DAMIEN Review: “The Devil You Know”

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Airtime: Mondays at 10PM on A&E
Episode: Season 1, Episode 9 (S01E09)

TB-TV-Grade-B-

Tweetable Takeaway: With nowhere else to turn, #Damien seeks out an exorcist from the Vatican in the season’s best ep yet


As someone who has been very harsh on in my reviews of this season, I’m happy to admit that this week’s episode, “The Devil You Know,” was its best yet. While I don’t think there’s a chance of A&E renewing Damien for a second season, this episode makes me believe for the first time that there’s untapped potential to be found in this story, were it to continue for another season. While it had more than its fair share of moments that fell flat, overall I thought the writing and especially the direction of this week’s episode were a clear cut above anything that had come before it, and it made me almost excited for next week’s season (series?) finale.

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For whatever reason, the writers of Damien spent much of this first season being coy with the audience, hinting at a larger story without ever actually delving into it, keeping their cards close to the vest as if waiting for a later season to reveal them. And considering the fact that this isn’t Lost and there’s no real mystery to what’s going on here- we all knew from the first frame that Damien is the Antichrist, because that fact was well established in The Omen forty-one years ago- it was difficult to understand what they thought their overly cute intimations were actually accomplishing other than alienating any audience who might have otherwise been interested in the story.

Now that the first season (and probably the show itself) is wrapping up, the writers have stopped being coy and seem to have realized that legitimate stakes are necessary in order to conclude the story in a satisfying way. The war between good and evil that’s been endlessly hinted at is no longer a vague idea, it’s here, and the two sides are starting to trade blows with one another with an appreciable way. This week we say goodbye to Veronica, Ann Rutledge’s underutilized and ultimately worthless daughter, and hopefully we say goodbye to Sister Greta, who appeared to be the best bet at taking down Ann, but whose faith in a righteous God led to her untimely demise.

But before we get to the end, let’s delve into how we get to that point. After learning about her last week, Damien decides to meet Sister Greta, hoping she can put an end to the death that’s been following him for decades. Upon meeting him, Greta implores Damien not to believe everyone who has told him he’s the son of Satan, insisting instead that he’s a child of God, and that everything that’s happened to him is a part of God’s plan. Though he’s naturally incredulous at this point, wondering why a benevolent God would allow all of this senseless death to occur, Damien knows he has nowhere else to turn at this point and so he gives himself over to Greta for help.

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It’s hard to know whether Damien’s faith in Greta is misplaced or not, but soon afterward she has Simone locked up along with the dying Veronica and stabs Damien with a Dagger of Megiddo. After the dagger incapacitates him, she brings Damien deep into the forest and performs an exorcism on him. The exorcism appears to go well, and after witnessing Greta perform a successful exorcism earlier in the season we’re led to believe that Damien will be cured, but when he rises from the ground, he immediately stabs Greta and leaves her to die. This would seemingly lead one to believe that instead of expelling the demons from Damien, Greta may have instead wakened them from their dormancy and allowed them to fully possess him, but I don’t really know, so we’ll have to tune in next week to find out.

Before this point, the episode features two other plotlines that weren’t quite as successful but which helped set the table for next week’s finale. Damien tells Amani to seek out Veronica and get close to her again in order to learn more about Ann’s intentions. Elsewhere, Ann fruitlessly looks for her daughter, with the only trace of her leading to Amani. Ann soon has Amani kidnapped and interrogates him for her daughter’s location, but he’s unwilling to talk. When Ann insists that Greta wants to kill Damien and that she’s his only hope, Amani leads her to where Greta has been keeping Veronica, but it’s already too late.

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The other storyline this week featured Simone trying to help Veronica escape from Greta’s clutches in order to get her medical assistance after she was shot in last week’s episode. Simone does manage to free both of them, but Veronica soon finds herself under attack by roots in the forest, which enter through her wound and come out her mouth, killing her. Ann and Amani come upon her dead body, but by this point Damien has already stabbed (and presumably killed) Greta, so without the ability to enact revenge, I’ll be curious to see how Ann reacts with no one left to blame for her daughter’s death but herself. The more interesting part of this plotline is that Veronica was killed by a random occurrence around her, which we have only as of yet seen in the context of evil acts striking out against Damien’s opponents. This would seem to imply that whatever aspect of nature is killing those around Damien in the name of evil also has the power to kill in the name of good. Or something. I honestly don’t know why roots killed Veronica, but it was a pretty gnarly sequence directed by Jennifer Lynch (David Lynch’s daughter) and that, along with Damien’s affecting exorcism, were easily the two best scenes Damien has done to date.

Where does the show go from here in next week’s finale? I can’t even begin to guess, which is a point in the show’s favor. Damien has seemingly embraced the bad side that’s been latent within him, but he also had the decency to grab Simone’s hand and lead her away from Greta’s dying body, so maybe there’s some good left in him yet. Now that her daughter is dead, I’d like to finally see a sense of urgency from Ann in doing whatever it is that she intends to do with Damien. After keeping its cards close for so long, Damien badly needs to lay them all out next week and make its best case for why it should return with a second season next year.

Additional Thoughts:

  • Sister Greta makes particular note of the seven soldiers that Damien saw in the VA hospital several episodes ago, who all apparently spoke with one voice as they recited verses from the Bible. Greta believes that they’re a manifestation of the seven-headed dragon from the Book of Revelation. I don’t understand the significance of that, but the fact that she was alarmed by it is interesting.
  • There were some well-written lines in the episode worth pointing out because of the complete paucity of well-written lines in Damien prior to this episode. Ann’s line to Amani, “You’re a small man who took a wrong turn in the theater and somehow wandered onto the stage. Don’t dare think yourself a player,” was quite good.
  • Detective Shay is still on the show. He’s relieved of duty and his husband takes their son to his brother’s house to get away from his obsessive behavior, but Shay remains dead-set in his beliefs and undeterred in his investigation into the deaths that have surrounded Damien. But before his son leaves, he whispers to Shay that the devil did it, so maybe we’ll see Shay willing to give Damien the benefit of the doubt next week. Considering how one note and completely uninteresting Shay has been this entire season, I certainly hope he does.

TB-TV-Grade-B-

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Eric enjoys watching and making movies.
Twitter: @Colasante

Keep up with all of Eric’s reviews here.
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