The Damien TV show is so close to being great! I’ll settle for good!
Damien Thorn, the man who would be the anti-Christ, is a war photographer who is always on the front lines. While in Syria, a woman confronts Damien with a quote from his past that sets Damien on a journey of remembering some really weird things that happened to him in the classic film, The Omen, such as his governess hanging herself, and his father trying to stab him in a church with a crazy knife. Of course, the Vatican is somewhat involved. The Damien TV show doesn’t try to break any new ground on the creepy anti-Christ themes, but keeps chugging along with a pretty grisly body count. Hell, there’s not really a plot except… creepy religious undertones.
First off, the look of the show is outstanding! It’s incredibly cinematic and one of the best directed pilots I have seen in ages. Seriously, the Damien TV show could have been shown on the big screen and it would have done great. Except for a few visual cliches– that thing that happens all the time now where we cross the city from a straight-down bird’s eye view– I was stunned at how good this show looks. The pilot built actual tension and was even scary a few times. It was all from the cinematography, which is not a word I use for, say, Supergirl, which is a reasonably good-looking show.
I’m not going to go re-watch The Omen to figure this out, but it seemed like they also had the rights to the soundtrack of The Omen, which had the first scary choir music I can recall in a movie. The soundtrack is amazing, a little melodramatic, but that radically fit the tone of the series. I’m not saying I would listen to it on its own, but it’s really good for the Damien TV show.
Speaking of The Omen, I was really surprised to see footage from the actual movie. In essence, Gregory Peck is on this show! I would have given him top billing! Sure, it’s not a lot of footage, but I can’t recall another instance of one of these movie spin-off shows where they actually have all the rights to the original movie and show scenes from it.
The acting is all pretty good too, although a little over the top in an appropriate way. Bradley James as Damien keeps it intense, but pretty low key. I’m not going to pretend to be a huge Bradley James fan, but he was on iZombie as a really likable guy, and I felt like he was fighting to be not as likable on this show. I think James was still more likable than he should have been.
Omid Abtahi as Damien’s assistant (I think) brought a lot to the table. He made the character, Amani, a lot more interesting than he had any right to be. I assume his acting skill will be more taxed in later episodes, but he’s great.
Series regular Megalyn Echikunwoke didn’t do a lot in the pilot, but she seems like she’s going to be interesting.
The excellent Barbara Hershey had a funny “I’m totally stalking you, Damien” moment, where she knew way more about him than she should have. But Hershey wasn’t excellent on this show. I felt like she didn’t know what her character was up to and it left her a little rudderless. Again, I’m sure she’ll be better later.
The Bad News
For me, the problem with the Damien TV show is that the pilot didn’t really offer a thesis statement of what the show was going to be about. Does Damien know he is the anti-Christ? Does he know why his dad tried to kill him (in the movie!)?
The synopsis of the show says that Damien finds out that he is the anti-Christ from a biblical scholar, but that’s really not the way I read it. I felt like the biblical scholar had just started to reveal information when Damien stormed out.
But let’s not even get to that. Damien’s girlfriend, Kelly, is repeatedly told by Damien that he left her because his life is complicated and bad things happen to people around him. This turns out to be super true. However, a few details would have really helped.
Is this a show about the anti-Christ or about someone trying not be that? At the end of the pilot, Damien goes to a church to yell at a statue of Christ. Does Damien actually blame Christ for his travails? Not all questions need to be answered in a pilot, but I wish I knew a little bit more about what the show is about.
This is a minor spoiler, but the end of the episode reveals that the woman who accosted Damien was there for each of his photographs of pain and torment, but I don’t know why. Is she always there for awful things Is she following Damien? Isn’t that Barbara Hershey’s job?
Why don’t I know what this show is about? It feels like maybe the creators aren’t sure either. I’ll be interested to see what the rest of the Damien episodes have to offer, and I’m going to keep watching. The pilot was amazingly directed, well-acted, but lacked focus and direction in the plot.
And for you lovers of The Omen, there are rottweilers, rottweilers, rottweilers.