Dominion Review: Pilot

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A year or so ago I heard they were doing a TV Show based off the movie "Legion". I don't know how many of you remember that movie but it was pretty terrible. It starred Paul Bettany as the angel Michael and he came back to earth to help humanity in a battle between "light and dark”. I actually started writing out what the plot was but stopped because the movie was just so bad. I remember live tweeting it and clowning it for how bad it was. So when I heard they were making a TV show based off of that, I said "why?" Then I let it slip from my mind. Then a few weeks ago I started seeing promos for this show called Dominion. I saw humans fighting against Angels and while the concept seemed familiar I didn’t link it to the movie. I figured since the summer time is a pretty slow time for shows anyway, maybe I should give it a try. I have to be honest, I enjoyed this pilot episode. Sure it has its issues but it was fun, it has potential and more importantly, it was a lot better than the shitty movie it was based off of.

dominion-FuriadI've seen a lot of negative reviews about this show from critics who CLEARLY do not really watch SciFi shows or Syfy TV series. Let me just throw this out there now: Yes the show’s premise is ridiculous and absurd. No shit Sherlock. That's why we're all watching it. If I had $1 for every review that I read that listed the ridiculousness of this show's premise as a negative, I'd be rich. I probably speak for a lot of people that tuned in for the pilot episode of Dominion when I say the ridiculousness is why we tuned in. In a promo I saw an Angel getting fired on with automatic weapons then slicing up the military guys shooting him like he was Warren Worthington III from X-Men. In the first 10 minutes of this episode I saw an angel get blown out of the sky by anti-aircraft guns. At one point an angel tries to blow up a nuclear reactor by flying into the reactor apparently strapped with a bomb. Suicide Bomber Angels. Yeah man, this is the kind of ridiculous show I might be down for watching. So pointing out how absurd it is doesn’t really stop the target demographic of the Syfy channel from wanting to watch this. The ratings for this premiere were pretty strong so that tells me folks saw the ridiculousness of the promos and said “Yeah I want to check this out.” So let’s drop the pretentiousness about “no one asked for this show.”

What’s really impressive about this show is that it's so much better than Legion. I almost didn't put two and two together when Jeep showed up because Langley Kirkwood looks absolutely nothing like Lucas Black who played Jeep in Legion. I know its 25 years later but I have a hard time believing Lucas Black morphs into Kirkwood, but I don't care. Clearly things have taken a turn for the worse in this universe. It almost (ALMOST) made me want to watch Legion again just to remind myself where that movie leaves off but to be honest, it's not even worth it. So if you're wondering if you need to check out the movie first, DON'T. Legion sucks and Dominion does a good enough job explaining things without needing to subject yourself to that torturous piece of shit movie. Dominion sets up a post-apocalyptic world with Angels acting as your "zombies" (In terms of threats. No if you are bit/scratched by an angel you don't turn into one). Zombies that are intelligent, strong and can fly. Oh and as we later find out, some can look human and completely avoid detection. To give a quick break down: God has vanished and left humanity to defend itself against Gabriel and his army of angels. Michael (Gabriel's brother) has sided with humanity again and helps them fight back against the Angels.  After 25 years the war seems to have subsided with humans coming together in small population centers. This show focuses on one, Vega (Las Vegas) although several other settlements are mentioned. Vega is also where the archangel Michael lives. There’s a religious undertone in this show where people aren’t praying to God but for the return of “the chosen one” who happens to be the child that Michael protects and saves in the movie Legion.

They crammed a lot into this Pilot. Not only did they set up the overarching plot of Gabriel preparing to launch another war on humanity but there are also a lot of different subplots dominion-alexgoing on. A LOT. I think the biggest negative for this episode was that many of these subplots were very predictable. At no point (until the very end) was I actually shocked by anything that really happened in any of the sub plots set up. You have some very predictable love interests and an obvious love triangle. Of course Alex is in love with and banging General Edward Riesen's daughter Claire. And of course William Whele is in love with Claire and there would be an attempt to have William marry Claire to unite their houses. Of course Alex, the lowly soldier at the bottom of the food chain is the chosen one. Of course. I know you might be thinking these are spoilers but seriously, the minute this show starts these are things you easily figure out before they’re fully revealed. Thing is, as predictable as it was, I don't think that's a huge issue and could work out for the better for the show. By getting all these predictable subplots set up and out of the way in the pilot, the show can focus on how the to use them in the future and that can be unique. A lot of shows would have let the search for the chosen one be the entire plotline for Season One. At the very least they would have dragged it out for a few episodes. But Dominion just gets all that out of the way in the pilot. Even the love triangle. By the end of the episode, even the characters on the show are pretty much aware that Alex & Claire are in love because why waste everyone's time pretending otherwise. This is one big set up episode. And while it does make it predictable, I think in the long run of the season this is for the better. They even throw in the fact that Michael and Becca are lovers and there's hint of what could be an issue if there ever is an Angel/Human hybrid child. We basically got a season's worth of potential side plots in the pilot. Will all of them be addressed and fleshed out? Probably not. But the show lays a foundation so they can be revisited later on and hopefully the episodes that follow can focus on more substance. It’s almost as if the show threw everything at us in the first episode to say “This is everything we’ll potentially be dealing with, sit back and buckle up if you’re down for the ride.”

dominion-anthony-headThe acting was a mix bag. Again, we’re talking the Syfy channel here. The acting wasn’t mind blowing but it wasn’t nearly as bad as some of these other reviews are saying. Christopher Egan wasn't bad as Alex Lannon. He can hold his own in the action scenes and his character is the noble “me against the world” type and so it’s not like he needs a terribly huge range to deal with it. And he gets a lot of help. Anthony Head as Senator David Whele is the standout in the episode. For some reason I just didn't recognize him from his Buffy & Angel days. He's absolutely fantastic in the pilot. He's obviously ruthless and cunning and just so over the top with his evil. At one point his character has a pure moment of hypocrisy when he’s accused of doing something he just condemned another person for. And his character manages to explain it away almost as if he was doing everyone a favor. Yeah I’m loving him on this show. It actually goes to what I was saying about this show being predictable. In the pilot David Whele is so ruthless and evil you have no doubt he's going to be one of the villains on the show because he just fits the stereotype. But I could see his character becoming more of one of those grey area characters as the show develops. Particularly with the reveal at the end of the episode with his son William. I wasn't exactly happy with Tom Wisdom as Michael. I don't think it's because of Wisdom, I think it's just because of the character. Legion wasn't a good movie, but Paul Bettany is a good actor and even when he played Michael, it just didn't work. Michael is basically portrayed as a wooden character in both Legion and Dominion. I want them to loosen it up a bit. Michael just has zero personality and comes off almost robotic. I don’t blame Wisdom for this because again, this is the same way Michael was portrayed in Legion so it’s clearly being written this way. It’s an odd choice. Carl Beukes is playing Gabriel and while he doesn’t get much screen time in this episode the character clearly is given more of a personality. No one else really gets enough screen time for me to really gauge how they could be on the show. It’ll be interesting to see how they use Betsy Wilke who plays Bixby, a young girl that Alex pretty much protects. I’m hoping she doesn’t become annoying on the show because young kids can either be good additions or horrible distractions. There’s a lot they can do with these characters though because outside of the war, there’s also some kind of caste system in place but they don’t really go into it too much. Another one of those potential sub plots that will definitely be coming up again.

One thing that really got my attention was the production value and action sequences. While reading the negative reviews I would see some people in the comments say things like "yeah Dominion-MichaelI watched the first 10 minutes of this and couldn't get into it." People who said that fall into three categories: 1. They're lying and they didn't watch it. 2. They just don't like action 3. They're lying and they really did enjoy it but want to look cool on the internet and claim they didn't. There is no way you watch the first 10 minutes of Dominion and say "I just couldn't get into it" and be serious. The opening sequence with Alex and the three angels was actually pretty good for a Syfy TV show. Correction, it was pretty damn good for ANY TV show. They even made the wings of the angels and their flight pretty cool. The sword fight between Michael and Furiad was very well done. Not Arrow level good but considering Arrow is really a different level from any other show, Dominion’s action scenes are still damn good. I'm watching the first season of Defiance on Amazon Instant Video so that I can start Season 2 and there’s huge difference between that season's production and what I'm seeing on Dominion. It does make me wonder if they'll be able to keep this same level of effects on the show though. Sometimes shows blow their money on the pilot and then it drops off. But I do believe that's becoming less of an issue. Agents of SHIELDS' effects seemed to get better as the season went on. So Dominion could keep this quality going, especially if they keep giving us some quality hand-to-hand combat scenes. I saw a promo for the rest of the season and it looked like we’re going to keep getting the same quality so I’m hopeful.

Overall this was a pretty good pilot episode. Definitely not perfect and could use some work but nothing huge that can't develop. My biggest question is can they keep up the quality of the action and production to the same level as the pilot. If so, then I'm probably in for this whole season. Considering this TV Show is based off of one of the worst movies I've ever seen, I have to say I'm impressed. Sure, it's ridiculous and absurd but it's also fun. And in the end, isn't that what we want from watching TV Shows? We want to be entertained and have fun and this show did that. It has a lot of potential and it's different. Definitely worth checking out.  And unlike a lot of these critics writing negative reviews, I'll be back to review episode 2 because when you review a TV Show, you really need to give it multiple episodes to find it's groove.  Dominion comes on 9/8 c on the Syfy channel.

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