Season 1, Episode 1 “The Beast Rises”
Written by Glen Mazzara, directed by Shekhar Kapur
A whole box of taquitos was violently devoured during the watching of this episode. Which was likely the most unpredictable part of the evening. I had to assuage my sadness somehow.
The show opens with our lead (Bradley James) entering a church and kneeling before the altar before hurling a rosary at the hanging crucifix. This is proceeded by a “What did I do to you? Why me?” moment.
Following this scene, we cut to “The old Christian district” in Damascus 3 days prior where we get a slightly natural exchange of dialogue between Damien and his friend, Amani Golker (Omid Abtahi).
Some photos are taken of kids and barely creepy old woman. Suddenly the Syrian Army comes barging in to smash all emblems of Christianity and drag people off. I scene obviously choreographed to show who fearless and committed to getting that Pulitzer shot our characters are.
Amidst the bedlam, we are introduced to our third character Kelly Baptiste played by the stunning Tiffany Hines. Following her introduction, all three characters stop in the middle of the chaos and have a casual conversation while the locals are being beaten and dragged around.
Then Damien reenters the fray to heroically reunite a fallen child with their mother and attempt to rescue the mildly creepy old lady who grabs the sides of his head and says something fans of The Omen might remember: “Damien, I love you. It’s all for you.” This is the most intriguing moment so far, complete with flashback images of the original 1976 film.
Suddenly, you’re reliving that creepy moment from the original film and you’re excited about what will happen next. What happens is some of the most awkward and clichéd dialogue I’ve seen in a horror production. Damien, for reasons I think only the writer knows, decides to try explaining that he doesn’t remember anything from his childhood and suddenly he does.
The scene ends with Damien being thrown to the ground and told that all journalists are being deported from Syria.
Next we’re in New York, where Damien’s boss is name dropping Pulitzer while flipping through his mediocre photos. I’m just in awe at how predictable and poorly written this all is. Next we get Damien on the phone with Kelly about finding the old lady and “Hey I’m sorry we broke up but it’s better this way” moment followed by trying to pull strings with his powerful friends to get back to Syria.
Then we meet Ann Rutledge (Barbara Hershey), who’s been watching Damien all his life and likes to walk away after revealing this in a slow and awkward way.
Around the halfway mark of the show, there’s a moment of intrigue as Kelly makes a connection with Damien’s father and a biblical scholar whose doctorate student happens to be not too far away. Now we are treated to the best five minutes of the show thanks to a nervous, confused and distrustful performance by Sam Anderson as Professor Igor Reneus.
The highlights from this episode are primarily the old photos and flashbacks from the original film and that brief scene in the middle. I am hopeful that this episode is merely a victim of lazy writing in an attempt to explain too much in the first episode. I did have high hopes for the concept behind this show, but I was severely let down with its first episode.
I will continue to give it a chance and I always suggest allowing, at least, three episodes to find a rhythm. Hopefully, this is just one of those shows that take a little ironing.