Airtime: Mondays at 10PM on A&E
Episode: Season 1, Episode 3 (S01E03)
Tweetable Takeaway: The battle lines between good and evil start to get drawn on this week’s #Damien
It’s possible that this week’s episode of DAMIEN, titled “The Deliverer,” was its best yet. It’s also possible that this week’s episode of Damien was its worst yet. It’s hard to tell. But let’s begin at the end and work back from there: the final scene in this week’s episode features the mysterious Ann Rutledge leaving Damien’s apartment and, I believe, orgasming from having just touched the ‘666’ birthmark on his head. Like the episode itself, I can’t tell if this is the best or worst moment that’s happened on this show to date, but I will say that it’s the first scene that had any impact on me while I was watching.
Let’s go back another scene. Before that climax, we have the scene of Ann Rutledge visiting Damien’s apartment. In three episodes, we’ve seen Ann appear in Damien’s life out of nowhere, tell him repeatedly that he was the Antichrist, and bring him down to her basement to show him an obsessively curated shrine dedicated to him. Like almost every other scene on the show, the very premise behind this scene was contrived and unbelievable.
Why is this such a contrived scene, one in which the writers decided to brute force a plot development without having earned it through intelligent, artful writing? Because it makes no sense that Damien would allow this woman in his apartment at this moment. And because everything we have been shown of Damien in these three episodes has told us that he’s unwilling to believe these claims about his true nature. Now, should Damien believe that he’s the Antichrist at this point, with the ridiculous accumulation of evidence and coincidence supporting the claim? Yes, of course he should, but the show has repeatedly told us that he does not. And if he does not believe he’s the Antichrist, then by proxy, he doesn’t believe Ann Rutledge when she tells him he’s the Antichrist, which means that she’s nothing more than an insane stalker whose idea of foreplay is surreptitiously carving ‘666’ on her thigh, the exact kind of person for whom it would make zero sense for Damien to ever allow in his apartment.
That’s all a long explanation that serves to underscore a larger point about Damien in general. The point is that the show does not make any sense to someone who has not seen The Omen, the characters are all empty vessels without substance or any reason for the viewer to care whether they live or die, and the writing is offensively lazy on every level. Nothing that happens in Damien is earned through its writing. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the world’s greatest detective, James Shay. Does it make sense that Detective Shay would become so immediately suspicious of Damien without any reason last episode? No. Does it make sense that the Detective would connect the death of Damien’s assassin last episode with the death of the biblical scholar in the first episode? No, that does not make sense either, but nothing on this show does. This is just one failed plotline on a show filled with nothing but. Another subplot, Simone’s completely unmotivated journey into researching the truth behind her sister’s religious scribble-filled notebook is its own cornucopia of nonsense.
What this episode does, more than anything, is make me want to watch The Omen. The one scene with potential in the episode was the meeting at Armitage Global between Ann Rutledge and her superior John Lyons, a false friend of Damien’s who turns out to be the head of the coalition working to bring about the rise of the Antichrist. I’m very intrigued by the idea of a story exploring a connection between the government, corporations, and the Devil, but the writing on this show isn’t good enough to capture any of the potential within that idea.
Armitage Global, a corporation that also moonlights as a mercenary force and happens to like the idea of bringing the Antichrist into existence, is introduced in this episode and we soon learn a bit about their power structure and the different executive philosophies within. We find out that Ann and her superior John, both members of the company, worked with Damien’s adopted father in the White House and both were around Damien very often when he was growing up. Now, why did Damien used to live in the White House, apparently after his father’s death? I have no idea. I’m sure that’d be apparent if I had seen The Omen, but it comes across as a very bizarre fact to be thrown in as an offhanded comment in this episode.
While Ann Rutledge advocates a plan of patience, allowing the slow seduction of Damien towards the dark side, John Lyons instead insists on bringing him in from the cold immediately and dealing with the matter of converting him to Satanism (or whatever nefarious nonsense they’re hinting at) at a later date. John criticizes Ann’s approach, saying that it almost led to Damien’s assassination last episode, and he appoints someone named to Troy to replace her as Damien’s guardian. Who is Troy? Should I like Troy? I don’t know. Nor will I ever know, because Ann quickly concocts a scheme in which she feigns being attacked by this Troy fellow outside the Armitage building, knowing Damien is conducting surveillance on her, which then causes Damien to chase Troy into an underground tunnel where Troy promptly dies via escalator. This allows Ann back into the fold as Damien’s guardian, with her able to point out Troy’s death as another sign of Damien’s wondrous power. Oh yeah, and for some reason Damien saves a child from almost being struck by a train. Great job, Damien!
- The show is starting to fill in elements of Damien’s backstory, but it’s still far too reliant on a prior knowledge of The Omen films. I know I’m a click away from a Wikipedia page giving me all the information I could possibly want to know about the Daggers of Megiddo, but I want to take the show in as an entity unto itself, and in that regard, it is not doing an effective job of communicating its mythology in an understandable way.
- We learn a little more about Damien’s would-be assassin from the last episode, finding out that he was a graduate student under Professor Reneus, the biblical scholar who died in the first episode. Does this matter? Or is it just a coincidence used to bridge the two cases for Detective Shay? Who knows?
- I don’t recall seeing any flashback clips from The Omen this week. That’s a relief. This show would be better off establishing its own legacy as quickly as it can instead of relying on goodwill for a forty-year-old film as a means of drawing viewers in each week.
- Detective Shay gets attacked by a dog in the police station. He then shoots the dog to death. Why did this scene have to happen? The scenes with these dogs are a perpetual misfire. I understand that they’re a part of the show because they were in The Omen, but they simply don’t work at all. The dogs don’t inspire fear or tension when they show up, they’re just… dogs.
- I appreciated several moments in the writing where I felt like the characters were acknowledging the show’s stupidity. We have Father Esparza shutting down Simone’s inquiry by saying exactly what I was yelling at my TV, “You’re searching for a connection. You’re looking for answers that are not there.” Then we have John Lyons criticizing the idiocy of Ann Rutledge’s hands-off supervision of Damien over the past thirty years, which almost led to Damien’s death, by saying, “How could you just leave Thorn out there? Why didn’t you bring him in?” Great question, John. I am a little curious however why you didn’t think of posing this to your employee anytime over the prior three decades?
- Amani is also a character on this show. All I know about him at this point is that he is also a photographer like Damien, and he seems to hang out at Damien’s apartment an awful lot. And he and Damien both got fired from their jobs. Why? Who knows.
Eric enjoys watching and making movies.
Eric Colasante | Contributor