So strong is the desire among network executives to adapt old movies – really, any old movies – into new TV shows that even a total dog like ‘Legion’ that nobody liked the first time around and nobody much remembers now finds itself the basis for a lavish weekly Syfy Channel series called ‘Dominion’. Is this really what we’ve come to?
Say what you will about Syfy, but the network’s track record for original series actually isn’t half bad. (Well, at the very least, it’s slightly less than half bad.) Current shows like ‘Haven’ and ‘Helix’ are quite watchable, and even the cheesefest ‘Defiance’ has its fans.
In any case, the network is taking quite a gamble with ‘Dominion’. The show’s source material is the 2010 supernatural thriller ‘Legion‘, which starred Paul Bettany as a fallen angel who tried to protect mankind from a bunch of other angels that went evil and wanted to kill us all. The film was a box office flop and currently sports a pathetic 20% approval among the critics’ reviews compiled at Rotten Tomatoes. It has not experienced much of a reappraisal by anyone in the meantime.
Nevertheless, the movie’s director Scott Stewart somehow convinced Syfy that its concept was strong enough to greenlight an ongoing series based around it. Stewart is an Executive Producer on ‘Dominion’, and both wrote and directed the pilot episode.
If you never saw the movie (and odds are that you probably haven’t), the ‘Pilot’ rushes you through the essentials in a quick recap at the beginning. The series is set 25 years after the events of ‘Legion’. It is now a post-apocalyptic future. God has mysteriously vanished, and the evil archangel Gabriel has waged war on mankind with an army of thousands of sub-angels. Human survivors band together in fortified cities and defend themselves with machine guns and other military weapons they’ve salvaged.
Because bullets are totally the best defense against angels… from Heaven. Ugh.
The dystopic city-state of Vega (formerly Las Vegas) is ruled with a strong but loving fist by General Riesen (Alan Dale, who really will appear in just about anything for a paycheck). Scheming to wrest power from him is the duplicitous Senator Whele (Anthony Head, doing a ridiculous American accent). The city’s chief defense against the bad angels is the good archangel Michael (Tom Wisdom), who loves humans – especially human women, which he enjoys loving several at a time.
Our main hero is a young soldier named Alex Lannen (Christopher Egan), who’s having a secret ‘Romeo & Juliet’ love affair with Riesen’s daughter. By the end of the episode, it will be revealed that Alex also happens to be the chosen one, a messiah destined to be the savior of all mankind. You know, the standard “Hero’s Journey” routine.
A bunch of plot stuff happens in the pilot episode, but it’s not worth wasting much print space here to describe. Whele does something stupid and lets a bad angel in the city. Other bad angels attack and destroy a power reactor. Some random character is a spy. Some other random character is a traitor. Off in the distance, Gabriel is amassing an army of quadrillions of angels to exterminate humankind once and for all.
The show has a very elaborate mythology involving the various different levels of angels – from the invincible just-short-of-godlike archangels to the lowly “8-Balls” (no explanation for that name), which are disembodied spirits that have to possess human bodies. The latter are the bulk of the enemy threat, and provide a convenient excuse for why guns are at all a useful weapon against angels.
Not explained in any way, however, is why all these angels have turned evil or why they hate humans so much. I guess we’re just supposed to accept that pretty much everyone who ever went to Heaven is a monster, that there are next to no good people up there in the clouds, and that’s all there is to it.
For a program so dependent upon and exploitative of Judeo-Christian mythology, the show is also strangely irreligious. The only brief mention of God comes during the recap in the beginning. Nobody much questions where he supposedly went, much less expresses surprise at the confirmation that he existed at all, or debates whether these angels are literally angels.
Maybe these issues will be elaborated upon further later, but I get the sense that Stewart probably hasn’t given them all that much thought. As far as he’s concerned, angels are the new vampires. They’re just an excuse for him to create a new monster based on familiar symbolism that viewers will recognize.
For all that, the pilot episode is surprisingly not as godawful as I expected. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very, very cheesy, but it has decent enough production values (for a Syfy series anyway) and is fully committed to taking its concept seriously.
Still, it’s just too dull and dumb, and I don’t have any interest in watching further.