Hey Dead-heads, it’s Ryne from The Moon is a Dead World bringing you your weekly roundup. Salem is still going, Shawn’s still handling Penny Dreadful, and this week Dominion joins us – you know Legion, right? I’ll be covering the first season and the pilot’s hour-and-a-half special.
Salem: “Children, Be Afraid” – Sunday, June 15 at 10 PM
Increase Mather, or rather Stephen Lang, continues to kick ass and take names in “Children, Be Afraid.” He starts off the episode with a bang, offering to let an alcoholic leave his prison after being deemed not a witch while manually snapping the neck of another witch who has already killed herself. It’s a public display, one meant not only to shame the witch but to invoke fear in the public; this is what happens to witches, he says, and if you want to survive the trials then you better do what’s best, which is to pray.
It’s a powerful statement, one from a man who has really shaken up the proceedings of Salem quite nicely. We’re at episode 9 of the series, but it feels like it’s taken a long time to get here; the show sort of mopes around its ideas, slowly allowing the drama to fester. While it’s certainly become much better, it’s still not spellbinding.
But Stephen Lang is really giving it his all, and I’ve got to give him credit for that. Increase Mather is causing a metric fuck-ton of drama in Salem, and it’s the first time that we’ve really seen Mary Sibley faltering. Not only does she have a total meltdown, she also is accused of witchcraft in “Children, Be Afraid.” It’s a shock to her, and it’s sort of out of her control, but she finds that there’s another powerful witch among them in Mercy.
The episode gives Mercy quite a lot to do, too, which is a nice change of pace from the earlier episodes where she was so helpless and weak. Now she’s become a new strength for the witches, and her offering of Tituba as the spellcaster on George Sibley turns things around considerably.
Unfortunately, there’s not much for John Alden to do this time around. He befriends a little boy at the orphanage who refused to speak and he helps rebuild the building; otherwise, the requisite witchhunter is absent from these proceedings, mostly because the show chooses to put most of its stock in Increase’s business.
And things are certainly getting better. Salem is now less reliant on some of its flawed storytelling from previous episodes; it doesn’t have to resort to George choking on a toad, or Cotton having sex with whores. It’s now acting on the strengths of its plot alone, a step in the right direction. But the pace continues to be a bit of an issue; hopefully it’ll pick up as we enter into the last quarter of this season.
Penny Dreadful: “What Death Can Join Together” – Sunday, June 15 at 10 PM
Last week’s episode of Penny Dreadful ended on one of the few jump-scare moments of the entire series, when the creature they were keeping locked up in the basement escaped, and there was some sort of demon lurking in the house. The demon was confronted, attacked, and caused the death of their test subject, and now they are left to pick up the pieces, to both figure out what it was that attacked them, and figure out how to save Sir Malcom’s daughter. After their blowout, and Ethan’s debauchery-filled night on the town with Dorian Gray, Ethan arrives at Brona’s house to comfort her while she lies in bed, uncontrollably coughing blood due to what I can only assume is lung cancer. Meanwhile, Vanessa is using her supernatural gifts in an attempt to both locate her missing friend, and either summon or locate the beast that attacked the house.
After failing to envision anything of use, Vanessa and Dorian venture off for a romantic day-trip, while Sir Malcolm plans and prepares for a hunting party to search a quarantined ship filled with vampires for his missing daughter. We know these are vampires, as Dr. Frankenstein has a brief meeting with Van Helsing, and as he is being told about the creatures, Frankenstein’s original monster emerges from the dark and snaps Van Helsing’s neck like a twig. Dorian and Vanessa arise to the bedroom, where they have an intimate discussion about letting go of boundaries, and giving into carnal desire. An extremely hot, rough love scene ensues, and Vanessa ends up losing herself a little too much, perhaps beyond the point of return. While Ethan and Malcolm fight off a horde of vampires, Malcolm spots his daughter, but has to leave her behind in order to escape with his body parts in-tact. After Ethan gives Malcolm a stern talking to about accepting the fact that sometimes you lose a fight, and the fact that he needs to start trusting Vanessa to survive. When Vanessa arrives, she appears to be in a state of possession, as she levitates and twirls above the floor.
I know that I have accused this show, for mostly the whole run, of being a little too slow, and I still stand by that; but I think this episode gave me a better glimpse at the direction the show is heading. One thing I’ll say for certain is, any episode that centers around the Sir Malcom and posse mounting up for a hunting trip, is extremely exciting. The straight-up action portions of this show may be sparse, but when they do happen, it is most definitely worth the wait. I honestly think this has been my favorite episode of the show so far. It still takes time to expose the characters properly, but spreads it out across a larger amount of exciting scenes to make it feel balanced. I think some of the more recent episodes have strayed from this formula, which, as long as it concludes well, is entirely forgivable; but episodes like this certainly make up for the wait. It was jarring to have been introduced to the character of Van Helsing, and then watch him be brutally murdered shortly thereafter. I really think the series may be heating up at this point, and I now have extremely high hopes for future episodes. Once this series makes its way to Blu-ray, I plan on re-watching it without the burden of writing about it, and doing so in a binging sort of way, in order to keep the continuity in closer proximity. If my interest in this show was waning before, I have been roped back in by the sixth episode.
Dominion: “Pilot” – Thursday, June 19 at 9 PM
Hey guys, it’s just what everyone wanted: a sequel SyFy show to a film that no one really watched. I think it’s safe to say that there weren’t a ton of people clamoring for a Legion sequel in theaters, let alone a television show about it, so it’s a little weird that SyFy chose to pick Dominion up as an original series. Legion didn’t do great at the box office, it got some shitty reviews, and it’s been four years since it released.
But here’s SyFy with a 90 minute pilot episode, and we eat this shit up because ANGELS! ZOMBIE THINGS! BUTTS! POST-APOCALYPSE!
Dominion takes place 20 years after the events in Legion; if you’re like me and didn’t watch the film, then the episode gives you a nice little recap in the first 30 seconds about what happened. The basic gist is that God has left the humans, there are angels that have decided they want to take over the world, and there’s a Chosen One who can stop everything – if they can find him.
And holy shit, we find him in the pilot! Dominion moves fast and clumsy, skipping over stuff that it thinks we don’t need to spend time with, mulling over expository dialogue, sometimes offering up some really cringe-worthy moments of melodrama. The characters are poorly explored; the city of Vega is massive, but its workings are only defined by the small bits and pieces we get to see of it. There’s a royal council put in place, but how they act and cooperate with each other is limited to two powers, really: the Riesin family vs. the Whele family.
There’s a lot for Dominion to work in, which can excuse some of the more egregious moments where the show skips over backstory for action. But the 90-minute premiere is so swiftly moving that there’s an inevitable loss of interest in the characters immediately. For one thing, there are so many thrown at the viewer – hey, there’s Michael the archangel that’s the only angel working with the humans, there’s the head man Riesin, there’s love interest and daughter of Riesin Claire, there’s Jeep our main character’s dad, there’s fucking “Giles” Anthony Head as the insanely-outrageously-evil David Whele, there’s his son William, there’s some chick from another outpost named Arika who’s sort of racistly Indian, some other chick with boobs, and some other girl who also seems to love our protagonist who shows us her butt – that they all get what amounts to five minutes of real explanation.
It’s sloppy. It’s overdrawn. It’s inherently a SyFy original series. It’s also kind of boring. The hierarchy that Dominion has created means there’s lots of bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo to wade through, and the Riesin-Whele feud puts that at the top of the plot spectrum. The action doesn’t pick up until the latter half hour of the pilot, with sword-fighting angels in Power Ranger suits. It’s a whole lot of cheese served up in lengthy episodic increments, and there will undoubtedly be a ton of people who suck this shit up through a straw, proclaiming it to be a cool take on what basically looks like a zombie apocalypse with angels leading the charge.
But this pilot is derivative, and a snoozer at that. While beginnings are hard to get right, Dominion‘s draw seems to be that it has a lot of characters that it can throw together like a boy mashing action figures against each other. Right now, those people are caricatures; and while I hate to admit it, Anthony Head is just terrible in this role. It’s a pilot that, like Bitten‘s, feels like an attempt to impress the viewer so much that it works against it instead. But I’ll fucking watch it, and I’m doing it for you guys.
Next week Kevin Lovell comes back! We always love having him around, and he’s going to be helping out with both Teen Wolf and Under the Dome season 2 (Stephen King wrote the first ep!). Also, The Last Ship starts Sundays, so it’s going to be a busy time for me.