Andrea tries to help Michonne when she figures out the Governor's plans.
But all's never well in this new apocalyptic world.
Andrea tries to help Michonne when she figures out the Governor's plans.
Andrea tries to help Michonne when she figures out the Governor's plans.
But all's never well in this new apocalyptic world.
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.
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. “You‘ll 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.
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!
I was lucky enough to have been invited by FOX to attend a screening of Damien’s Season 1 finale, “Ave Satani” – sadly, I couldn’t make it to Los Angeles. However, their publicity department sent me a personal finale screener. Incredibly impressed, I got to watch the episode several days before its premiere. Lucky me, right?
Well I only got luckier. Later I received another bit of correspondence asking if any of us critics who were given the screener might want to conduct an interview, either with Executive Producer Glen Mazzara or any of the actors. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to interview Glen specifically. From The Shield (on the top of my list for Best Series Ever; wrote many of my favourite episodes like “The Spread”, “Strays”, & “On Tilt”) onward everything he’s involved in I usually try and seek out. So then a conference call was set. Another unexpected turn; I figured the interview would likely be via e-mail.
And the hits just kept on coming: not only would I get the chance to ask Glen questions, but star of the show Bradley James was also slated to hop on the line with us. Anybody who doesn’t already know Bradley will certainly know him after Damien. He’s already got a built in fan club, though. As if women fawning over him weren’t enough, there’s the fact he played a pre-King Arthur Arthur on BBC One’s The Adventures of Merlin, he turned up in an episode of Homeland, as well as a handful of iZombie episodes.
Seriously, though – I get to talk with these guys?
I’ve never done any interviews for this site before. But my involvement on social media, coupled with the recaps and reviews I do weekly by episode, got me on the line with these two for almost an hour (half hour each). Between myself and a couple other media outlets, we asked Glen and Bradley some questions. Here’s some of their answers.
SPOILER ALERT: This article contains minor and major spoilers in regards to the May 9th season finale of A&E’s Damien. The areas which contain spoilers have further been marked as such.
Immediately, things turned to Season 2, as we’d all seen the finale that day. Glen told us he’s already mapped it out. For those of us curious how the show is put together, you can see Mazzara likes to think ahead. Not only that, he has specific episodes and ideas ready in terms of the the cast and characters, of whom he speaks highly. He made clear it’s enjoyable working with and writing for them. He told us there’s no mindset about not getting renewed either; he’s operating as if they’re full steam ahead. A confident approach as showrunner.
I asked Glen about the initial catalyst for why he felt Damien, as a series, was worth exploring. He told me he wanted to follow Damien as an Antichrist and to take that seriously. As in, Jesus is fully God and fully human, so the Antichrist should be fully human and fully devil. He hoped to explore the humanity of this situation. He likes the struggle of guessing what’s really going on. Mazzara says good horror makes us question: what is real and what is supernatural? It keeps you uncomfortable. Not only that, the human drama of Damien’s situation inflicts itself upon the other characters, which helps fill out the story and other arcs.
Mazzara first approached this series thinking of Jesus Christ – an unknown carpenter in a little backwater town in Galilee. How does that person start such a massive movement and change the world over two thousand years? He began powerless. In a contemporary version of such an ascent Mazzara knew people would expect an evil senator or similar character archetype. But he took aim at the meaning of religion with Damien as a young war photographer, not just some corrupt type of character that would make moves using the power of the Antichrist. Because where’s the fun in that? It wouldn’t provide much depth or development. First and foremost, Mazzara tried a completely different angle. Being raised Catholic and understanding the religion gave Mazzara his material. For him, the show is equal parts horror and religion. He considers his take not a subjective, judgemental view of religious faith, but rather an examination of that faith, what it means to people, and in turn how the opposite of faith in God (i.e. faith in Satan) would operate with that same devotion. And all through a wonderfully horrific lens.
“It’s hard for a messiah to get people to die for them,” Mazzara says. Also a line he hopes to toss in somewhere throughout Season 2.
Being a huge Barbara Hershey fan (all started due to her powerful performance in 1982’s The Entity), I asked Glen if we could look forward to more of her cutting and oddly masochistic behaviour, or at least an explanation (note: for those who don’t remember Ann cut a fresh 666 into her scarred inner thigh during Episode 3 “The Deliverer”). Being the massive horror fan I am, Mazzara is likely a bigger one. This moment comes from 666 on the inner thigh of the priest from the original film, which he revealed to Gregory Peck’s character before dying. Mazzara found it fun to consider possibly the priest was involved in the larger group watching Damien, somehow. Further than that, it ties into the Book of Revelations which states “his followers will be marked” also with the Number of the Beast. So Mazarra tied Ann into that larger conspiracy making her part of that secretive group watching over Damien, suggesting there’s an overarching connection to many of them with this branding. Even further, this also shows the devotion of Ann in a sick, twisted way to really elevate how dedicated to Damien, or better yet whoever The Antichrist would’ve been. The relationship between Ann & Damien, ultimately, is what Mazzara calls “the wicked heart of the show.”
“No one knows exactly how this is gonna come around,” Mazzara tells us re: the coming of the Antichrist. Ann feels there is a progression, but doesn’t know for sure. She’s there to nurture Damien’s potential. Mazzara claims she wants to be “first amongst his worshippers.” Ann is the Mother Mary figure: she loves Damien as a son, but knows he “belongs to history, he belongs to the world.”
Mazzara feels the show “did a good job” on the front of female characters, ones with actual developed stories affecting the plot/story. And that’s true: we start off with Kelly, she’s essentially the catalyst then for Damien really searching his soul, and of course Simone then becomes involved, then there’s Ann, Veronica, and you can’t forget Sister Greta (played by the ever wonderful Robin Weigert). As Mazzara mentions, a “large amount of story [is] driven by those women.” SPOILER AHEAD: This last sentence & following paragraph reveals several fairly major spoilers from the May 9th finale. Please skip ahead before you watch. Even in the finale, John Lyons (Scott Wilson) gets outplayed by Ann, who is a better player in the game than he is, and gets the last laugh, so to speak.
We also discussed further female character strengths, as well as religious connections. During “Ave Satani”, Simone washes Damien’s feet – right in the middle of a manhunt for him. She is a “religious player in this story,” explained Mazzara. She is also a bit of a Christ figure, as well. She is killed, revived, and she doesn’t have any evil side; a “force of good,” Mazzara calls her. In contrast to her, there’s lots of evil in the finale – suicide cops in the opening, nun execution before a mass grave, then two people get buried alive. Simone represents that incredibly opposite good side. She stepped forward to take the bullet for Damien in the end and effectively illustrates her pinnacle of goodness.
Mazzara believes that above all else Simone’s character is about “gaining her voice.” Everyone’s telling her to shut up, essentially. Even in the finale she finds insects flying out of her mouth, choking her. What’s most interesting is that the series starts out with most people expecting Simone to be a disposable character. Only along the line she becomes integral to Damien’s journey.
Warning: Ahead are some significant spoilers concerning the finale, “Ave Satani”, so if you’ve yet to see it please don’t read these next bits, or else be spoiled!
Mazzara confirms that Detective Shay has officially converted. He is now a believer, for better or worse, in the Antichrist after the finale’s events.
In addition, the last shot holds a great significance for the show’s DNA. Mazzara says that the last scene had been sketched out before they even sold the show. He knew at the end of the season Damien had to enter a “Faustian bargain”. Season 1 is Damien coming around, at the end is him essentially “sacrificing himself to commit evil”. Mazzara calls the season structure serpentine, in that it brings you back to the old film throughout the course of the season until in the finale’s final moment we are literally thrust back into 1976’s The Omen.
When asked how he manages to get himself into the dark space required for playing the character of Damien, we receive an honest answer: “I’m maybe not quite as dark and twisted as [certain] scenes would suggest.” However, he went on to tell us that many of the tougher scenes were a “cathartic experience”, which he got through using moments in his own life that he related to Damien’s own struggles. Mostly, he credits the crew for making him feel safe in their atmosphere, so much that he felt very comfortable getting into the skin of the character.
I asked Bradley specifically what the most interesting part about Damien as a character was for him. He said the world weariness of Damien intrigued him, as “a 30-year-old man carrying the pain of someone much older” who has seen so much yet manages to still carry on as a functional human being.
Bradley tells us he didn’t know the full arc of the Damien Thorn character. It wasn’t until shooting Episode 7 or 8 when he read the scripts, and afterwards asked Glen to tell him the “endgame.” Before that, not knowing allowed him “fresh eyes” to tackle the character up until the point where Mazzara laid out his plans.
Then, I ask a troubling question: who is his favourite actor to play off this season?
Most importantly, Bradley loves variety. He tells us how some actors are set in their way before even coming to the scene that day. Therefore, they’re not “alive in the scene at that moment.” In contrast, he went on to say everybody here provided a great atmosphere for a conduit towards their respective chemistry in various scenes. Being amongst a diverse cast, Bradley acknowledges each actor was different, making for good energy and even better scenes.
Morever, Bradley tells us he and Omid Abtahi (who plays Amani) are great friends now after shooting the show together. This helped the natural relationship between Damien and Amani onscreen, as they got closer offscreen.
He also made sure to add he loves Barbara’s presence as Ann Rutledge. He “felt very respected in [his] process.” Bradley also says there existed a mutual appreciation for and understanding of one another. Only too evident in the final product; their onscreen chemistry is undeniable.
Regarding particular scenes throughout the series, the grave burial/tree wrapping scene in Episode 9 (“The Devil You Know“) was very physical according to Bradley. Shot in Canada, in the woods at 3am, he claims he didn’t “have to work for” his uncomfortable attitude for the scene, as nature provided that. Even worse, the mosquitoes were “relentless” and so he continually “bathed in bugspray.” As a Canadian, from the farthest East Coast, I know the pain. But he also tells us that drama school “hammer[ed] it into [him] to find the truth.” So aside from the physicality of certain scenes, he dug deep into the well of human emotion to make a supernatural story feel more rooted in reality. He adds Glen also wrote very honestly. He says their fearless leader has a “warped mind”, but is someone truthful that can likewise find it in these characters.
Warning: Ahead is one final (minor) spoiler pertaining to the season finale, “Ave Satani”, so please do not read this last paragraph before watching.
Of course someone had to ask about the original 1976 film. Bradley tells us he rewatched The Omen at the start of production. Later, they all had to look at it again for the final scene in Episode 10, mainly for technical reasons; to make sure the shot was framed right and looking proper. That look is one of “inner peace,” says Bradley, as Damien has finally come to a realization in the season finale. Evil, but a realization nonetheless.
It was a pleasure to interview these two, an honour really. The series became much better as the episodes wore on, so hopefully Mazzara gets a Season 2 to give us more Antichrist fun, and more of Bradley James’ excellent talent.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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 don‘t 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.
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
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.
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?