Tragedy strikes when the Governor does the unthinkable, as Rick, Daryl, and Michonne try to find Andrea.
Andrea tries to help Michonne when she figures out the Governor's plans.
But all's never well in this new apocalyptic world.
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 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
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.
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 mother‘s love?” asks Greta. “You don‘t 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 God‘s 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 God‘s 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.
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!
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.
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. “I‘ve 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, shouldn‘t we destroy it?”
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. “You‘re not a true servant, you‘re 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.
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?
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 I‘ve 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 we‘ve been waiting for”
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 from – it 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.”
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.
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
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 – “What‘d 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 you – it‘s 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: “Wouldn‘t 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 can‘t be all we have. I really need to believe that right now. Death isn‘t 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.