From Barbara Hershey

Black Swan: Dark Hearts, Tortured Artists, and the Transition to Womanhood

Black Swan. 2010. Directed by Darren Aronofsky. Screenplay by Andrés Heinz, Mark Heyman, & John J. McLaughlin.
Starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder, Benjamin Millepied, Ksenia Solo, Kristina Anapau, Janet Montgomery, Sebastian Stan, Toby Hemingway, Sergio Torrado, Mark Margolis, & Tina Sloan. Protozoa Pictures/Fox Searchlight Pictures/Cross Creek Pictures.
Rated 14A. 108 minutes.
Drama/Thriller

★★★★★
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There are filmmakers I cannot help but love. Darren Aronofsky wowed me first with Requiem for a Dream (later I saw Pi). Immediately, I found his style and willingness to explore tough stories something exciting. His style, no matter the subject, is psychological and worms its way to the core. It makes you feel connected, even if that’s an uncomfortable position in which to find yourself. Regardless, he is undeniably effective at getting to the heart of darkness, of struggle, of pain.
Black Swan is all style and all substance, mixed into a sinister dream of what goes in inside the head of an artist. Natalie Portman gives what may likely end up being the greatest, most defining performance of her career. I’ve always enjoyed her, though in this role she shines; physically and mentally. Barbara Hershey and Mila Kunis each add their own wonderful elements to the cast, as does Vincent Cassel. A wonderful cast is one thing. Impeccably captured cinematography, beautiful choreographed dancing, solid writing to boot? This is what makes Aronofsky’s film unforgettable. You get to experience all sorts of wonders. There’s the dark heart of artistry, beyond what people see on the outside; all the pain and torturous psychological wear/tear behind the curtain. There’s the often scary, rocky transition from being a girl to becoming a woman, one which Nina (Portman) discovers unnervingly. Finally, this psychological descent in which Nina finds herself twirling becomes our own, as Aronofsky and cinematographer Matthew Libatique draw us inside a terrifying headspace until coming out on the other side. Whether that’s in tact mentally, you be the judge.
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One major element of why I find Aronofsky’s film so interesting, in an odd sense, is how he incorporates a quasi-body horror into the psychological journey of Nina. There are several key moments where fingers, toes, they get bloody and our mind is drawn to the strain on Nina’s body. Slowly, we begin to suspect there’s a dark fantasy portion to this story, and that things are becoming supernatural, as if Nina is literally transforming into a swan. So with the body horror, Aronofsky combines the psychological elements in there to make things surreal, blurring the thin line between reality and nightmares.
The psychological aspects further come out well through the use of doubles as a theme and mirrors or reflective surfaces. Nina’s character is all about expectations, personal or otherwise. She feels her mother (Barbara Hershey) bearing down, constantly. Her own mind is against her all the time, always asking for more just like dear ole mom. Then there are the expectations Nina perceives from the eyes watching her, dance instructor Leroy (Vincent Cassel), so on. All the reflections serve as a reminder that ballet, her dancing, they are a judgement on her physical qualities; how well she can dance, how thin is her body, how lean are her legs, et cetera. Moreover, the doubles Nina sees – one early on walks right past her under some scaffolding on the street, her face appearing visible briefly before it morphs back into some other unknown person – reflect the idea of being an artist as a sort of egotistical space, at times. It’s not a general statement. However, when it’s coupled with the obsession in the screenplay, this concept of artistry plays into Nina’s visions. Seeing those doubles, reflecting her face, these are points of narcissism. This leads slightly into further themes of the film. As Nina journeys from being a girl to a woman, she moves away from the narcissism and literally has to smash her identity to pieces, destroying the old narcissistic little girl and becoming a confident, more accomplished woman comfortable in her own skin, along with all its flaws. Up until the climactic moments of the script Nina sees her reflection everywhere. Even if nervously, all she can see is herself. Everywhere. In every thing, everyone. By the end, she’s decided this is enough, and along with the blood (a little bit symbolic in that part of it appears period-like), the smashed mirror represents a gateway to her life beyond girlhood.
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Another major element to why Black Swan is so interesting has to do with this theme of womanhood, or even simply adulthood in general, and the passage one takes from being a child to being a genuine adult. But definitely the heavy element of female perspective is here, obviously. This is why when some people question the sex scene between Nina and Lily (Mila Kunis), I wonder if they understand that part of this entire story is the fact Nina is discovering herself, her sexuality, her power as a woman, every last little thing in between. So the sex scene represents that side of Nina wanting to explore, the repressed girl in her ready to see what womanhood is all about and open to discovering her own choices, and it didn’t happen. The fact is she has fallen into a fantasy world. Nina lives in a dream world, one afforded by her slightly crazy mother and perpetuated by her own act of allowing her infantilization. So it makes sense she’s diving headlong into a lesbian fantasy, one she’d never dare act out in real life because of her own repressed sensibilities and the overbearing presence of her mother. Problem is, her mind is so fractured – driven to mad lengths by her getting the role as Swan Queen – that she doesn’t realize this is only a dream she’s conjured up. And the awkward situation later when she believes it to be real, bringing it up to Lily is where we can truly see her disoriented reality.
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With so much beautiful camera work, the mind bogglingly gorgeous dance choreography by Benjamin Millepied, the always intriguing direction of Darren Aronosfky, Black Swan was completely enthralling from the first time I saw it. Even now six years later as of this writing, I cannot get enough. The entire thing is this elaborate, dreamy tale. All the ballet and the dedicated dancing, that whole world, makes this a unique story we’re not often going to see. Certainly it’s reminiscent of the famous anime Perfect Blue, to which Aronofsky owns the rights, but there’s enough of his own elements to not make it one big rip-off. All around this is an astounding psychological horror/thriller, one that incorporates body horror, surrealism, among other things. No matter how you view it, Black Swan is a dangerous story about obsession, dedication, artistry, all wrapped into a kind of coming-of-age scenario about a girl finally becoming a woman after a long gestating period of being a child. By the time the credits roll you’ll either love it or hate it. But no doubt, you’ll find yourself reeled in, and the dark beauty of the film as a whole will take you away to some magical places. They might not be soft, sweet, rosy places. Yet magical nonetheless.

Damien – Season 1 Finale: “Ave Satani”

A&E’s Damien
Season 1, Episode 10: “Ave Satani”
Directed by Nick Copus
Written by Glen Mazzara

* For a review of the penultimate Season 1 episode, “The Devil You Know”click here

Disclaimer: I was invited to the Damien Season 1 finale screening in L.A. tonight, which includes a lunch, plus Q&A with Executive Producer Glen Mazzara and star Bradley James. Unfortunately travel/time constraints would not permit me being there. However, the people at FOX were kind enough to send me a personal screener. Something for which I was very grateful.
SO… if you’ve not yet seen this finale, DO NOT KEEP READING! You will be spoiled. Otherwise, if you want to be spoiled, dive on in.
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Here we are – the finale of Damien‘s first season. It’s been a great ride, getting better with each chapter. “Ave Satani” is upon us, and with the end of last episode, Damien Thorn (Bradley James) may finally have slipped into full-on Antichrist mode!
We start as Damien leads Simone (Megalyn E.K.) out from the woods. They run up on some big military-style vehicles, men with red dotted sights freeze them in their tracks. Ah, it’s Lyons (Scott Wilson). Of course. Now he’s revealing more of Armitage’s involvement with his supposed future. “Youll rule for a long, long time,” he tells Damien. But the young Antichrist is not happy with any of the explanations and the bullshit.
When Lyons orders Simone shot, then Damien taken in, the power of the Antichrist emerges, as he turns the men and their guns on themselves. While Damien and Simone make off, you can see Lyons is very pleased with how things are going. God damn psychotic. This opener assures us, though – Mazzara and the crew have readied us a properly horrific finale.


Ann (Barbara Hershey) and Amani (Omid Abtahi) take the now dead Veronica back. But Amani makes it clear, mother is to blame. While that’s obvious she clearly doesn’t want to hear that. And downstairs, Amani gets ziptied to a chair. Things are definitely breaking down. Lyons arrives and starts to convince Ann they need to begin action. For her part, she seems ready. Because Ann is one hell of a bad ass lady, no matter if she’s a bit evil and freaky.
Poor Sister Greta (Robin Weigert) finds herself in the hands of Lyons and Armitage. No telling what her fate will be. They’ll keep her around, a while. Then, who knows. The rest of her crew meet a terrible end on their knees in the forest.


Ann (to Lyons): “Blood will spill. Hers, yours, mine.”
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Meanwhile we’re privy to the terrible creepiness of Damien’s Antichrist presence and how it affects others. When Simone and Damien track down a car, the woman inside confesses her love for him – “Its all for you, Damien!” – then tries to kill herself before Simone intervenes. This was honestly one of the most unsettling scenes for me in the whole first season. Just how quickly the sentiment overcame her. Chilling.
Ann comes face to face with Sister Greta, after the awful death of her daughter. She promises the nun a similar end.
Cut to Vatican City – the remaining daggers of Megiddo are packed up and carried off. All sorts of blades and weaponry are likewise packed, and a gang of holy men are off on a mission. Yowzahs! Love this brief moment, really had dark energy. Then there’s Bear McCreary’s eerie score, which only serves to consistently make the atmosphere of this series creepier and creepier.
Out in the woods again at the old trailer where he and Powell used to meet, Damien brings Simone to lay low. Plus, he washes off all that nasty earth and blood from his resurrection the night previous. He even sees a little flash of the old woman from Damascus. All the evil of his life is crowding around him. And that adds more weight to the woman in the car who tried committing suicide, immediately pledging her life to him: it’s as if all those old evils he’d previously experienced, unknowingly the coming of his place as the Antichrist, are coming back around again, now that his eyes are wide open.


The debate about who’s worse rages between Sister Greta and Ann. They’re each hard, tough women. Although, I can’t help but believe they’re equally as stubborn. If in their world both God and the Devil/Antichrist exist, then the label of “cruel Lord” that Ann gives the former is perhaps most relevant. God has been responsible for quite a bit of pain and suffering, under the guise of his supposed plan. At least the Devil revels in what he does. Even after Greta pleads her case passionately, there’s no selling that old chestnut to Ms. Rutledge: “Satan is God,” proclaims Ann, “Long may he reign.”
Now Lyons is interrogating Amani about Damien’s whereabouts. This doesn’t end the best after Amani gets violent, but as Lyons puts things for him there’s no loyalty left that can save Damien. He is becoming something else now.
Doing her best, Simone sticks around with Damien, who insists she go. But she stays, readily admitting she is part of what’s happening. Then Damien says that he killed her sister Kelly, and that the same will only happen to her, as well. Likely true. Still doesn’t make her love, though. She is one tough character. At first I wasn’t a fan of Simone, but over the course of this first season she has truly grown on me. Now she’s really getting good in this finale.


Sister Greta is shown the rest of her people, shot in the head, thrown in a mass grave. Nasty. She and Amani are given the real, brutal view. Lyons tells Amani he must put Greta in the grave, or else – in a roundabout way – he says they’ll kill his mother. HOLY FUCK. That is some hardcore madness right there.
What does the nun have to say? “Gods will be done,” she sweetly, calmly tells Amani. What follows is a dark, emotionally disturbing moment. That includes Lyons putting Amani down there, too. We finally see how deceptive Lyons is, having completely fooled Amani to the end. Watching the two of them start getting dirt rained down on them is so sad, so brief, it stings.
The Antichrist side of Damien is really breaking through. He is gradually accepting his darkness and his vicious power. Further than that the danger to Simone is getting greater almost by the second. And not far outside lurks the woman from Damascus, coming closer to Damien all the time.


There’s a possible rift between Ann and Lyons now, after he effectively executed Amani. She didn’t want him to die. Most of all Lyons wants to get Damien under his control. He saw a fraction of what could be, and can’t wait to use that terrible power inside the Antichrist to bend the world to the will of Armitage.
AND YES, YES, YES! A hand emerges from the mass grave after it’s all covered up. Not all hope is lost.
Poor Detective Shay (David Meunier) is having a worse time of it, too. He thinks he see his boy on the road, then believes he runs him down. Only to discover it’s the powers of the Antichrist out in the world, the evil, sucking him into the downward spiral. On a side note, Meunier is killing it in this role. Very happy with his performance over this season and I keep wondering what will happen next in his story.
Back to the Vatican City assassins. They’re now in the same city as the Antichrist himself. What will come of this? A wild showdown is coming. Especially considering most everybody is heading for Damien, including Shay, Rutledge, Lyons, all of them, and they’re all converging on that old trailer in the woods.
Then Damien reveals he is headed to Megiddo. He figures all the answers are there, the apparent location of Armageddon. But before he can do anything, all forces rain down on the nearby field, just as Dt. Shay creeps up.


An intense little sequence here before Damien and Simone ends up confronted with Ann and Lyons. “I will kill all of you,” the Antichrist rages at them. He then finds out what Lyons did to his best friend, as Ann lays bare the truth. And of course Lyons finds himself being chased down by a pack of Rotties. Nom nom. All the while, Simone pleads him to stop, and Ann gets aroused.
Then a shocker: trying to shoot Damien, the detective puts a bullet right through Simone’s head. Wow. And just as was saying her character got more interesting to me. MAZZARA, WHY DON’T YOU LET ME HAVE NICE THINGS?
Well this is really setting Damien off. You can feel his heart breaking more. Then the woman from Damascus arrives, Damien pleads to be taken. He speaks in a language we’ve never heard of him, to his ‘father’ and then the forces of evil really start to take hold. Blood from the 666 in his head starts seeping out. It drops onto Simone and breathes life into her again. Whoa. Not only can the Antichrist take life, he can give it, too. Shay watches on and sees the power.
And from the darkness come Damien’s legions, the Antichrist’s followers, his fan club. They’re all there. For him. Kneeling, along with Ann. Even Shay. Towards us, the audience, Damien turns with a knowing, devilish smile subtly across his face.
The Antichrist has risen!Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 4.10.57 PMThis was an exceptional finale. I’m hoping A&E realizes the potential for it to grow, as there are already a dedicated base of fans, particularly online that always seem to be watching, tweeting along with Glen Mazzara and the others live. Personally, I wasn’t sold immediately. The pilot was decent, but I didn’t like the large amount of clips from the original Omen. Then after the second and third episode, I was sold. The whole thing progressed magically, so dark and exciting throughout its first season. And the finale spoke volumes to how wonderfully devious this show can get.

Give Mazzara and Damien another season, A&E! The ratings will get better alongside the quality. Hopefully the finale will pump some decent numbers up. Stick with me and we’ll try to make sure the network knows how much we, the fans, enjoyed this show in its initial season. Here’s to hoping for more Antichrist badness!

Damien – Season 1, Episode 9: “The Devil You Know”

A&E’s Damien
Season 1, Episode 9: “The Devil You Know”
Directed by Jennifer Chambers Lynch
Written by Glen Mazzara & K.C. Perry

* For a review of the previous episode, “Here Is Wisdom” – click here
* For a review of the Season 1 finale, “Ave Satani” – click here
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After the shocking events of last episode, the penultimate Season 1 episode is here! I desperately hope this gets a second season. Damien Thorn (Bradley James), Ann Rutledge (Barbara Hershey) – they all need more time.
We start here as Ann meets with someone trying to track down her daughter. Little does she know. Of course this will cause some major mayhem when Ann figures out what’s happened. No telling what kind of reaction a woman like that might have in the face of personal tragedy. Although, she is sort of like the devil’s lover, or well… she wants to be his lover. Or something weird.
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Sister Greta (Robin Weigert) and Simone (Megalyn E.K.) are busy with the aftermath of what’s happened with Veronica. She isn’t dead, surprisingly, but on her way. Greta decides on holding her. Possibly for her own good. Meanwhile, Damien and Amani (Omid Abtahi) are talking about the possibility of the Antichrist, the idea that Damien is the heir to that throne. Certainly it’s nonsense to Amani, intent on rationality. At least their way forward is together despite whatever else is going on, reality or otherwise. Damien needs all the friendship he can get. He wants Amani to get close with Veronica more now in order to get information.Damien wants to get to the bottom of the whole corporation with Lyons (Scott Wilson) and Ann at the forefront, knowing there is absolutely more than meets the eye. The good friend agrees to do his best.
And then there’s Detective Shay (David Meunier). He looks like a madman when bringing up the strange things that happen around Mr. Thorn. Nobody believes him, but Shay knows there’s something sinister going on behind the scenes. He doesn’t know the extent, though suspects a great deal. His bosses have him turn over his gun and badge citing mental health as the problem. Sadly, we’re aware of the truth. I see danger in Shay’s future especially now with a suspension. He might choose to go after Damien, investigating more on his own, which will only throw him right under the bus.


Finally, Veronica reveals Ann knows about the church’s involvement, Simone getting them into the whole mix. Greta talks a good game to try convincing Veronica of her mother’s evil. “Is that a mothers love?” asks Greta. “You dont know shit about me,” replies Veronica. Not much more information is coming out of this one. She is fiesty.
Another detective comes knocking at Damien’s place. He brings the news about Charles Powell, the therapist. Suspicion is growing around the Antichrist, more and more, even without Shay on the case officially now. Because all the little bits add up. And that’s why I dig this series and why Glen Mazzara has done a great job, along with all the various writers, because you wonder – in a real type setting, a real world, how would these events so obviously linked together somehow be explained? Well having these cops involved is one way of tackling that issue.
Back to Damien. He wants to meet with Sister Greta: “I have nowhere else to go,” he quietly pleads with Simone. Amazing to see the nun meet with the Antichrist. She asks to see the Mark of the Beast. He obliges. But she does not recoil, Greta understands his struggle. “You are Gods child,” she assures him and recognizes his suffering. He lets her know about the incidences at the VA hospital, his visions and so on. Turns out those seven people at the hospital he came across represented the Seven-Headed Beast of Revelation. On top of that, Simone now finds out her sister was taken by something… otherworldly, something evil. An intense few moments and a great instance of solid writing. Earlier aspects get explained in a way that isn’t forced, very organic to the plot. Dig it.
Poor Amani gets taken by some masked men while everything else is going on. Now I’m quite worried for him.
Greta later takes Damien by herself, sending Simone upstairs – and she gets locked in with Veronica. Uh oh. Is the renegade nun planning something? In the meantime, Ann’s got Amani in her custody. They’re having a little chat. Or more like she calls him down to the dirt with an eloquent almost Shakespearean jab. She further wants information about the nun, though Amani plays it cool. Until she convinces him Greta will kill Damien, which finally breaks his stand. There may be a big showdown coming. Yet things feel strange, uneasy. Highly unpredictable.


Damien: “What if I really am the Antichrist?”
Greta: “Then that is Gods will


Alone together, Greta and Damien talk more about his being the actual Antichrist. Resulting in her using one of the daggers of Megiddo to stab him. Cut to her wrapping him in thorns on an altar-like slab. SHIT. Greta, you bad motherfucker. That is some raw biblical vengeance, for sure.
Detective Shay is literally sweating the case out. I knew it – he’s at home, studying pictures, looking over crime scenes, and trying to figure out what is going on with Damien. He knows the murders, the events around him – the dogs, the burning car, the therapist killing Powell – are all being heavily influenced by Thorn. Somehow. “There are monsters,” Shay tells his little boy. And his boy creepily whispers in his ear: “The devil did it.” From the god damn mouths of babes. No sooner does Shay’s husband whisk their kid away do more visions plague the crumbling detective.
Over at the rectory, Simone mounts an escape from the room with Veronica. But down at the altar, Damien’s held in thorns, his 666 being cut into by Greta as some dark figures in black watch on behind her. Wicked little bit of gore here! Also, we see that 666 is literally carved right into the poor guy’s skull. Gnarly as all hell. The group then proceeds to lower Damien into a hole in the ground, so he can be “reborn” apparently. His screams echoing through the woods are viciously chilling. Once he’s in the hole it is just more ghostly, haunting hallucinations for Damien, as he envisions demons poking through the ground trying to get at him, themselves wailing and gnashing away. A truly terrifying little sequence. Simultaneously, Veronica ends up getting an Evil Dead-style death via tree, except without any penetration – well, sexual penetration. So this is one fucked up, awesome episode. Horrifically pleasing.

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Shay winds up sneaking himself into Damien’s place. Then he hears his son out of nowhere, voices whispering. A small figure appears behind him. From the sink in Damien’s photo lab he hears the boy’s voice before being startled by a creepy image. This sends him rightfully running back out the door.
But Damien doesn’t get to do that. He’s trapped in that hole, the visions of those seven people from the hospital attacking him, nowhere else to go except stay put. Up above the hole, Simone shows up, but the damage is done. Down there Damien goes absolutely mental. A bloodcurdling noise emanates from the hole, as does Damien. He rises up while everybody watches on. Ominous music makes the scene even more heavy. Is he reborn now? Greta tries stabbing him again, only he stabs her. Without any feeling, any remorse.
The Antichrist has risen. Or has he? Safe to say the evil is flowing in him, and he’s starting to give in to the pulsing hell inside him.


Excited for the Season 1 finale, “Ave Satani”, and can’t wait to see how the team ends things. My hope is that Season 2 will get a greenlight. Mazzara and Co. deserve the chance to flesh this out for at least another season, possibly with another couple episodes – 13 would be a perfect little fitting number. Regardless, they got better and better every episode here and made this into a good one. Let’s have a devilish finale together, fellow fans!

Damien – Season 1, Episode 8: “Here Is Wisdom”

A&E’s Damien
Season 1, Episode 8: “Here Is Wisdom”
Directed by Tim Andrew
Written by Sarah Thorp

* For a review of the previous episode, “Abattoir” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Devil You Know” – click here
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So many things happening on Glen Mazzara’s excellently macabre series Damien. First, there’s the Antichrist himself, Damien Thorn (Bradley James), whose search for the truth is bringing him further into madness. Then there’s everyone around him.
Simone Baptiste (Megalyn E.K.) is off on her quest for truth, too. After speaking to Sister Greta Fraueva (Robin Weigert) in the last episode, Simone’s further energized to find out exactly what’s going on with Damien. Simone and Greta track down the dagger of Megiddo that the assassin dropped in the sewers. But what does this mean? Will they just have to kill Damien, is that the only way? Surely it is.
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Speaking of Damien, he’s in therapy. He picks up a copy of Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre briefly. Mostly, he feels like he’s “whining“, and his therapist says he’s got PTSD. What’s most fun about this scene, to me, is that we’ve got the actual Antichrist here. That’s part of the premise. Regardless of where things go, how well they get there, Damien is the Antichrist. And here he is, sitting with a therapist and talking about his feelings. Amazing. At once it’s dark and disturbing, as well as darkly hilarious. Damien and his therapist talk about existential crisis, the toughness of making choices, mentions of Sartre.
Meanwhile, Detective James Shay (David Meunier) is getting shit on even though he knows there’s something shady about Damien. Yet there is the fact Charles Powell (Joe Doyle) just murdered a man, on his own (or was it?), and quite brutally at that. So for now, eyes are off Mr. Thorn.
For his part, Damien is dealing with a little boxed up gift left at his door. It contains a bloody little present. A tongue. Inside it, a roll of film. He’s interrupted by Detective Shay – wow, what timing! This is a tense scene, especially when Damien realizes the very person Shay is talking about, Cray Marquand, had his tongue removed. And it’s right there on the table, barely hidden from the cop. Great writing here. Plus, more intrigue concerning Powell. I’m excited to see how his crazy ass is going to play further into Damien’s story from here on out. As if there’s not enough going on for the poor Antichrist.


Cut to Amani (Omid Abtahi). He’s figuring out some things about Damien’s place getting trashed. With a favour from a buddy, he sees Veronica Selvaggio (Melanie Scrofano) outside the apartment. Uh oh.
And then there’s Ann Rutledge (Barbara Hershey). She’s looking to have a dagger of Megiddo destroyed. A friend breaks out his welding torch. Except the dagger is completely resistant. It will not be burned. Those are some powerful blades.
Now Amani is meeting with Simone and Sister Greta. All their heads are put together now. Greta mentions they’ve suspected someone has been looking out for Damien for years, likely now she believes it to be Rutledge. Also, Amani reveals he’s sleeping with Veronica. But going back to try and get information from her? Is that really smart? I doubt it. Because he’s not subtle enough. And if she sniffs out that he knows more than he should it is bye-bye Amani.


Now Damien is developing the film from the tongue of Cray. When he shines the film under his infrared bulb, every frame is the same but for the last: a solid black frame with the word REMEMBER scratched in. Off Damien goes, followed by Shay. But then the detective’s car shuts down. He’s back in the way of evil. The car locks itself. It catches fire, trapping Shay inside. He just barely manages to escape before the whole thing goes up. Narrowly escaping death. Again. Wonder if this guy will end up getting the axe. I hope not because he’s pretty bad ass.
Damien has officially remembered. He goes to see Powell in a little trailer in the woods. They’d cut classes and go down there back in the day. Charlie’s convinced Damien has killed people, intentionally. “Ive always believed in you,” says Charles. Of course Damien doesn’t see the burning of Powell the same as the burned man himself. And it turns out there are “others“, “nobodies” that Charles murdered… all for Damien. “So, who should we kill next?” he asks a visibly distraught Damien.
The Antichrist almost fully comes out of Damien when he nearly beats the life completely out of Charles, raging, punching him. Now, he may actually become a murderer.
At the same time, Shay is falling apart at home. His son’s drawing a car fire and that freaks him out, naturally. He’s been lying to his husband, though. That’s not cool. Bigger issues on his plate for the time being. He’s a brave dude, heading out into the dark of the forest after all the creepy events starting to cloud around him. He ends up out at the place where Charles and Damien met. He finds Charlie, beaten and raving: “The Devil did this.”
More and more, Damien falls apart, as well. He lets all the anger inside him out to his therapist. She does her best to convince Damien he’s still a human being, that he has a handle on his life, his choices. But the spiral of Damien’s life and delusions are plummeting faster towards something intense.


Damien: “Is that not our responsibility? When we encounter evil, shouldnt we destroy it?”
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Amani finally confronts Veronica, about her mother Ann, her boss. He outright threatens her over Damien, saying he’ll kill for his best friend. She says that their relationship is real. How can you trust her? Well, Amani doesn’t know exactly what’s been going on at the top of all this insanity. Either way, he is pretty serious about it all ending. Not just them, but the whole thing. Only now he’s a part of the whole mess.
Back to Ann goes her daughter. Now that’s another secret out in the wind. So now Ann has got to get some work done. “No more carelessness,” she tells her daughter and puts away the dagger of Megiddo she now knows cannot be destroyed simply by fire.
Greta and Simone do a little bit of bonding. Looks like Greta is pretty on the level. Only I fear for both their safety. Problem is a whole lot more good people are going to die before this is all over. I spoke almost too soon.
Veronica is out looking into Greta, following her in the dark, which attracts Simone’s attention. A very suspenseful sequence shot in the shadowy hallways, lit by stained glass windows. Finally, it’s Veronica who ends up with a bullet in her. Yikes! What will Mama Rutledge do about this now? I can only imagine what wrath that’ll unleash.


Over at Damien’s place, Amani comes to lay bare the truth. He was an unwitting pawn in their game. He also lets Damien know about Ann’s daughter. But further than that Damien realizes it’s his fault Amani is even caught up in this entire debacle.
Worse than anything, in jail Charles receives a therapist. The same one as Damien. She lets slip, very purposefully, that Damien wishes he was dead. She’s a part of it clearly. It all upsets Charles, believing Damien loves him. “Youre not a true servant, youre a liar,” she tells Charles before stabbing him in the neck violently, relentlessly, with a nice sharp pen. Blood everywhere. Did not see this coming all around. Great, gory horror for a few moments.


Anybody who didn’t make it past the pilot episode has been missing out on the all the true horror scenes. This one was a doozy. Dig it. And Dt. Shay is too late to save Charlie, but puts a few bullets in the psychotic therapist. The title of the episode? Right on the pad she’d used for scribbling before murdering Mr. Powell.


What a great chapter in this series. Next up is “The Devil You Know” and it’s the penultimate Season 1 episode! Very exciting. Mazzara and Co have only improved since the beginning. I do hope A&E will give this a chance to develop even further. Season 2 is needed.

Damien – Season 1, Episode 7: “Abattoir”

A&E’s Damien
Season 1, Episode 7: “Abattoir”
Directed by T.J. Scott
Written by Mark H. Kruger & Glen Mazzara

* For a review of the previous episode, “Temptress” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Here Is Wisdom”  – click here
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This latest episode starts off with Damien Thorn (Bradley James) waking in his hospital bed to a raving lunatic above him. Perks of being in psychiatric care. In the halls, things are no better. Everything is dark, scary, unknown. Damien wanders aimlessly hearing the sounds, seeing the sights, of madness.

 

 


Damien goes through the motions. He heads to the cafeteria and gets something to eat, again joined by the psychotic who hovered over him as he woke. Amazingly, the Antichrist is stuck between two people who believe they’re Jesus Christ. He’s sort of going a little crazy himself.
At home, Detective James Shay (David Meunier) remembers the supernatural attack he experienced recently. He tries making sense of what it was that actually happened; surely an explanation can be found. In the bushes of his yard something stays low, growling, watching. Shay may not find anything in the pool, but that’s the least of his worries. All around him the forces of evil are gathering. No telling how long he’ll manage to survive being anywhere near Damien.
Finally released from the psychiatric ward, Damien is off into the world once more. The resident Jesus pleads “Kill yourself” in order to spare them all ruination after the Antichrist fully comes into being. That’s some spooky shit right there.
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Shay’s partner worries for his sanity. And that’s the worst part of all this supernatural terror, nobody will believe the person whose claims speak to otherworldly presence. At least Shay does get confirmation from his son about a dog lurking nearby. The hounds of Hell are never far. At the same time, Simone (Megalyn E.K.) is worried about the men that recently tossed Damien’s place. Both she and Amani (Omid Abtahi) are concerned for their friend. Except Damien saw Amani with Ann Rutledge (Barbara Hershey). His paranoia has set in. He trust nobody, neither Amani, nor Simone who broke into his apartment. So with everything whirling around him Damien is caught up in the conspiracy, the paranoid delusions. Exactly what people like Ann, and more importantly John Lyons (Scott Wilson), truly want.
Speaking of Lyons, he’s having lunch with his creepy friends. And then Damien arrives, too. He seems to be thinking clearly at least. Because now he knows about John and Ann, their business relationship, and so on. Then a woman in a wheelchair nearby starts exclaiming things to Damien, her love for him: “I serve you, my master,” she shouts as Lyons wheels her off. Damn, that’s a chiller.
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Tracking down people related to Damien, Dt. Shay comes across Charles Powell (Joe Doyle) who roomed with Thorn at Preston Hall. The vigilant detective is trying everything and anything to root out Damien, what he’s all about. And even though Charles gives over nothing, he looks as if a dark cloud crowds over his head when the cop leaves his little flower shop. Hmm, more to come?
And more investigations come at the hand of Simone. She finds footage of the old woman in Damascus with Damien, she compares it to the pictures from Damien’s place, and finds the same old woman staring back at her. The closer she gets, the worse things could look for her.
Shay finds other people related to Damien, such as Cray Marquand (Cody Ray Thompson). He informs Shay of Powell’s idea that Thorn is the “second coming” – a strange, suspicious term to be used. There’s a story about Powell who was convinced, by the Antichrist, to essentially burn himself. An eerie moment.

 

 


So Ann and Lyons meet to discuss the new developments. She sees his survival of a suicide attempt as being proof of his strength, of their efforts. Although, Lyons and Rutledge do differ on their approach – he doesn’t see the need to isolate Damien, but rather to bring him, keep him close. They also discuss the daggers of Megiddo.
But more importantly, Damien sneaks in to see that old woman in the wheelchair. Seems that lady is Margot Lyons (Nicky Guadagni). She reveals more to the chosen one, about John, his intentions. “He slithers before the beast,” she tells Damien. On she goes about the ten crowns for “ten horns“, and more biblical madness. Extremely unsettling scene that makes things all the more frightening. That Margot knows quite a deal.
Her words set Damien off to look for a supposed black church. In the nearby woods he finds a dingy dungeon-like cavity in the earth filled with tools, the stains of blood, so many strange things. A sacrificial chamber, maybe? Nevertheless, he finds a useful tool and then heads back up to see Margot.

 

 


Sister Greta Fraueva (Robin Weigert) has arrived in town. She follows Simone in the street, not unnoticed. At the very same time Simone thinks she sees the woman from Damascus. This prompts Greta to introduce herself, already knowing Ms. Baptiste by name. And they’re also being watched by someone in the distance. Greta wants to know more about anything Simone’s seen, the visions passed off as nonsense by others. More are on the case! Is this good? Likely bad. For them.
Back to the flower shop goes Shay. He questions Powell further on his relationship with Damien. On the outside it seems like love. On the inside, Powell was sucked in by the lure of the Antichrist and his persuasion. Damien burned Powell’s hands all those years ago, an awful act, which the latter hoped would keep him away from the eye of the Antichrist. Well, I’d bet money that evil is about find Charles again after all these years.
And when Lyons comes home he finds Margot, the bloody tool in her hands. A veritable omen. Later on down in that chamber, Lyons and his terrifying friends sacrifice a goat on their altar. To appease the beast. They cut its throat, drain the blood. Their ritual continues.

 

 


At Damien’s place, Ann shows up. She has one of the daggers of Megiddo, revealing John came looking for it earlier. She tells him about how the daggers, used together all seven, will destroy the Antichrist. Only one would just take his life; all seven rid the world of that evil altogether. But if Damien dies, another simply takes his place, next in line. Ann bares her soul to him. Her commitment is staunch, unwavering. With the option of death now, once and for all right in front of him, Damien chooses not to die, or Ann decides not to help him. One or the other.

 

 


In a bathroom, Powell comes face to face with Marquand. The scars all over Charles are savage. The two men have a brief chat. Before Powell heads into the shower behind Marquand and stabs him with a large pair of scissors, over and over. A brutal, bloody death. Has the Antichrist still got a hold on Charlie?

 

 


This was a wild and at times devastating episode. Great writing, great direction. Lots to build on heading into the next episode, titled “Here Is Wisdom”, so stay tuned with me.

Damien – Season 1, Episode 6: “Temptress”

A&E’s Damien
Season 1, Episode 6: “Temptress”
Directed by Nick Copus
Written by Richard Hatem

* For a review of the previous episode, “Seven Curses” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Abattoir” – click here
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After the emotionally devastating “Seven Curses”, Damien Thorn (Bradley James) is being transported to the hospital following his suicide attempt. He wakes to Simone (Megalyn E.K.). She genuinely cares and wants to help. Also kicking around is Ann Rutledge (Barbara Hershey) trying to make things go smoother for the Antichrist.
Except for now he’s under observation. Detective Shay (David Meunier) is on his way. So Damien slips out, nice and quiet. He heads off to meet Amani (Omid Abtahi) in some sketchy alley, heading down into a below ground club. Someone wants to meet Damien. Very secretive. They meet with a tattoo artist who says two men came and roughed him up, asking for a tattoo to be done on someone who’s passed out. Turns out it was Damien. He apparently tattooed the 666 on his scalp. Or so he claims. Is this true? I don’t think it is. Could it really be the case?
This is one of the best openers of any episode yet. Dig it, hard. Makes it all quite exciting.
Love the whole aesthetic of this show. Dark, dreary, though vibrant.
Amani is shown the tattoo. He explains the artist came looking for him, after seeing Damien at the VA hospital. Too convenient. Everything around Damien’s becoming more and more slippery, in terms of reality. He sees people in the distance, a hooded figure. Now all this about his supposed birthmark being faked. He has no way to latch onto anything real, so the world only becomes further confused.
Doesn’t help that John Lyons (Scott Wilson) muddies the waters. He’s in league with Ann, yet there he is telling Damien all about her, the danger he’s in because of her presence. John gives over a big file filled with countless bits of information.
Damien discovers, from a doctor at the hospital, he was given a dose of some incredibly powerful psychedelics. Wild shit. But Lyons is quick to keep things silent. The doctor wants to let police know. Lyons would rather handle it himself. “We dont bring in outsiders to clean up our messes,” he tells Damien.
As the unknowing Antichrist walks the streets, a hooded figure hovers not far away. He ends up meeting with Ann who says she wants to chat. With all the belief instilled by Lyons about Ann waging “psychological warfare” on him, Damien has got his back up. If only he knew. He’s being played on all sides. It really is a setup for complete mental breakdown, as well as the possible emergence of a vicious evil. For now, he rips Ann a new one, even going so far as to verbally threaten her. Yikes.

 


So Damien goes ahead and tosses out all his food. Until Amani arrives. He captured the meeting with Ann as planned. Then he followed her to a meeting with Lyons. Now Damien’s world, his reality, all those truths are slipping even faster. He manages to sneak his way into Lyons’ office under the pretense of a forgotten phone. He locates a file with his name on it and gets it out undiscovered. Inside is everything from pictures to documents and tons of other things. Including pictures of a woman, which intrigue him.
And then he meets her: his mother, Mrs. Thorn (Bess Armstrong). She’d been in hospital when her husband tried to kill Damien, then under the impression they’d both died.
Although, is this all too convenient? Would Lyons really keep a file on Damien with such important, damning evidence right in his desk? All of a sudden, his mother pops up and claims there was nothing ever wrong with him, that she was sucked into thinking all those Antichrist-like things about him by Mrs. Baylock and the like. This feels like an elaborate scheme. Because nothing good can ever come to the Antichrist, can it?
Of course Ann arrives. Then she and Mrs. Thorn have a pretty tense argument. An accident, on Damien’s part, causes his mother to fly down a staircase, cracking her skull along the way. Too good to be true. Ann says she’ll keep his actions a secret, pissing him off enough to strangle her. He ends up having to wrestle her henchmen. We get to see Damien kick some ass here, too. He’s pretty tough when he wants to be, taking them down and getting the hell out of Dodge.
But what did Ann mean when she asked if Damien’s mother would tell him who she really is? Who is she truly? Another ruse on Lyons’ part?

 


When Damien goes to see Simone, something is not right. Everything feels wrong. He heads back out to the streets, and sees smoething even stranger: Amani meeting with Ann. They sit together at a fancy restaurant outdoors. Or at least that’s what Damien thinks he sees. Detective Shay comes out of nowhere and picks him up, wondering exactly what happened with Damien’s mother, wondering what the hell is going on at all; especially after the events he experienced at home a couple episodes. Pleading to be taken seriously, Damien brings Shay to meet the tattoo artist. Problem being the man is dead, murdered, driven through with a bunch of daggers. The plot thickens.
Things are very complicated for Damien. Everything he says is like a dead end because there are too many questions about his mental health involved. He seems absolutely crazy. Right down to a bit of blood Simone smeared on his shirt, actually from a steak, which does him no favours. At all.
And life only gets stranger. Shay drives Damien in a cop car, they stop in the dark and then Lyons gets in. He doesn’t seem too happy with Damien and what’s been going on. But what is it that’s happening here? Is this reality? Outside, something attacks both Lyons and Shay. A bunch of somethings. They climb inside the car, terrorizing Damien.

 


Then he wakes up in an ambulance right after his suicide attempt. The EMTs look like the two henchmen from earlier. Was it all a dream?
He’s awake again, for real this time. In the hospital, Ann waits by his side, comforting him. The whole dream crushes him. He’d hoped none of the Antichrist business was real. And he really hoped Ann was actually dead. Too bad, so sad. He drives her away for now. The emerging Antichrist in him is causing everything to crumble. How can he ever be sure what’s real and what isn’t? His waking life is filled with nightmares, so is his sleep.
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Solid, creepy episode. Very excited for the next episode to see what’s about to happen, as more revelations, more nightmares, more truths come out of the woodwork. Next up is “Abattoir”, so stay tuned with me!

Damien – Season 1, Episode 5: “Seven Curses”

A&E’s Damien
Season 1, Episode 5: “Seven Curses”
Directed by Mikael Salomon
Written by K.C. Perry

* For a review of the previous episode, “The Number of a Man” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Temptress” – click here
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On we spin into the abyss, right alongside Damien Thorn (Bradley James).
This episode begins in the darkened halls of a basement; a hospital, in fact. A little girl shows up to proclaim that the “beast” is on its way. Foreboding, definitely.
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Speaking of Damien, he’s off to the hospital meeting with a doctor who specializes in PTSD amongst veterans. He sits and waits for seems like forever. Then it’s as if he’d never even walked in, completely ignored by the woman at the front desk. Damien runs into the mother of the boy he saved on the subway platform. He’s brought up to see her husband, Alex (Jose Pablo Cantillo), who’s happy to meet the man who saved his son. Damien even offers to take pictures of his struggle, what he’s dealing with post-service in the military, and the couple agrees. It’s amazing to see the humanity of Damien, as well as is atheism. Amazing lead character.
Afterwards, as he takes pictures of Alex in water therapy, Damien almost sees the poor guy drown. As an entity lurks just below the surface. It’d be tough if the darkness in Damien were to claim someone such as Alex, whose life has already been covered in darkness. When Alex reveals he’s “ending” his life, that it’s the best option for everyone in his family, it really shocks Damien to his core. Even more than that Alex wants his suicide photographed, he wants the truth of the veterans like him told, in raw, graphic nature. But how can someone agree to photograph that? It would be devastating. Yet Alex asks: “Isnt that what you do? Bear witness?”

 


Simone Baptiste (Megalyn E.K.) is busy trying to connect Damien to the death of her sister. All the while, Amani (Omid Abtahi) is convincing her otherwise. He lets slip the fact the old woman was in a ton of pictures, apparently “photoshopped” by Damien. Not the case, though, and Simone knows it. She’s sly. Perhaps her intuition may land her in a bad place, instead of in one of power. Especially if she gets too close to the truth.
Then there’s Ann Rutledge (Barbara Hershey). She’s looking concerned, asking questions about her motherhood, wondering if she “kept all the wolves at bay” and so on. This whole thing with Damien is tearing her up inside.
At the hospital, Damien’s trying to find Alex, who evades him at almost every turn. He even sees the vision of a little girl in the hallway, the one with a messed up. In the dark halls of the lower levels, Damien searches for Alex. Like something out of Jacob’s Ladder we’re plunged into the very heart of madness. Hanging prosthetic limbs, hospital attendants dealing drugs, creepy whispered voices in the background. Slowly, Damien follows Alex father down the rabbit hole.
Everywhere he goes things are strange, otherworldly. He cannot find solid footing. Each room is another strange nightmare. What an amazing sequence, both in writing and in execution, from editing to makeup effects to overall direction. Perfect, and terrifyingly upsetting, unnerving, all of it. Certainly gets to Damien, as well.

 


Ann makes a call: “I need two men, now. I have someone who needs a bit of housekeeping. No, no, not that. Yes, its him. Dont hurt him; too much.” An extremely ominous conversation indeed, and the fact Ann has tears in her eyes is also creepy.
Cut to Sister Greta Fraueva (Robin Weigert). She’s trying to make off with one of the Seven Daggers of Megiddo, to leave for New York and take care of the beast. Although, the patriarchy wouldn’t want that now, would they? A woman running off and taking care of church business. The mystery surrounding her character is hugely interesting. She has no time for the male-run church, either. Only as far as she needs to pretend. Which is fucking awesome.

 


Getting closer to some kind of truth, Simone finds the pictures at Damien’s place. At the same time he’s trying to work his way out of the hospital. He calls her right as she’s standing in his place, looking through the pictures. Worst time for her to be there – the two men Ann called for show up. They trash the place and toss everything, wrecking lights and furniture, everything. Luckily, they don’t find Simone.
But poor Amani, he’s still hanging around Ann’s protege, Veronica (Melanie Scrofano). When is his number due to be punched?
Damien goes back to see Alex. The injured vet is ready to take the drugs, to fade away. And Damien is ready to take the photographs of his suicide. An emotional, devastating moment here. What a scene. Both men struggle to do what it is they need to do; Alex with the needle, Damien shaking behind his camera.

 


Later on, Damien heads to the house where he lived years ago as a boy. The picture of his family still hangs looming large. He has a look around the old estate. Sits in the old red convertible in the garage. And he has his own plans for suicide. He prepares the garage, taping up the cracks in the door. He readies himself to inject drugs into his veins. The carbon monoxide is flowing.
Except something will not allow it. The hounds of Hell arrive, an entity peels away the duct tape from the door’s cracks. The Beast cannot die. He will not. Eventually, the dogs drag him free of the smoke, and he ends up waking to the night air. Not yet, Damien. Satan hasn’t gotten all he needs out of you.
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Next episode promises to be more demonic fun. This was a great one, very powerful, full of weight, and trippy, too. Next up is “Temptress” – stay with me, fellow fans!

Damien – Season 1, Episode 3: “The Deliverer”

A&E’s Damien
Season 1, Episode 3: “The Deliverer”
Directed by Guillermo Navarro
Written by Ryan C. Coleman

* For a review of the previous episode, “Second Death” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Number of a Man” – click here
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As Ann Rutledge (Barbara Hershey) leads Damien Thorn (Bradley James) back towards his past, the memories, and his seat on the throne as Antichrist, Glen Mazzara’s Damien moves to the next chapter, “The Deliverer”, and one can only hope things get more macabre, more wild from here on in.
After escaping a near stabbing, Damien is really on the radar. Detective James Shay (David Meunier) is also on the case of the dead professor, torn apart by the dogs. Well it’s no secret how it all comes together. Trouble’s around the corner for Shay now, too. The hounds of Hell are lurking around his office. Will he find himself at the wrong end of the Antichrist’s wrath? All the threads of Shay’s investigation lead back to Damien – the deaths, the attempted stabbing. Their paths will crash together soon.
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The flood of memories from Damien’s past aren’t coming easy. He recalls essentially killing his mother: “This is a murder weapon,” he says describing his childhood tricycle. He remembers the governess who killed herself, Ms. Baycroft, all of it. All the while, Ann tells him of a group which protects him, and has for quite some time. Damien seems to believe, as far as he was nearly killed because of some mad belief. But it’s all a shock to his system, like it would be for any rational human being. He doesn’t really want anything to do with it, particularly after Ann gets a little creepy on him.
Simone Baptiste (Megalyn E.K.) is seeking out help in regards to the notebook her sister left behind. All the talk of Satan, “the Book of Revelations” and more. A priest only shoos her away by saying there’s nothing to it. As she leaves, Simone sees a statue of the Virgin Mary start bleeding from a heart full of swords. Then, it’s gone again. Yikes. That can’t be any good.
Damien’s diving in deep trying to track down hospital records. Likely hoping to discover the origins of his birth. Then he’s also stuck on Ann, the relics of his childhood, the fact she bought up a ton of his work. Partner Amani Golkar (Omid Abtahi) thinks there’s a ton of weird shit happening, too, but can’t get on board with Ann being a stalker. Furthermore, Damien shows him the pictures of the old Syrian woman in the background of his other pictures. Yet Amani’s only concerned with their work, and Damien’s mental health. He is obviously a good friend. Though, will that thread wear thin?


Finally we’re introduced to John Lyons (Scott Wilson). He and Damien are “old pals” from when the latter was a part of the White House world. We also get bits to fill in story between The Omen and Damien: Omen II; Lyons mentions Damien left the White House simply because it wasn’t a conducive environment to raising a young boy. Makes sense. But that’s part of what’s making this series solid heading into each following episode. They use lots of clips, which started annoying me earlier. But now, with Lyons and his character, they’re adding bits and pieces to the background of this mythology, and that’s interesting. Aside from that, Damien gets clues as to what’s happening around him out of Lyons – particularly, that Ann Rutledge is a scary lady.
Simone is starting to slip. Well, not really. But outwardly, to Amani now, it’s looking like she’s “grasping at straws“, yet we know the truth. She is beginning to see the light; the dark light of the Antichrist.
Well now we’re also seeing Lyons and Rutledge together. Is Lyons a part of this super secret group? Seems that is the case. “I brought you in,” he tells Ann. John wants Damien under lock and key, unimpressed with her work thus far. “Do you know how much blood Ive spilled keeping him safe?” Ann questions. Apparently there’s no more room for Ann in Lyons’ plans. I enjoy this angle because it speaks to the nature of the Antichrist, how big corporations and secretive societies might try to use his presence as a way to influence world events, politics, economy, who knows what else. Plus, it gives us more to latch onto other than just Damien; even though he’s interesting enough.


Lyons: “This Damascus woman is the sign weve been waiting for
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I also love the investigative nature of Damien’s storyline so far. He’s digging deep and hard into his origins. So there’s a mystery angle to the whole series here in the first few episodes. But Ann is working her own games on the side, too. She sets up a situation where Damien ends up chasing her successor; right into the street, down to the subway. She plays both sides to create a situation where the Antichrist ends up saving a child, before inadvertently causing death as the man he chases ends up shredded to bits on an escalator. Savage. Nasty. Dig it. A bit of gruesomeness added to this A&E series, after a couple mild horror moments in the previous episodes (aside from the throat chomping at the jaws of dogs). Of course Ann hears of it back at the office, faking sympathy and gloating in her latest victory.
Note: the idea of fate and free will come in here plenty, as Damien fights off his destiny/legacy as the Antichrist while trying to be a good person, saving people, and all the while condemning himself for not saving everybody.


Damien: “It seems wherever I go, death follows.”


Quick enough, Detective Shay meets a hound from Hell. I expected it. Although, wasn’t sure if Shay would make it out alive.
On a lighter note, Ann brings Damien some food and now they’re all buddy-buddy again. She’s incredibly dedicated to him, wanting him to accept his position as Antichrist. She pushes him, lightly, towards it every chance possible. He talks about some of the terrible, hideous things he’s seen; the pictures he took, et cetera, in some of the vicious places of the world. “The fields were filled with the screams of the dying,” he recounts with obvious tears welling around his eyes. The story involves a pregnant woman and a disgusting act, a whopping revelation from his time in the fields as a war photographer. “The evil you felt that night, that you always feel, that you keep running away fromit comes from inside of you,” Ann tells him. An all around spooky scene, with plenty of meaty, unsettling dialogue between Ann and Damien. Crazier is the masochistic weirdness of Ann, sporting cuts in the form of 666 on her inner thigh. Wow, just… wow.
The finale is super unnerving, with Ann feeling Damien’s birthmark right after cutting a fresh 666 into her flesh over the last one. It’s all overwhelming for her, as she nearly orgasms from the thrill.


Damien: “Guess there is a God after all
Ann: “Not God; something else.”
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What an episode. Mazzara’s series is getting better by the episodes. Let’s hope this continues in the next one, “The Number of a Man” – stay with me, friends and fellow fans.

Damien – Season 1, Episode 1: “The Beast Rises”

A&E’s Damien
Season 1, Episode 1: “The Beast Rises”
Directed by Shekhar Kapur
Written by Glen Mazzara

* For a review of the following episode, “Second Death” – click here
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A new series from former The Walking Dead showrunner Glen Mazzara begins! No doubt it was a long time coming, after all the revival series talk lately and films being turned into tv shows all around us. Mazzara does his best to transfer The Omen in all its horror glory onto the small screen, which is no easy task. Let’s see how he does.
The premiere starts out with Damien Thorn (Bradley James) heading inside an old church, moving towards the large crucifix on the altar. Candles blow out, either by wind or by him. “What do you want from me?” he asks Jesus on the cross – “Whatd I ever do to you?” A nice opener, with Damien tossing rosary beads at Christ.
Flash to three days earlier in Damascus. Damien is a photographer working in Syria currently, alongside his friend Amani Golkar (Omid Abtahi). Taking shots among the crowd, Damien witneses an armed patrol come rush out apparent illegals, who are really suspected of harbouring terrorists. He too is pushed out of the way. Then he runs into Kelly Baptiste (Tiffany Hines) also in the area. They end up having to get clear once things start to go haywire. When Damien tries to help a few people in the street, an old woman he saw earlier grabs him and recounts those oh-so-infamous words: “Damien, I love youits all for you.” We get actual flashes back to the Gregory Peck-starring classic, as the young caretaker hangs herself for little Damien. Now they’re like his flashbacks, running through his head.


This event is the catalyst for Mazzara’s series. It’s as if Damien is determined now after briefly viewing his own past, moments lost to him over the years.
Amani and Damien end up separated from Kelly, unfortunately they further end up in the hands of the authorities. Back in New York, they find themselves “banned from Syria”, which is wild. And Damien is now hooked on discovering those secrets of his past. He calls Kelly, who heard and saw what happened with the old woman. Problem is Kelly has a sore spot with Damien re: their past relationship. I like how the concept is that Damien’s forgotten or repressed his heritage, whatever the case may be, now those bits and pieces are starting to slip through the cracks. And he’s got a life, a whole existence aside from that. This being Antichrist thing sure will cramp those things. Crush them, maybe.
Damien goes to see an old buddy, likely from military academy (if that’s canon here), named Cray Marquand (Cody Ray Thompson) – he works for the International Monetary Fund, head in fact, so the old buddies Damien has kicking around certainly have high connections; or they’re at the top of the food chain.
Even further, up pops Ann Rutledge (eternally talented babe Barbara Hershey). She knows all about Damien. “The past is like a noose around our necks,” Ann says eerily: “Wouldnt you say?” She describes herself as in the “protection business“, whose job description is looking after “special interests” and such. Ominous, dare I say?


When Kelly meets up with Damien, she reveals the old woman in Syria spoke to him in Latin about a “beloved son” and a connection to John the Baptist/a voice from the sky. There’s a further connection to Christ, his supposed 30th birthday. Damien reveals “visions” that are essentially repressed memories, that they’re coming back to him; the party at his house where the nanny committed suicide, again. The words of the nanny echoed through time to set Damien on a course to discover his true self again.
Damien and Amani go about trying to find pictures of the old woman, though, the latter does not know the extent of why his boss/friend is so keen on finding her. Kelly comes to help later. She and Damien go see a professor in relation to Damien, his father, who sought out a “biblical scholar” and the professor tells him of Mr. Thorn’s obsession with finding out about Satan, and so on. Lots of “end of days” type stuff from the aging professor, which Damien doesn’t exactly buy it. “The devil has many names,” says the professor. The number 666 comes up and makes Damien look terribly uneasy. So what about the birthmark? Does he have it, or did it disappear like so many of ours?
Great atmosphere and mood so far. The tone of the show isn’t all the dark yet, but there’s a foreboding aspect, with shadowy cinematography, and a wonderfully creepy score so far. Watching the priest in his home attacked by the dogs is a brutal moment, which builds up perfectly with the score behind it. A little dose of blood, too. Dig it.


A call to Kelly informs her and Damien of what happened to the priest. Now Damien’s worries deepen. He casts her out, fairly emotionless. Their relationship is rocky as is, now he makes it worse. But perhaps it’s because of his lingering emotions, he may not want to bring anything worse on her. Especially if all this Antichrist business is true. Unfortunately, Damien doesn’t realize how damn true just yet.
When Kelly gets her car stuck, strange things begin happening. A river of mud starts to suck her into the earth, car and all. A pit of quicksand forms in the mud and the message is clear, as Damien tries to save her: she isn’t safe anywhere. The pit sucks her under, or something in it does, anyways. Cut to the daytime, as Kelly’s body is dragged from the mud. Her sister Simone (Megalyn E.K.) rushes to the scene where she at first gets mad with Damien, an already negative presence in her mind. Then they begin to bond a little. “She’s in a better place,” Simone says to Damien: “This cant be all we have. I really need to believe that right now. Death isnt the end.” All to the man who may have recently discovered his claim to the title Antichrist. Yikes.
In the meantime, in the world of the Holy Scripture there are forces gathering in preparing for the Antichrist. Word of Damien being in Damascus has spread, as well as the fact the priest who recently died had met with Damien. More callbacks to the original film here; daggers and such.


Cut to Damien stumbling into the church from our opening. He looks haggard, worn out, sickly even. He kneels before the altar and the statue of Christ crucified. And then, as if screaming out too much, the statue crumbles. The head of Christ lays at Damien’s feet. Too much, Mazzara? Plus, more flashbacks directly to the original film; edited in clips. Not digging that aspect, I must say.
Outside the church, Damien encounters the old Syrian woman. She grabs a handful of hair from his head. Will this reveal the birthmark? Yes?
Too much calling back to the original here, as Damien looks at old pictures of his – the old woman from Syria is glaringly obvious in many of them, looking sinister in windows and huts and street corners behind even old family photos of Mr. Thorn and the family.
I love that the birthmark is there and all. But how’d he not notice it for so long? Too many questions. How did he NEVER see that creepy old woman in the photo? Sure, it might just seem out of place before and now it’s relevant, but still – this entire finale reeks of being jammed in, as if they wanted Mazzara to give more connection with the first movie. Not digging that one bit.


I’ll give the series more than just its premiere before judging too heavily. There were bits I really liked, then others that were forced, contrived, and too conveniently placed in there to be organic. Hopefully it gets better with the second episode “Second Death” – show me what you’re made of Mazzara! Build on this one.