I was just thinking that it would be great next time to play Damien in our TV set next Holy Week instead of the usual Moses, Passion of Christ and ok I’ll admit it, Barbie and the Swan Lake (blame GMA7 for that).
The news about Damien failing to be renewed for Season 2 came not as a shock to me. For one thing, I am used to watching non-mainstream TV series and I am fine with that. Apart from that, the numbers for this series were so bad. Still, it is with great sadness that I am writing this first and last review for this horror show that at first made the fans ask “what was that?” to showing that there could be more in the story only if it was given another chance.
So here’s my attempt in reviewing the ten episodes we had on this journey of Damien from denial to his acceptance as the anti-Christ.
Episode 1: The Beast Rises
Damien Thorn was unknowingly baptised by the demon in the Christian Quarter of the Old City in Damascus, Syria during his 30th Birthday. He returns to New York to find an answer as his past came much clearer. He learns from a biblical professor that he is the Antichrist and he later discovers the number of the Beast birthmark on his scalp as deaths begin to surround him.
After I finished watching this series, I said to myself: “So that’s it?” I mean what the eff was that? We waited for the series with high expectations, at the very least, expecting that we could feel the horror that we felt from watching the original film “The Omen” from which it was based, but after watching it I just feel empty. Sure there were promising things shown that could pave the way to a riveting story ,like Damien being proclaimed as the son of what I assumed was Satan himself and Damien losing his girlfriend but that’s it.
I read somewhere that what was lacking on the first episode was the fact that the writers did not even bother to build Damien’s background but we will soon found out on the succeeding episodes that this was not the case. We found out pretty much some of Damien’s background, spread on the ten episodes (though I still find it lacking).
The first episode, The Beast Rises has no horror in it (or enough horror to scare us at the very least) and it failed to introduce us on a deep level, the Damien that we left in the movie The Omen, what has he become, or the journey he has taken after his horrific childhood. It has done just that in some level, but it was all tame. So what did this episode gave us? Pretty much empty expectations.
Episode 2: Second Death
Here we were reintroduced to the seven daggers of Megiddo, the only weapon that could kill the anti-Christ. Damien survived the assassination attempt against him, and started finding answers and connections that will lead him to his destiny.
Again, the only thing exciting about this episode was the seven daggers of Megiddo which the writers failed to reintroduce decently, plus the attempted murder of Damien after that. Clearly, the writers wanted to show the continuous tragedy surrounding Damien but it was beginning to be tiring. The funeral mass was kind of dramatic and my hopes in the series was going up by that time but then Rutledge shows her museum of Damien which did not creep me out. Honestly, for lack of a better word, it was corny. So that’s strike two for this series.
Episode 3: The Deliverer
Armitage Global was revealed to be the company behind the protection of the anti-Christ. As Damien continues to find answers, he was given a choice between saving a child and killing a man.
Alright, two things happened on this series. We were introduced on the devilish organization protecting Damien, kind of the Death Eaters version of this series. It was not impressive, the way it was laid out to us. The good thing about this series was that it showed us Damien’s humanity; that the choice was still with him for the picking: whether he will choose the good path or the dark path laid out to him.
So far, the series was making sense: Damien was marked as the anti-Christ, there was a global organization protecting him, waiting for his rise, and Damien was beginning to realize that sooner or later he will have to choose his path. The series was beginning to be a promising one for me.
Episode 4: The Number of a Man
Detective Shay started investigating Damien and the recent deaths centered around him, while Damien’s friend is beginning to be dragged to the horrific destiny of the anti-Christ.
Umm this one I don’t get. It’s like the writers decided to have a break from the story or something. Even Damien’s friend Kelly’s scene with the witch doctor seemed to be out of place. I mean this was just a waste of episode. Well I am being unfair here, The Number of a Man focused on Damien’s character build up, on what he is as a person (as shown on his confrontation with detective Shay) and what could he become, given a chance. But still, to have this in a single episode is, I repeat, just a waste.
Episode 5: Seven Curses
Damien went to a hospital and meets the family of the little boy he saved at the subway station. Here he heard the prophetic words of the Seven Demons about his rise, afterwards he decided to end his life.
And finally we have a decent episode! Alright that might be an understatement. This episode is what you can consider as the Half-Blood Prince of the series, the turning and defining point on the whole journey of Damien to be the anti-Christ. Many criticized the series creator Glen Mazarra for taking the whole story seriously, for basing too much of Damien’s destiny to what the bible says, but The Seven Curses proved that it is necessary and damn genius to incorporate the stories about the anti-Christ written in the Bible to the story of the series. It somehow legitimises the series by including the written signs we have read to the modern story of Damien, a guy who is destined to become the anti-Christ.
The episode is simultaneously creepy and deep. It shows the human side of Damien as he was forced to choose his destiny after finally accepting the super natural around him, having heard the Seven Curses chanted by the demons. This one is very dramatic and actor Bradley James did a great (and difficult) job of portraying the part not just in this episode but in the entirety of the series.
Episode 6: Temptress
Damien survived his suicide attempt and dreamed about his destiny as nothing more than an sick but elaborate plan of the Armitage Global, discovering that the 666 tattoo on his head was done forcefully by a tattoo artist. He also dreamed that his mother was still alive. Then he wakes up to reality of what awaits him.
So we are back to square one with this episode, and by this time I was already getting frustrated (and started fearing about the ratings). Just when things get better on the last episode, the writers again decided to hang things up. The story behind this episode was brilliant but making it as a dream seemed like slapping the audience in the face. Twice. This part of the story is important to Damien’ journey, but to have it in a 40-minute episode? Kill me now.
Episode 7: Abattoir
Detective Shay continues to investigate the mystery behind Damien as the Vatican started acting and sent a nun to find the anti-Christ. Damien, meanwhile, was given another chance to end his life using one of the seven daggers of Megiddo.
The one of the two saving graces about this episode was the fact that the Vatican City was finally sending someone to investigate the whole anti-Christ rumor. It made the whole episode exciting but the rest of the scenes were, for lack of better word, boring. Here Damien discovered some sort of cult involving Lyons, connected to the rise of the anti-Christ and so what? The other scene which keeps this episode afloat was the scene between Damien and Rutledge. The depth of the acting of both James and Barbara Hershey was commendable, elevating this series. It shows, again, that Damien has a choice and the choice that he made on this episode was revealing of his true character.
Lastly, the one where Detective Shay investigates the background story of Damien? It’s a helpful side story.
Episode 8: Here is Wisdom
Here Damien tries to control his fate, leading to a bloody confrontation. The noose is tightening as Sister Greta from Vatican meets Damien’s friend. You might not agree but despite the title I think Detective Shay’s investigation was (might be intentionally) front and center on this episode while the writers tried to veer it into Damien’s choice which could be done in one or two episode but we are talking about three episodes here, of building Damien’s character, on laying the ground for what will be his ultimate choice. We’re down with eight episodes and the choice-making scenes should be done by now. It was like watching Clark Kent and his struggle to find his purpose on this earth, whining constantly in ALL of his movies. Oh, please.
Again the exciting things about this episode: 1) the sword of Megiddo was revealed to be indestructible and 2) Sister Greta from the Vatican finally was closing in on Damien (though an army would have been nice).
Episode 9: The Devil You Know
Damien meets Sister Greta and he was forcibly exorcised, unleashing the devil within him.
Damien meets Sister Greta! And the exorcism happened. This episode was the finest of all the episodes so far (it would be eclipsed by the finale eventually). The story fits with its purpose of paving the way to the final episode and again what makes this one shine was the superb acting of the actors especially during Damien’s exorcism. That acting was very hard and Mazzara truly made it very hard for the actors, but Bradley James’ commitment in this series, especially in this episode, was clearly evident. His acting was superb, and you could see it in his eyes, something his fans had never seen before.
“A lot of it requires you to dig deep within yourself and I essentially was able to use the catharsis– the experience of going through some of those moments of my life which related to Damien and infused them into those scenes. It required a bit of sensitivity from the crew. The crew was very fantastic in creating the right atmosphere for me to feel safe; to explore what I needed to explore. It was a case of that. It was just me, digging into my life and going, “Right, I’m gonna use that today,” and hopefully getting a result that convinced people that Damien was going through a lot of pain.” (Bradley James interview, talknerdywithus.com)
Episode 10: Ave Satani
Damien finally accepted his destiny as the anti-Christ as the Vatican unleashes its army to stop him.
What a finale! It is kind of a slap to the critics who dismissed the series as a failed attempt to tell the story of an adult Damien Thorn. But my question is that why just now? The Vatican Army (of priests! Wow this is it!) finally arrived to stop the anti-Christ (though sadly we will not find out how the battle will transpire). The whole ritual where Damien was finally proclaimed as the anti-Christ, the events (in this episode and on the last 9 episodes) which leads him to decide to accept his fate was grandly laid out in this finale which validates the genius of Mazzara and the brilliance of the casts’ acting.
The Last Words
Damien tried to be too much intellectual, with the consequence that it lost its audience who just wanted to have an exciting and horrific series, something light but equally messy, like Chainsaw Massacre level of messy. It also failed to hook in audience who loves actions and adventures, they could have gotten some share of those people, those who do not mind if it was not a superhero series because Damien is sure look like a superhero and the antagonist combined. They might watch the series from the start if it just incorporated the whole Vatican versus the anti-Christ group battle which it introduced at the very start but which became loss in the middle of the series as it focused more and more on the inside mind of Damien.
In the end, what was left were the intellectual audience, the ones who appreciate the series for the brilliance and promise of the story and those loyal fans of Bradley James, mainly from the Merlin series. Those audience sadly were not enough to push the numbers of the series into a decent level, numbers which could have been enough to retain some of its advertisers, numbers which could have save it and push it into a second season to give the writers an opportunity to show to the audience, the skeptics, and to the A&E the true brilliance of their story.
So the Number of Damien Thorn, its ratings, was not sufficient enough to warrant a second season which was frankly unfair and a loss to the TV audience. It was like people chose the paintings that they were interested in, leaving the true master of art, on a corner to rot, denying people of an opportunity to criticize and appreciate its beauty.
We might never know what Damien will do as the newly crowned anti-Christ, how the Vatican will act and the events that would be born out of the battle between these two opposing forces.
But to creator Glen Mazzara, for us fans, you passed the audition.