Dominion‘s pilot exhaustively set up its post-apocalyptic world. With the heavy-lifting done, episode two digs in with murder, deception, angel battles, and super runaways.
Last week, Dominion jumped right into the life-altering reveal that Alex Lannen, moody soldier and Vega hater, is the chosen one. He’s been wrapped in the divine tattoos, but no one must know! Aside from all the main characters in the bunker. (Sorry rank-and-file guy who got shot then eaten by Whele’s pet lion.) But Alex doesn’t want to be mankind’s last hope against the mounting angel forces of Gabriel! I’m seriously hoping they give Alex something more to do emotionally than sulk in the next episode, because already it’s wearing on me.
The episode begins in flashback, presumably amid the last days of Jeep and Alex’s time together before Jeep split to figure out the tattoos, leaving Alex a bitter orphan. (I know the visual effects of the eight-ball angels–the low-rankers who possess human form–are a bit to slick to look real, but their slithering and gravity-defying thrill me, being creepy in a good way.) Anyhow, Jeep is dead. And Alex is already trying to reject his inheritance and run away. After a fight (and makeup sex) with Claire, he seems set to stay in Vega after all. But then an undercover angel sees his tattoos and attacks with her razor-tipped wings.
The Alex versus angel fight was wonderfully intense. I’m all for more wing slaps in the future. But here’s my question: what was her goal here? She knew Alex was the chosen one. She passes this along to Gabriel at episode’s end. But was she trying to kill Alex? If so, why not start with your razor-sharp wings and skip all the grappling. Or was she trying to capture him?
Her intentions were unclear, but regardless, Alex set her on fire and she fled. Then he followed suit, yelling at Claire that she and Bixby (who has been adopted by Claire, begging the question why that didn’t happen sooner) will always be at risk if he’s around. Of course, superhero movies would suggest they are at risk anyway since they can be used as bait to lure Alex wherever Gabriel might want them. Alex isn’t too sharp, so he never considers this and runs from Vega and these ladies he loves. But his tattoos are itching! (To tell him something?) I suspect he won’t be away long.
Alex’s running away might seem more selfless and less asinine if it hasn’t been what he has wanted since his introduction. Literally his first scene last week was him scoping out the wild zones outside of Vega to see if they are safe to travel through. He has wanted to leave Vega in his rearview for years, and now he has, though he’s left behind his would-be wife. Part of me admires the show for jumping to the inevitable–Alex was always going to try to run away from Vega and his problems. However, jumping to it so quickly before I’ve really had a chance to connect with Alex has me thinking he’s a selfish coward. Am I alone here?
Last week we were hoping the female characters of Dominion would get more to do than show sideboob and play romantic interest to the powerful male characters. Well, this week we saw some progression, though mostly more female nudity, including Claire’s whose body was carefully draped post-coitally over Alex to appease TV censors while titillating network audiences (who are presumably male and straight). Within the infrastructure of Vega’s society, Claire doesn’t have a lot of power, other than bending the ear of her father, the ruler of Vega. But General Riesen says he’s prepping Claire to take his place, in hopes that some day Vega can be made a republic. The people aren’t yet ready for that he warns.
I can’t get a beat on Riesen yet. Last episode I thought he was unaware of Whele’s shady dealings. But then in this one he seems to flat-out ask the sinister Senator to murder all those unessential personnel who know Alex is The One. Riesen seems to think of Whele as one who will get his hands dirty. But he knows Whele is ultimately more concerned with himself over anything else, and he recognizes Whele has helped Vega become what it is. Whele’s influence is everywhere. He is Dominion’s Littlefinger, except that his intentions are telegraphed immediately. Knowing all this, why isn’t Riesen working to protect Claire against Whele? Instead he’s marrying her to his son, which won’t save her. Whele is not a sentimental man. And a ticking clock is put on Riesen’s life, thanks to his heart condition. Oh, and his secret eight-ball mistress.
Senator Becca Thorn asked why he sneaks out of Vega, who didn’t see mostly naked sexy eight-ball coming?
I know we’re meant to think Whele is a major threat for all his strategy and savvy. As a former televangelist (“I sold religion on television!”), he knows how to manipulate people en masse. But so far he doesn’t seem as smart as he thinks he is. Last week’s plan to spook the populace by bringing an eight-ball into the city backfired when it got loose. Bringing the handmaidens of Helena to his city brought a high angel into their bunkers, where it killed Jeep. And now his decision to imprison Arika and her colleagues has got him into even more trouble. But can we disuss Arika’s plan?
I get that the green nail polish these religious women were wearing was a form of poison. That they were scraping it off to use it, but wasn’t it suggested that it was meant to kill Whele? Instead (?) all of her handmaidens are found dead, and just like that most of Dominion’s female characters are gone. Did Arika trick them? If so, how? Or did they knowingly sacrifice themselves? Either way, Arika threatens Whele: Let me go, and I’ll tell people that these women were traitors. Kill me too and start a war with Evelyn, leader of Helena.
Everything I’m hearing about Evelyn makes me want her to be in the show NOW. When Whele tries to scare Arika, threatening her with execution, she gives the steely reply, “Evelyn would mourn for me. Then she will bomb Vega into oblivion.” So far we know Helena is a city run by women. Evelyn is its leader. She “believes in the divine feminine.” She is gay, married to Arika. But she is not one to put her own wants above the needs of her people, and will not engage in a war against Gabriel, or give Whele access to her air force (the last in the known world) in exchange for her wife. Evelyn has become my favorite character, and she’s not even in the show yet.
The last major development this week is that we learn more about Gabriel. He knows a lot about Vega. He knows Alex is the Chosen One. And he has semi-regular chats with Michael on cliffs, meeting after using wing flaps like beepers. He leaves his army behind with this directive “enjoy your bodies,” and then he unfolds his grudge against humanity.
As Michael points out, Gabriel’s motives are childish. God left, and in his absence Gabriel decided to apply a why of his own: those damn humans. Though we are his siblings, having been created as he was by The Father, he sees us as less than, or God’s mistake. So, maybe if he murders all of us, Father will come home!
It’s interesting that Dominion lays out Gabriel’s motivation so nakedly. However, this begs the question: why are any humans following him? We’ve been told cults are forming that regard him as a god–and yup, William Whele is among them–but why? If you have an archangel protecting your city, wouldn’t your instinct be to worship him?
I get it in some respect. Gabriel is a sexier deity. He laughs, and smiles, and revels in sex, flesh and debauchery. Michael is all for orgies, but he keeps them on the down low. And not once have we seen him smile.
If SYFY really wants to have the next great geek obsession series, I think they need to take a cue from the BBC. Dominion’s main heroes (Michael and Alex) are good looking, but they are so stern! Look to Doctor Who or Sherlock. Give us a hero who is written complexly, yes, but also please give him some spark of personality. It’s come out that BBC once worried that David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch weren’t sexy enough to draw people in. (Oh, BBC you are hilariously wrong!) But a chief element to the appeal of one’s Doctor and the other’s consulting detective was their verve! Basically, I’m hoping that Michael and Alex loosen up a bit. Yes, we’re talking about the fight for mankind’s very existence. But that never kept The Doctor from enjoying a smile here or there, or failing that throwing down some menacing monologues. Take a cue from Doctor Who, SYFY! Or else Alex and Michael will be too dull to root for.
Kristy Puchko (@KristyPuchko) is a New York-based film critic, entertainment writer, and co-host of the movie review podcast Popcorn and Prosecco. When she’s not eat/sleep/breathing all things film, she can be found nerding out over board games, Adventure Time, Game of Thrones, or Jeff Goldblum.