return for the fourth episode that premiers next Thursday on Showmax.