Airtime: Mondays at 10PM on A&E
Episode: Season 1, Episode 2 (S01E02)
Tweetable Takeaway: #Damien starts to learn more about his past, but the show has yet to make clear why we should care
Against all odds, the second episode of A&E’s DAMIEN, titled “Second Death,” managed to be a worse hour of television than the series premiere. In this week’s episode Damien begins to learn more about his past, but I’m still struggling to understand why viewers should care about anything happening on the show.
There’s no gentle way to say that Damien is, at this point, a very bad television show with little going for it. I had hoped that the problems afflicting the pilot would be absent or least minimized in this episode, but it’s clear that there are some foundational issues for the show, chief of which is the fact that without prior knowledge of The Omen I still have no idea what or who I am supposed to care about or root for.
While the episode’s A-story was about Damien learning more about his past from Ann Rutledge, its B-story followed an unnamed, hooded ex-soldier who is tasked with assassinating Damien. We meet up again with a priest we saw in the last episode, unearthing a dagger and telling another priest that they had waited too long. The priest delivers the dagger to the assassin and convinces him that killing Damien now would be even more impactful than killing Hitler before the Holocaust. Then the priest suddenly dies. Was he killed by the Devil, or did he just have a heart attack? I don’t know, nor am I given any reason to care.
While I’m intrigued by this plot development, and the idea that forces both for and against Damien have been aware of his existence since he was a child, I do wonder what exactly these sides were waiting for all these years. What is the inciting incident for the resurgence of this battle of good versus evil? I hope it isn’t something as mundane as Damien turning thirty and being “baptized” at the beginning of the pilot, but I fear that’s the case. But even this positive development ends poorly, as the assassin attacks Damien in the clumsiest way possible, and the dog that has been following Damien around causes a taxi cab to swerve into the assassin, killing him.
This is then followed by a terrible scene in which Damien is interrogated by a police officer, who is somehow suspicious of Damien despite the fact that he wasn’t the attacker nor did he drive the car that killed the attacker. Why would this cop have any reason to suspect any malfeasance on Damien’s part? And then when Damien explains that he had been at a funeral for his friend earlier that day, the cop becomes suspicious about this too, interrogating Damien about how Kelly died and pointing out that it’s odd two people around Damien died in accidents in a number of days. This completely unmotivated suspicion is compounded when Ann Rutledge randomly arrives and tells the cop that she’s representing Damien, despite the fact that he isn’t actually being charged with any crime. This is just bad writing and a contrivance used to get the cop suspicious about Damien without having earned it, so I’m sure we’ll see the cop in future episodes now that he’s curious about Damien.
Ann Rutledge has a larger presence in this episode, but at this point she’s more of an irritation than an actual character. Her cloying hints about Damien’s nature and his past are tiresome for an audience that is more than aware that Damien is the Antichrist. Ann tells Damien that she knew his father when they were stationed at the London embassy together, and she also drops a bomb on him about his true parentage. She reveals that his father and mother were not his biological parents, and that he had been swapped with another stillborn baby after birth.
- Amani and Simone continue to be thankless characters existing tenuously on the periphery of Damien’s life. After Kelly’s wake, they both go through Kelly’s notebook and start to learn about what she was working on involving the Antichrist. Considering how poorly integrated into the plot they’ve been up to this point, I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about this development. I would imagine Amani is not going to be pleased when he learns that Damien is the Antichrist, but who knows? Regardless, hopefully both characters take a more active role in the proceedings in the episodes to come.
- Both the assassin and Damien see a young, one-eyed girl in the episode. When Damien sees her, she’s in a building above him, writing ‘666’ on a window for him. Is she really there, or is she a figment of their imagination? I would guess that she’s in league with Ann Rutledge and the roaming band of dogs, but it remains to be seen what her significance is.
- We see the first articulation of a thematic statement for the show when Damien gets into an argument with a priest about God’s plan at Kelly’s funeral. Damien says he’s no fan of Christianity and argues that a benevolent God would never allow a decent person like Kelly to die the way she did. Damien’s outburst felt completely unmotivated, and I was disappointed to see the writers handle Damien’s first declaration of his religious views in such an trite, uninspired fashion. If religion is (obviously) going to play such a large part in the show, I’d like to see a little more intellectual heft in what it says on the subject.
- The episode starts with a scene following Robin Weigert’s character performing an exorcism in Chile. After its success, she’d told by her superior to return home for an important case. Will she end up being Damien’s primary antagonist this season? I hope so, as I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing Robin Weigert stick around and have a prominent role on a show after years of great supporting work.
Eric enjoys watching and making movies.
Eric Colasante | Contributor