Damien Season 1 Episode 1 – TV Review
Oh, Bates Motel. You’re not a gentle dance partner, are you?
Last year’s The Returned paired with Bates Motel and didn’t ever get off the ground, despite a fantastic cast and strong source material. But, I will admit, it was oppressively dour and riddled with baffling, bizarre character reactions to crazy supernatural shit.
So it’s not a great sign that Damien, from this first episode, at least, is oppressively dour and riddled with baffling, bizarre character reactions to crazy supernatural shit.
And they haven’t got Jeremy Sisto.
TL;DR I’ll hold out hope that this is just pilot jitters, because Damien is way too gloomy and wonky. Bradley James barks out a pretty good American accent, the connections to The Omen film are refreshingly direct, and Barbara Hershey pops in to say hi (for the second time this week). But that’s about it.
God works in mysterious ways. And Satan’s even stranger.
So Damien follows, shockingly, Damien, the now-thirty-year-old boy from horror classic The Omen. Damien has apparently suppressed his childhood memories, and now works as a war photographer. But a seemingly chance encounter with a Latin-spouting old woman triggers latent memories (executed quite well using footage from the movie), and Damien works to discover the truth. Joining him in this quest is a confusingly unquestioning ex-girlfriend and fellow journalist, Kelly. They fail to find the old woman, but they use their journalism powers to track down a man who was tangentially connected to a character from the movie. There’s a lot of cryptic, Biblical warnings, and the man ends up mauled by Satan-loyal rottweilers, and Kelly is hilariously drowned in some sudden quicksand in the middle of New York. Kelly’s sister, Simone (Vixen from the Arrow-verse), is devastated. Barbara Hershey pops up for a single scene to rant about how Damien’s special and she’s his protector, which, insanely, doesn’t really faze him at all. And the episode closes as Damien encounters the old woman in New York, and he realises she’s in the background of a bunch of his war photos, and a photo of him with his parents as a child.
And she does a Real Housewives and pulls a clump of his hair out, which leads him to see the 666 mark.
Given the at-times comedic nature of Bates Motel, and the fact that the depressing The Returned was so cruelly cancelled last year, I was expecting Damien to be a little more fun.
But it isn’t. It’s stupidly self-serious. And everything is so gloomy and grey all the time.
White Pine Bay wouldn’t know what a ray of sunshine looks like, but it’s never dull.
Figure it out, A&E.
Why I hate this episode:
What really bothered me was the inappropriate responses of Damien and Kelly. These are two hardened war journalists, yet when Damien starts thinking maybe he’s cursed by God or something, he’s willing to buy into it. What the hell, dude?
Kelly is much, much worse. I could almost understand Damien’s willingness to believe as it directly concerns him and his lost memory. But Kelly, who is first shown to be super serious and competent at her job (again, as a war journalist), immediately believes in whatever religious supernatural shenanigans are affecting Damien. It’s fascinating to watch, but not in a good way.
Barbara Hershey might be the most obtuse of all. Her single scene in the episode features her just whipping out Biblical terms and cryptic hyperboles at Damien, about how he’s special and valuable. He makes the token “Huhs” and “Whats,” but is not once genuinely bothered by this mysterious vamp who vaguely claims to have been watching over him his whole life. I think Damien is supposed to be filthy rich or something, so maybe that’s why he doesn’t connect to reality?
Also, we need a lot more Barbara Hershey than that, show. You don’t bench Barbara Hershey.
Kelly’s death is literally cartoon comedy. She goes to get in her car, and it’s been raining a bit. But all of a sudden the ground beneath her becomes like quicksand, and she and her entire car are sucked into it. Good grief.
There’s a scene where Damien leans on an old college buddy or something to get clearance to return to Syria (he was banned from the country for getting in the soldiers’ way while they were rounding up illegal immigrants). But then he doesn’t need to go back to Syria because Kelly, who was in Syria, just calls up and is like “Lol I’m in New York now.” Unnecessary.
Oh, and dumping the female partner at the end of the first episode reminds me of how Constantine got its female partner replaced after the first episode. Which is not a comparison any show wants.
But it’s not all bad:
It looks like Simone is going to tag in for Kelly. And she appears to be just as willing to believe religious mysticism, so it’s not like it’s a total switch. And at least they didn’t dump a black character for a white character or something.
The flurry of death around Damien, if hopefully grounded a little bit more, could prove to be a cool recurring element. The rottweiler gang hit was pretty fun, and super gory. The quicksand is the kind of thing we need less of, though.
Kelly’s unwavering belief in the weirdness happening to Damien is absurd, but I appreciated that she saw his encounter with the old woman in Damascus and was willing to help. If she had been a stony skeptic who refused to believe anything, regardless of the evidence (like the dad in a horror movie. That kind of character), I would have been equally annoyed.
She also happens to film the old woman’s Latin rant, and it’s a recitation of something said about Jesus when he was due to start his ministry. Which looks like it means it’s Damien’s time to do the same.
Bradley James is seriously hot. He was pretty on iZombie, but he pulls off the stubbly, tortured look even better.
Sandrine Holt, a refugee from The Returned, shows up as Damien’s boss.
That old woman certainly knows how to pull a weave.
Some Catholic priests, who have realised Damien is back on his course, go and grab their little anti-Antichrist knife. Who do I root for: the people trying to save the world, or the hot guy? What a dilemma.
Oh, and she may be underused in this episode, but Barbara Hershey is the best thing Damien has going for it. Give her something to do next week, okay?