The Mist Season 1 review.
Stephen King’s novella The Mist begins in the aftermath of the worst thunderstorm the Long Lake area has seen in decades. The main character, the son of a famous artist who reluctantly went into commercial art, clears his property while his wife and young son avoids downed power lines and his neighbor struggles to get his chainsaw to work. The family is splintered when the father, son and neighbor get caught in a supermarket, a microcosm of the larger town. It is made more claustrophobic because of the extremely limited point of view.
Spike’s series adaptation isn’t limited to one set or one point of view. The entire town is engulfed in the mist and there are many stories to tell. The very first one sets up the premise with great craft. Eight words establish that a soldier is suffering from amnesia that probably came from his own military base and that whatever it is he can’t remember is on his trail as he runs to warn the nearest town. We see this before the main character is introduced.
Kevin Copeland (Morgan Spector) is a former journalist turned children’s book author who is willing to go back to the advertising world because his wife Eve (Alyssa Sutherland) pissed off the local parentage, which thinks she’s pushing a permissive agenda at school. Kevin is pretty permissive himself. Enough to let his teenaged daughter Alex (Gus Birney) sneak out behind his wife’s back for a football party.
Bridgeville, Maine, is a small town, filled with small town drama. The chief of police Connor Heisel (Darren Pettie) is a bullying alpha male whose son Jay (Luke Cosgrove) is a spoiled high school star quarterback. The kid can get away with anything, from speeding to rape. He’s almost cool to the school’s only openly gay student, Adrian Garff (Russell Posner), but there’s a chance he was just setting up an alibi.
The performances are all earnest in the pilot because this just might be the last time we get to see this part of these people. Everybody wants to be liked. The football player has puppy dog eyes for Eve and she telegraphs her crush all the way to the 50 yard line. They’re on their, if not best, then most representative behavior. We know it’s going to be torn down as a façade, so it’s okay to paint in broad strokes.
The Federated supermarket in the book has been expanded into the Bridgeville Mall. Between the Copeland mom and daughter, the entire mall has ready-made scapegoats, the little slut who is making accusations and her whore of a mom. It’s indignant attitudes like these that get people swallowed up in the mist with their mouths agape.
There is nothing in the pilot to suggest antique dealer and mystic journeywoman Natalie Raven (Frances Conroy) will turn into the religious fanatic of the book. She seems more the New Age type, braving the fog with her husband like it’s a fun and youth-restoring adventure.
The series introduces a completely new character, a native of the town who has returned to outrun some vast criminal conspiracy. Mia Lambert (Danica Curcic) is more than capable in a fight. She uses what’s available, and makes quick escapes. Sometimes too quick, like when she doesn’t stop to pick up what she came for. She’s a little scary, even to her cell-mate Bryan Hunt (Okezie Morro), the amnesiac guy in soldier fatigues we met at the very beginning.
We don’t know what is in the mist or what it’s capable of, but at least one cop bugs out. What’s interesting about this is that he’d been scheeved by bugs just minutes earlier. This makes it look like whatever is in the mist has some way of playing with individual’s fears. In the book, the creatures are dumb animals and insects from some primordial ooze with simple reactions and no clear intelligence. The series promises some kind of consciousness that goes beyond animal nature and insect instincts.
The look is sufficiently spooky, but I know from trailers that it’s going to get creepier more than I do from the pilot. Here we get more of the day to day small town. We get an early glimpse into the mist early, which is enough to both whet the appetite and supply a payoff. The mist doesn’t roll in on the town for a while, letting suburban America flower a bit before it withers. It’s the withering we’re looking forward to.
The gore is kept at a reasonable level in the pilot. Yes, there’s blood, and creepy crawly things to make your skin crawl a little, but there’s nothing to make you want to turn your head away yet. But you get the feeling you don’t want to turn your head away too often when you’re making your way through The Mist. An intriguing opening that’s not quite as fogged up as it seems.
The Mist premieres on Spike starting Thursday, June 22 at 10 pm, ET/PT.