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Series / Burden of Truth

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Joanna Chang (left) and Billy Crawford (right)

Burden of Truth is a Canadian legal drama series. It airs on the CBC and stars Kristin Kreuk and Peter Mooney. Kreuk serves as executive producer alongside Ilana Frank and Jocelyn Hamilton. The series' first episode aired on January 10, 2018.

The series begins when Joanna Hanley returns to her hometown of Millwood to settle a case in which several girls have fallen ill for mysterious reasons. With the help of former classmate Billy Crawford she uncovers the truth about the source of the girls' illness and the truth behind her father making her leave Milwood.

It ended in 2021 with its fourth season.

Tropes that appear in Burden of Truth include:

  • Abusive Parents: Billy's father was physically abusive to him and his brother. He abandoned them when Billy was only eight-years-old.
  • Amoral Attorney: Joanna's father David Hanley. Even ignoring the dirty tricks he pulls as a lawyer, there is also the fact that he made Joanna's mother stay away from her by threatening her with deportation and had an affair with Gerrilyn Spence when she was underage.
  • Archnemesis Dad: Following unsettling revelations of his past and them representing opposite sides of a case, Joanna's father David turns into her main adversary before his death.
  • Big Sister Instinct: After learning Luna is her little sister, Joanna is very protective of her, especially when she's in trouble.
  • Bigot with a Badge: Sam Mercer, Milwood's chief of police in season 2. He is cordial towards the white suspects in the investigation of David Hanley's murder, but is noticeably hostile towards Gerrilyn Spence, who is Indigenous Canadian, and even makes subtly racist comments towards her. It is later discovered that he killed an indigenous man years ago and covered it up. The revelation of this information ends up costing him his badge.
  • Blackmail: Sam Mercer has been running a huge blackmail scheme since he was police chief, which even includes the mayor, with every victim listed under a code name.
  • Broken Pedestal: Joanna looked up to her father and followed him into law, with him as her role model. She's devastated to learn he cheated on her mother, fathering another daughter with a woman who's Joanna's age (a minor at the time) who he abandoned. It all distresses her so much she breaks down in tears, and adopts her mother's last name later on.
  • Child by Rape: Luna is one due to statutory rape, as her mother was underage when she had an affair with Luna's (much older) father.
  • Crusading Lawyer: Joanna becomes this after quitting her job with a huge corporate law firm that represented corporations being sued, taking up the claims of the weak and vulnerable instead.
  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • Joanna still suffers from trauma as a result of her mother being absent in her childhood, plus being raised by her father to win at all costs.
    • Billy's father was an alcoholic gambler who often made him come to horse tracks and pick bets, thinking he's "lucky".
    • Luna was deeply affected by her father not being involved with her life.
    • Kodie was taken from her mother and placed in foster care at age 8.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Joanna is largely cool, reserved, and shows little emotion at first. Over time, she gets better at showing how much she cares for other people (such as her sister), emoting more.
  • Department of Child Disservices: Millwood Family Services is revealed to be very corrupt, removing children without good cause and ensuring they stay separated from their birth parents through doctored alcohol and drug tests. It turns out their funding is tied to removing children, which of course means they have a huge incentive to do this whether or not it's needed.
  • Dirty Cop: Sam Mercer, the chief of police in Millwood. He takes bribes and is shown to be racist towards Indigenous Canadians. Owen exposing his corruption leads to him losing his job and going to jail for killing an Indigenous man, but he gets off with only eighteen months on reckless endangerment. Then it's discovered he was running a blackmail scheme while a cop, and it continues when he's on parole.
  • Disappeared Dad:
    • Luna says her father abandoned her mother immediately when she got pregnant. Later it turns out that he's also Joanna's father.
    • Owen's birth father died when he was 5. However, he did have a loving stepfather.
    • Joanna's father is murdered in Season 2.
    • Kodie is a single mother, with one of her daughters' fathers being dead, the other uninvolved.
  • Falsely Reformed Villain: Sam Mercer in season 3. In the season premiere, he claims he wants to earn forgiveness for his crimes but he is shown to still harbor racist attitudes towards indigenous people. He is also revealed to be running a blackmailing scheme which has Diane as one of the targets.
  • Frame-Up: Kodie and many other parents are given drug tests that gave false postives for drugs or alcohol, resulting in their kids being taken away. A neighbor was also paid by the grandmother of Kodie's younger daughter to lie about her being a neglectful parent.
  • Freudian Excuse: Dr. Solomon Stone framed numerous people with fake drug tests which showed them as testing positive for drugs or alcohol to get their kids removed. He did this because he was convinced they were unfit parents like his own mother who had fallen asleep while smoking, causing a fire which killed his sister.
  • Gender-Blender Name: Luna's second girlfriend is named Stevie.
  • Heteronormative Crusader: The pastor of the church Molly's mom goes to is strongly anti-gay, and preaches against homosexuality in his sermons. Molly didn't come out to her as a result, afraid that her mom held the same view (but she doesn't, accepting this immediately when she learns Molly's a lesbian).
  • Insidious Rumor Mill: When she was a child, Joanna's father had her mentally ill mother committed and threatened to have her deported if she ever tried to contact Joanna. Joanna grew up thinking her mother had abandoned her, not knowing they were being deliberately kept apart by her father and learning the truth shatters whatever respect she had for him.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Just after David gets Off on a Technicality for committing statutory rape with two underage girls (at least), he's murdered (for something else).
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Molly and Luna are both feminine and dated in high school. Later on, Luna dates another feminine woman named Stevie.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Luna turns out to be Joanna's half-sister on her father's side.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Taylor follows a john who beats up sex workers. She learns that he is one of several people being blackmailed by the supposedly reformed Sam Mercer.
  • Mum Looks Like a Sister: Due to having her as a teenager, Luna's mom Gerrilyn looks more like her older sister.
  • Nom de Mom: Starting from the end of season 1, Joanna starts using her mother's maiden name Chang in light of her father becoming a Broken Pedestal for her.
  • Parental Abandonment: Joanna's mother was mostly gone during her childhood, supposedly due to being sick. However, it is revealed that this was her dad's doing. They grow closer when Joanna learns of this, and she gets estranged from her dad. Then he's murdered too.
  • Parental Substitute: Luna's birth father wasn't involved, but Owen has been a surrogate father to her for many years.
  • The Perry Mason Method: Joanna uses this to win at trial in Season 2, getting a witness she herself called to confess to being the real murderer.
  • Rape as Backstory: As a teenager, Gerrilyn Spence was a victim of statutory rape by an older man (he got her pregnant too).
  • Recovered Addict:
    • Billy's father is an alcoholic who's gone through AA.
    • Kodie is a drug addict who's in recovery and clean.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Billy finds out his brother Shane keeps one of these in Season 2, with walls that are plastered with diagrams and papers detailing a vast alleged conspiracy by the Mafia.
  • Serial Rapist: David is revealed to have committed statutory rape with multiple underage girls, fathering a child by one.
  • Sibling Team: Joanna and Luna Spence after it is discovered that David Hanley is their shared father, as they work on the same legal team.
  • Sins of the Father: In the first episode, Joanna gets punched in the face by a woman at a bar. She later learns that the woman is the sister of a woman her father had an affair with.
  • Slut-Shaming: This is a go-to legal strategy for attacking female witnesses' credibility on the show. In one case, a witness was shamed just for being a lingerie model. Note that even the good guys use this.
  • Small Town, Big Hell: The first season has the main protagonist, Joanna, returning to her hometown of Millwood to defend a pharmaceutical company being accused of causing numerous girls in the town to fall sick. It is ultimately revealed that the source of the girls' sickness is the town's steel mill. Joanna also learns that she has a half-sister via an affair her father had with a woman who was underage at the time.
  • Surprise Pregnancy: Joanna unexpectedly gets pregnant by Billy in Season 3, and she struggles with whether she's cut out for the responsibility or wants to have a child (mostly due to issues from her childhood). However, after much intense soul-searching, Joanna decides to have the baby.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: Diane had an affair with a co-worker because she felt neglected in her first marriage. She regretted it and the show does acknowledge what she did was wrong but still portrays her in a sympathetic light.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Gerrilyn, Luna's mother, had her when she was underage.
  • Token Minority Couple:
    • Owen Beckbie and Diane Evans, who are Indigenous Canadian and Guyanese-Canadian respectively, have a relationship.
    • In Season 4, Luna (who's mixed race) dates an Indigenous woman named Stevie.
  • Twofer Token Minority:
    • Joanna, Diane and Kodie all became friends in school due to bonding over being the only girls of color there. More specifically, Joanna is half Chinese/half Caucasian, Diane is a Guyanese-Canadian and Kodie is Indigenous Canadian.
    • Luna is half Indigenous/half Caucasian and a lesbian.
    • Stevie is an Indigenous lesbian whom Luna dates.
  • Trauma Button: Luna's brief time in prison was a harrowing experience for her. A simple security search causes her to suffer a panic attack.
  • Vigilante Man: Taylor becomes determined to take a john down after she sees him beating up sex workers, and follows him despite Luna's warning against the idea. In the end, she manages to expose a blackmail scheme. She never breaks the law though, and later ends up joining the police to work legitimately against criminals.
  • Who Murdered the Asshole: The second season revolves around the murder of David Hanley who had gained a lot of enemies in Millwood.