In A&E’s TV sequel to the classic movie The Omen, Damien is a most reluctant Antichrist. But it turns out watching a guy fretting he may be the spawn of Satan isn’t nearly as entertaining as actually watching the spawn of Satan wreaking havoc upon the world.
No spoilers here, just our first impressions of the pilot episode, which airs tonight.
Created by The Walking Dead’s Glen Mazzara, Damien imagines that none of The Omen movies happened except for the 1976 original, and fudges the timeline a bit to make the events of that film transpire 25 years ago. In the TV show’s universe, those years were enough to make Damien Thorn forget his troubled first five years on earth, though he does recall the deaths of his (adoptive) father and mother. Now he’s 30, and been pursuing his war-photographer career with the help of his inherited millions.
There’s one big, burning question that pops up immediately, which the pilot doesn’t answer: Why would the shadowy cabal of Damien guardians allow their prince to forget his upbringing, necessitating the soul-searching (or lack-of-soul-searching) that Damien will presumably explore? It takes a creepy encounter with an elderly woman while he’s on assignment in Damascus (on his 30th birthday )to bring him back to a certain earlier birthday party, in which he and all his assembled guests witnessed his beaming nanny fling herself out of a window.
But just because Damien’s been walking around in a fog for 25 years doesn’t mean he’s been completely unprotected or unobserved. A mysterious woman named Ann Rutledge, played by Barbara Hershey, greets Damien with the warm excitement of a doting aunt; an aging scholar, who studied with the archaeologist that Damien’s father meets in the first film drops some hard truth on Damien about his Biblically-ordained future. The Catholic Church has also been keeping tabs on him, of course.
Damien’s main hurdle is going to be convincing us to care about a lead character who—despite being the freakin’ Antichrist—is disappointingly bland. Star Bradley James has none of the swagger that makes Tom Ellis’ Lucifer Morningstar so fun to watch on Lucifer although admittedly, Lucifer is a completely different kind of program. Meanwhile, Damien’s subliminal powers of manipulation, so sinister in the 1976 film, here translate into making an ex-girlfriend/fellow journalist do all of the legwork as he tries to track down the woman from Damascus.
There’s also the fact that Damien will presumably be unable to change his fate. He’s the son of the Devil, after all, poised to be “the greatest tyrant the world has ever seen” and to bring humankind to the brink of apocalypse. Is Damien going to be a show about a budding villain who starts to embrace his evil power, or is it going to be a show about a hunky-yet-emo dude trying desperately to deny his destiny? Or something else entirely? Time will tell, but this early on, it seems like Damien—which does have gorgeous production values, and a hell of a casting coup in Hershey—is going to have to settle on a direction fast if it wants to find an audience.
Damien airs tonight on A&E.
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