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The Mist - Pilot - Review: "Something's Coming"

The Mist 1.01 "Pilot" - Review:
Directed by Adam Bernstein & Written by Christian Torpe

Stephen King is one of my favourite authors, but for some reason or another, I've never gotten around to reading The Mist before. I did however recently get the chance to watch the film by the showrunner of the first (and best) season of The Walking Dead, Frank Darabont (who also has directorial credits that include The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile), and ended up liking it even if it wasn't a perfect movie. And that's something that Spike TV's The Mist is up against here, and beating a Darabont movie in terms of quality is no easy feat, even a lesser Darabont movie.

Developed by Christian Torpe (Rita, Silent Heart), The show itself is a loose adaption of the novella and the film. For much of the first episode The Mist is something that's kept in the dark, just out of sight, with the focus mainly on the human characters. For horror-related stuff, keeping the monster a mystery is usually the best possible objective to aim for, and the less we know about something, the scarier everything is. But at the same time there is a fine line that has to be drawn between how much of the Mist that has to be shown, and as a result, your enjoyment of this episode is probably down to two things. Did you expect a non-stop horror flick with bodies dropping left and right? Or did you expect a more slow-burn approach? That's very much the case here with The Mist, which keeps things slow paced throughout the episode as it is very much still in set-up stage. There's potential here for greater things to come but it looks like based on what we've seen here, it will be much more rewarding as a series to binge-watch rather than waiting week to week.

If you like shows like MTV's Scream or Fox's Wayward Pines you'll probably find yourself liking The Mist. Taking place in a city of Bridgeton, Maine (most of King's books are set in Maine so it's good to see that The Mist is keeping this tradition up), we do immediately get a teaser of what's to come. Our first introduction to this world is through the amnesiac Bryan Hunt (Okezie Morro), a US soldier who is abandoned in the woods with a dog named Rufus. Only, this show quickly goes down the John Wick and I am Legend approach as being something that is distinctly not for dog-lovers, as Rufus becomes the first dog to die, killed and skinned by something mysterious in The Mist. Just in case you're reading this with no knowledge of how this plays out in other mediums, I'm going to keep it as spoiler free as possible and attempt to judge The Mist on its own terms. I'd also ask any commenters with knowledge of the source material to use spoiler tags when discussing things in the comments section below, please! That would be great. Anyway, back with Bryan, who makes the rare smart choice in a horror show, and decides that the immediate reaction on seeing what has happened to Rufus is to turn and run as fast and as far away from the danger as he possibly can. It may be early impressions for me although we didn't get to spend a lot of time with him, Bryan is probably my favourite character on the show show far.

Bryan is of course, immediately arrested and thrown in jail. The people of Bridgeton will definitely have wished they'd have listened to his supposed mad ramblings sooner, because dark things are about to come their way. But not before Bryan is given a name by the cops, "Arrowhead" (A Stephen King nod!), after he can't tell them anything about who he is. Is he a Jason Bourne-type character with a hidden, more mysterious past just waiting to be unveiled?

Either way, we'll have to wait and find out, because it's now time to be introduced to the Copelands, the family of the hour, Eve (Alyssa Sutherland), Kevin (Morgan Spector) and their daughter Alex (Gus Burney). Eve is in trouble with the school board due to her stance on sex education, as she's smart enough to know that the students will end up just having sex anyway whereas the school wants to discourage them from doing so, and she can't resign because otherwise if she tries to go for the same job at a different school, nobody will be willing to take her on. Kevin volunteers to step up in her place but Eve dismisses the suggestion, balking at him working in advertising. Husband and wife both come into conflict when they find out that Alex wants to go to a party with her crush, a football-player named Jay (Luke Cosgrove), with Kevin taking Alex's side on one condition. Adrien (Russell Posner), a pansexual, make-up wearing football-hating social outcast whose only friend is Alex, must go with her. So naturally, Alex drags a reluctant Adrien along to the party. MTV's Scream fans will find themselves right at home with the teen drama going on here, but if anything that we've seen so far is an indication about what's to come, things won't remain that way for long.

The party itself doesn't go down too well for Adrien, who is insulted and promptly abandoned by Alex, who wants to spend some time with Jay, even taking up drinking which she previously shied away from. To make matters worse it turns out that Jay isn't quite as welcoming as he first appears, as after Alex got drunk he apparently raped her, at least according to Adrien. She wasn't entirely sure what happened, but the turn early on here shows that The Mist isn't afraid to go into dark places and you've got to think that things are clearly going to escalate further forward. To make matters worse for Alex, Jay's father is the Police Chief, so they end up file a complaint with another officer. There's enough drama shown in these early minutes to carry an entire season so far, and that's without the whole introduction of the Mist itself to take into account, which comes down thick and fast in a big way towards the end of the episode.

With Jay called in for questioning at school however things have escalated once again, with other football players spraypainting "whore" on the house of the Copelands. Adrien is quick to take Alex's side but warns her that the town will not, and with Jay's reputation in play they will most likely side with him. This does not bode well for Alex and with the arrival of The Mist about to throw the social structure and confines of a daily life into chaos, she's going to find herself in a very difficult position soon. Especially as well as it looks as though there might be more than meets the eye with Adrien, and he may be guiltier than he appears. After all, we're essentially going on his word here, and it's no surprise that he's brought into questioning.

The Copelands are in difficult positions therefore as Alex and Eve experience a falling out when Alex accuses Eve of being a slut, which earns her a slap. It's naturally understandable why Alex doesn't want to be with Eve and turns to Kevin on the phone, but they're soon faced with a bigger problem in the form of The Mist, which has descended on them and cuts them off. So much for spending time with Kevin, who's heading to the police station to report the harassment. And at the police station, Kevin runs into Officer Pundik, who has stayed out longer than he should have done in The Mist and was driven mad, forcibly attacking Kevin and Jay inside the station. Half of Pudnik's face has been scratched off in a rather gruesome manner, and Kevin is forced to fend for himself when Chief Heisel (Darren Pettie) takes the same approach that Bryan did earlier in the episode, and has essentially done a runner. Exactly the qualities that you wouldn't expect from a Chief of Police, but to be fair on him, none of them have seen anything like this before. Pudnik himself is quickly taken care of with Kevin's gun, used by none other than Mia, (Danica Curcic), our latest new character on the show, who is a former drug addict who got arrested trying to make a clean getaway with passports and money. Bryan is there too, and it quickly becomes apparent that there are now two groups of Mist survivors, those at the Mall, and those at the Station. It'll be interesting to see how long that stays the same, because the movie at least opted for a narrower-focused approach mainly sticking on the small band of survivors at the mall.

The mall itself soon turns into a nightmare for Eve who is insulted by Mrs. Carmody, a parent who disapproved of her sexual education teachings. Eve lashes out at Carmody, accusing her son of watching porn at school, making her essentially an hypocrite. Eve goes outside once the Mall loses power to leave, only to find that The Mist has descended and Alex has left her car. They are just about able to make it back into The Mall in time, but to the oblivious people who are still in The Mall, there's no danger outside. Carmody naturally, being the stuck-up detestable person that she is, decides to leave with Eric after further insulting Eve and Alex, calling them nothing but attention seekers. And you can guess what's going to happen to Carmody next, and both she and Eric become the next victims of The Mist, in rather brutal fashion. And so ends the episode, a dark omen of things to come.

It's hard to judge The Mist this early on. It certainly plays it largely safe with the small town stereotypes and characters here, as everything has been done before and been done better. There isn't much of surprise as this pilot is focused on largely establishing the characters and the world that they inhabit, and to its credit, it does an effective job at establishing the small-town setting. We know Bridgeton. We know where most of the show is likely to take place, its key characters, and what's at stake. We also know that the show isn't afraid to go into darker than expected territory, and it'll be interesting to see where it goes from here. The characters aren't exactly memorable and feel like they're nothing more than templates picked from a box at random, easily interchangeable, but as the show progresses there will no doubt be plenty of time for development. This won't be the last we'll hear of Adrien or Jay for example. But what you're getting in for here is the potential of what this show can become, and if you're a Stephen King fan, you'll know that there's darker, more twisted stuff to come. It is Stephen King after all, and the military stuff, as well as everything with Nathalie Raven (Francis Conroy), suggests that there is a bigger conspiracy on the way. Could we be going deeper into Stranger Things territory soon? I wouldn't be surprised, especially given how much Stranger Things draws from King.

Another thing that I didn't buy was the lack of chemistry between Kevin and Eve. They're supposed to be married, but it doesn't feel convincing at all. Their family doesn't feel natural, and as a result, their individual characters suffer. We don't particularly care about them as much as we should which is what this pilot really struggled to do. The characters here are by far and away its main weakness, as there's just not enough freshness about them. But like I've mentioned above, it's still early days. The focus is kind of more on the horror (and there isn't much of the horror), and in order for the series to shine, it needs to blend both together perfectly.

Speaking of Stephen King, The movie wasn't shy about its Stephen King origins and there were clear references to other Stephen King material such as the painting of The Dark Tower's Roland Deschain at the beginning of the film. It will be interesting to see what the show does here, particularly as it progresses. Aside from Arrowhead, did anyone pick up any other King references in this episode, either to the source material or other King works? And, sticking with the movie - will we be getting an ending that's as dark? Will there be any further connections with the original source material? It'll be interesting to see what's explored here in the season to come, and for now at least, the first of ten episodes to come has piqued my interest enough to keep watching, even if it wasn't exactly perfect.

One thing's for sure, it's certainly a good time to be a Stephen King fan right now. As well as The Mist, we've also got 11.22.63 (which has already aired), The Dark Tower, Castle Rock, Mr. Mercedes and an It reboot to look forward to this year in Cinema so it'll be very interesting to see how things play out quality-wise in terms of each of the adaptions. It could be a very good next couple of years indeed if this line-up of tantalising adaptions is anything to go by. Out of all of these, what adaption excites you the most going forward? Hit me with your best answers in the comments.

(You can watch the first three episodes on Spike's website here ahead of schedule, if you'd prefer to binge on the show. I'd appreciate it if you'd keep spoiler tags on when discussing these in the comments if you wish, I'm going to be reviewing these episodes after they air on a more weekly basis.)

What did you think of The Mist's pilot? Has it done enough to keep you invested or has it failed to convince you this early on? Let me know in the comments section below and be sure to check out the episode two on SpikeTV next Thursday, or online at the link above.

About the Author - Milo MJ
Milo is an Arsenal FC supporter and loves TV shows like Battlestar Galactica, Justified, Black Sails, The Americans and Person of Interest. He reviews Preacher, The Mist, Star Wars Rebels, Silicon Valley and Veep for Spoiler TV and will be covering Castle Rock, Counterpart, Krypton, Marvel's New Warriors, Rise, Marvel's Runaways, Snowfall, Succession, Star Trek Discovery, and Trust. He also contributes to comic reviews on a weekly basis for All-Comic. He also regularly watches and reviews films on Letterboxd, and you can find his ever-changing list of 300 favourite movies here.
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