Dominion Season 1 Eps 1-2 (TV Show Review)

A couple months ago I talked about the trailer for SyFy’s latest franchise, the post-apocalyptic religious drama Dominion, which is based on the 2011 movie Legion starring Paul Bettany, Kevin Durand, Adrianna Palicki, Tyrese Gibson and Dennis Quaid. It was a decent movie with a nice concept and when I heard that SyFy was making a show based on it, I was quite excited for the opportunity it presented as a show where a concept like this would premiere for the first time, as far as I know. Some things did look problematic in the trailer, but going on the concept alone, I was willing to give the show a chance.

Having watched the first two episodes so far, I have to say that I am liking where it is going. Even though it is a sequel to a movie, it feels very open-ended for a viewer who either hasn’t seen Legion or even forgotten much of it. And that’s great really since the first few episodes should be good enough in that regard to pull in new viewers. Going off the first two episodes, I must also admit that it has pretty much panned out as I expected it to. The problems are many and they really bug me, but I’m very intrigued as to where the story is headed overall.

Dominion Logo 0001The premise of the show is that when God (Christian God that is) suddenly up and left heaven for parts unknown, the Archangel Gabriel led an entire host of lesser angels against Man in a genocidal war that has left large parts of Earth in ruin. Now Man is scattered all over the planet in desperate bastions of civilisations. And in the midst of all of this, only the Archangel Michael has sided with Man (as far as we know) and at present he resides in the city of Vega (formerly Las Vegas) as a guardian of sorts, looking after a child that he saved twenty-five years ago when the war started, a child prophesied to bring an end to the war and guide Man safely on to a new era.

So far in the first two episodes, all the action is set in Vega itself, and our characters are the cream of the city’s elite such as its rulers and its defenders. So the entire perspective we get is of the “big” people and we lack any significant look at the city’s lowborn people. Which isn’t a problem as such, since the show already has such a large cast and more would just add to a state of confusion. And I’ll admit, getting the top-down view on Vega provides a nice cohesive view at the show itself and also provides for a lot of dramatic tension since we get to see power-plays both within and without Vega, such as the city of Helena, which is a very matriarchal society in direct contrast to Vega.

The focal character of the show is the prophesied chosen one, Sergeant Alex Lannon of Vega’s Archangel Corps, Michael’s own elite soldiers who are a class apart from the rest of Vega’s defenders. In the course of the first two episodes we don’t really see how the Archangel Corps are different since Lannon appears to be pretty regular himself, but I’m hoping that the show improves on that as it progresses. Lannon’s father Jeep is one of the characters carried over from Legion, and so we have some nice callbacks that reference the movie and keep things consistent and provide a sense of legacy and continuity. Jeep’s stay in the show is altogether brief and we don’t really get into his estranged relationship with his son, which is a missed opportunity if there ever was one, so most of the action rests on Alex Lannon’s shoulders. We see how he ties into all the other characters around him, especially once he is revealed to be the prophesied child, and that provides for a lot of the dramatic tension mentioned above since there are some who want to control him and some who want to be controlled by him.

Christopher Egan’s performance as Alex Lannon fairly run-of-the-mill and rather dull at times too. He just lacks the kind of intensity that the show requires him to have and he comes off as little better than a supporting cast member. Part of that is also how his character is written, so not all the blame can be laid at his feet, but he does shoulder the lion’s share of the burden.

If there are characters who prove to impressive here, they are Anthony Head’s David Whele and Roxanne McKee’s Claire Reisen. Head’s David Whele is one of the Consuls of Vega, its rulers, and he is quite the slippery politician and administrator, willing to go to any lengths to keep himself in power. He is the primary antagonist for Alex Lannon outside of the Archangel Gabriel and his cabal since he works in opposition to him and doesn’t believe in the prophesied chosen one. Anthony is a television veteran considering he starred for a number of years in hit shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Merlin, and in Dominion he gives ample evidence of his superb acting skills. He plays David Whele really well and is one of the reasons for why I’m continuing on with the show.

McKee’s Claire Reisen is the daughter of General Reisen, the Lord of the City and its ruler, so she is quite the privileged character and part of her arc appears to be dealing with her relationship to Vega’s less fortunate and standing up for them when others can’t. She is shown to be smart and decisive, but does little more than say her convictions rather than act on them since the show doesn’t really give her much to do. Still, I like McKee’s performance and her brief stint on Game of Thrones was performed quite admirably and it is nice to her get a bigger platform like Dominion where she has far more to do in each episode than she did in HBO’s four-time hit.

There are some other characters that I like, mostly Shivani Ghai as Arika, a diplomat from Helena and the wife of its ruler Evelyn (hinting VERY strongly that same-sex relationships are practiced in that city, which is great, but I would love for that to be formally acknowledged rather than just referenced), and Rosalind Halstead’s Consul Becca Thorn, another high noble of Vega along with being a confidante to General Riesen and Michael’s lover. Where Claire Riesen doesn’t get to do much, these two ladies get lots to do as it turns out and between them lies the political opposition to Anthony Head’s David Whele. I like that at different times they are both able to outsmart and outthink the slippery patriarch of House Whele, which was most delightful indeed. The interplay between these three characters, and their respective actors, is pretty fantastic to watch and I’m really hoping that the show makes full use of all of this in the coming weeks.

However, the show has some serious problems, and part of these are rooted in American television/movie cliches and just bad judgement on the part of the showrunners.

For one, we see so many shots of Vega as a thriving metropolis and the overall feeling is never that Mankind is on the brink of extinction here. People may die left and right, but there are always more and there is never a strong feeling that times and people are desperate. We are told that resources are a problem, such as when David Whele talks to his son about the new reactors that Vega has built, and the reference to a deal that David and Arika participated in some years back to secure fuel supplies for their respective cities.

But, like I said, there are no consequences to these talks, no reflections in the world around them of any of it. Plus, when you see that Vega’s rulers have replaced the logos of all the major hotels (former hotels) with the symbols and heraldry of Vega and its Houses, you really wonder what the hell the resources are going for. More on, when rulers sit in large palatial suites with dinner tables that can seat up to a dozen people but are really only used for two or three at most, the dissonance really rears up.

Dominion Cast 0001

Given that the remnant cities are meant to have thriving industries, where are they really? Where are the assembly lines for the guns and ammunition, the fuel depots, clothes factories, food distribution and manufacturing, furniture, etc, etc? How does Vega get its water supplies? How exactly does Helena have an air force to an extent where it is considered a significant power in that regard? Like, are we going to get any answers for any of this? I would dearly love to see some more verisimilitude in that regard.

And then, we have Gabriel’s lesser angels engaging in sexual orgies, which strikes me as really weird. Like… what is the point of it? None of it makes sense. It is just there for the hell of it. “Oh look, we are edgy!!”

Another point is that the main cast is almost exclusively white. For a show about the remnants of Man fighting against Angelic forces, it kind of sticks out like a sore thumb. And either way, Las Vegas itself, and some of the biggest “former” metropolises like Los Angeles for instance, are all multinational and multiethnic cities, so seeing some cultural and racial diversity would have been most welcome. No matter that there is an occasional non-white character in the show, but I personally think that there should have been some representation in the main cast at least.

The biggest thing in all of this is that the show is rarely subtle in any way. It basically telegraphs the bigger twists well in advance and then you are just left feeling dissatisfied to a great degree. It doesn’t make for all that much of a fun and enjoyable experience since the impact of the reveals isn’t as strong as it could be.

Still, when all is said, I do find the characters and the premise intriguing, so I’m going to continue watching the show and see where it all leads. In the midst of catching up on shows like Continuum and Orphan Black or anime like Arpeggio of Blue Steel or Knights of Sidonia or Valvrave the Liberator, a show like Dominion makes for a nice distraction indeed.

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Posted on June 27, 2014, in Dominion, Review Central, TV Show Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I am intrigued by this show, as well. And I have a sneaking suspicion that Helena may be a society in which everyone is female, and that they reproduce (asexually) through parthenogenesis–not that they are socially-progressive and therefore accepting of homosexuality. I’d love to see how this all unfolds/plays out!

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