Airtime: Mondays at 10PM on A&E
Episode: Season 1, Episode 6 (S01E06)
Tweetable Takeaway: #Damien learns more about his past and the battle lines between good and evil start to blur
On this week’s episode of DAMIEN, titled “Temptress,” Damien becomes more proactive in his quest to learn about his past, while the battle lines between good and evil become murkier than ever. Overall, I would say that this was a pretty disappointing episode of television, but compared to past episodes of Damien it did have a number of threads that I thought showed potential. Unfortunately, it proceeded to squander those threads by convoluting the narrative, making it unnecessarily difficult to follow in a failed attempt to put us in Damien’s disoriented shoes.
First, let’s get to where I thought the show demonstrated some potential early in this week’s episode. I appreciated Damien meeting the tattoo artist who admits he, at the behest of Ann Rutledge’s goons, inked the ‘666’ on Damien’s skull while he was unconscious weeks earlier. I had been so irritated with the show’s inability to put forth even the slightest bit of plausible evidence for Damien to believe he was not, in fact, the Antichrist that Ann tried to convince him he is. Every single event that occurred in the previous five episodes only worked to reinforce that belief, which made every instance of Damien’s skepticism frustrating and unbelievable. Now, armed with this small piece of evidence, I hoped he could finally untangle the web of deception that Ann had been orchestrating to convince him of his true nature. Sadly, that does not end up happening. When Damien brings Detective Shay to see the tattoo artist later, they find him dead in his chair, and Damien is summarily arrested for the murder,with Shay once again being simultaneously the smartest and dumbest cop on television.
The other thread I thought showed potential was the battle being waged between Ann Rutledge and John Lyons over Damien’s stewardship. In previous episodes, it had been unclear just how much of their feud, and Lyons’ attempt to steer Damien away from Ann, was legitimate, and how much of it was an attempt to deliberately obfuscate the truth in order to disorient Damien and make him more amenable to suggestion. As I said in last week’s review, Damien is the least interesting aspect of Damien each week; I’m far more interested in learning about the war being waged between Ann and John, with Damien acting as nothing more than the battleground upon which it is occurring.
While both of those threads were promising, they were eventually engulfed by the wave of lazy writing and contrivances that filled the rest of the episode and much of the goodwill they engendered quickly evaporated. To briefly summarize this disappointment, I’ll go character by character to examine what went wrong this episode.
Whenever Simone appears on Damien, my first thought is always why, exactly, is Simone even on this show? She’s not Damien’s love interest (like Kelly was), nor his friend (as Amani is), nor his co-worker (as Amani once was). Rather she’s the sister of Kelly, Damien’s estranged ex who died in the first episode of the show. Since then Simone has stuck around with little to do, although it’s never been made clear why that is. Her role this week seemed to be nothing more profound than to add to the overall sense of disorientation that Damien (and the audience) was experiencing.
We first see Simone with Damien at the beginning of the episode, after he’s been hospitalized following his attempted suicide. Why is she there? No reason. Later she randomly shows up at Damien’s apartment, for no real reason, and he kisses her, again for no particular reason. Then later yet Damien goes to Simone’s apartment (again for no discernible reason) and it appears that either she’s under some form of mind control or Damien is actually hallucinating, as we see a side to Simone we haven’t yet seen. She tells Damien it’s a good thing his mother died, tries to seduce him, and tells him she’s happy to be out of her dead sister’s shadow. Here’s the issue: there are scenes in this episode in which Simone is deliberately written to act irregularly, to serve the story about Damien’s perceptions becoming more distorted, and there are scenes in which that’s not the intent but the same effect is felt. Everything involving her character is so bland, unspecific, and illogical that it’s impossible to tell what’s supposed to be disorienting and what’s only disorienting because the writing is too bad to understand.
There was a brief moment in this episode, when Amani shows up at Damien’s apartment to show him and Simone the photos he had taken of Ann and John together, when I felt a flicker of excitement at the prospect of these three teaming up to take on this evil band of Satanists. But then the rest of the episode was spent putting the viewer in Damien’s shoes, making us wonder whether we can trust Amani or Simone and whether they’ve ever been on Damien’s side at all, and that brief flicker of excitement was extinguished.
For an episode that was deliberately confusing, I might be forced to give a pass to this week’s ultra contrived plot developments, but they need to be pointed out nonetheless. Despite ostensibly being under 72-hour observation following his suicide attempt, Damien effortlessly leaves the hospital at the beginning of the episode after receiving an urgent call from Amani. Damien meets with Amani, who introduces him to the tattoo artist who tells Damien that he inked the ‘666’ on his skull. Let’s briefly articulate how this meeting came to be, in order to understand the way in which lazy writing brute forces plot developments instead of artfully constructing ways in which the events of the story can organically occur.
Apparently during the events of last week’s episode, the tattoo artist saw Damien in the elevator of the VA hospital and recognized him from the tattoo job he had performed weeks earlier. After recognizing him, the tattoo artist called “the Times” looking for Damien, but got in touch with Amani instead. So, some questions about this: Why was the tattoo artist also working another job as an orderly at the VA hospital? What is the likelihood that he and Damien would just so happen to cross paths again weeks after the tattoo’s inking? How did the tattoo artist know where to get in touch with Damien, considering that he only knew him by appearance and not by name? What is the likelihood that in calling “the Times” (despite not having any reason to know where Damien works, and despite the fact that Damien was fired from his job several episodes earlier) he would reach Damien’s best friend Amani?
That’s the first contrivance that I couldn’t buy concerning Amani this episode. Here’s the next: while walking down the street after leaving Simone’s house, Damien just so happens to see Amani leaving a restaurant and Amani just so happens to be having lunch with Ann, and Detective Shay just so happens to know Damien’s exact location, and when Damien tries to convince Shay that he’s innocent in his mother’s murder, pointing out Ann less than fifteen feet away from them, Ann just so happens to not be there. Why? Why to any of this? This is just lazy writing. It’s hard to take this storyline seriously when it’s predicated on these absurd contrivances to move it forward.
Perhaps the most important development in this week’s episode involved Damien’s mother, whom he apparently had not seen for several decades. Damien tracks his mother down after sneaking into John Lyons’ office and finding files regarding her whereabouts. Damien and his mother catch up and she fills him in on why she had not reached out to him any time in the preceding several decades. She explains that she thought Damien was dead. Okay, but I have a few questions. (Most of which would probably be answered if I had seen The Omen films, but I haven’t.) Why did Damien not look for his mother at any point during his adult life? How did his mother not know that her son was alive in New York, living under the same exact name (in Damien Thorn, not a particularly common one at that), making a living as a famous war photographer? And why would John Lyons allow Damien to learn this information? But before I could even ask those questions, Damien’s mother was dead, another of the endless string of completely predictable, suspense-free “accidental” victims killed in his presence.
For whatever reason, despite the fact that Ann has clearly kept watch over his life since his birth, Damien was under the impression that he and his mother were speaking outside of Ann’s surveillance. That illusion is quickly shattered when Ann arrives and, after a brief tussle with Damien, Damien’s mother is pushed down the stairs to her death. So this plot development made little sense and went nowhere, and then his mother was dead, with little consequence or explanation. Alright then. So long, Damien’s mother.
- Is John Lyons dead? Is Detective Shay dead? Did they stage the old woman’s attack on them? Or was that just Damien’s hallucination?
- Was the unusual behavior from Simone and Amani in this episode a reality, or was it a hallucination that Damien was experiencing?
- Why are Ann and John playing psychological warfare with Damien, when it would seem to make more sense for them to strike a united front in helping Damien embrace his true nature, instead of intentionally obfuscating the truth for seemingly little reason.
It’s been revealed in the comments that the episode was in fact all a dream in Damien’s head, seemingly placed in there by Ann while he was in the hospital following his suicide attempt in last week’s episode. First, thank you for reading the review and commenting to let me know. Second, sorry for my mistake in not realizing that fact.
Overall, I’d say this revelation doesn’t do much to change my perception of the episode. One issue with Damien is that its characters often act in strange, unmotivated ways because they’re not very well-defined. So when we see Amani dining with Ann Rutledge and Detective Shay randomly appearing to arrest Damien, part of me wanted to believe it was so absurdly contrived that it had to be some kind of dream or hallucination, but the other part of me realized it was consistent with the writing on Damien so I took it on face value. But nonetheless, it’s good to have the truth about the episode out there so there’s no further confusion.
Eric enjoys watching and making movies.
Eric Colasante | Contributor