Calling last week’s episode an underwhelming hour of television would be a gross understatement. Thankfully, it ended on one heck of a good cliffhanger. Much like in the novella/movie, two of the Project Arrowhead have killed themselves, either out of guilt or a horrific fear about what’s going to happen next. Before we check in on the mall where they’re hanging out (heh…sorry), let’s see how things are back at the church, first.
Cast Down from Above
The episode opens with everyone cooling their heels in the sanctuary and looking more bored than the show’s creature effects team. Since driving around in the mist worked out so well the last time, Kevin (terrible dad) and Adrian (eye liner) begin devising a plan to obtain a car, leave the church, and go find Alex (traumatized daughter) and Eve (badass mom).
He first goes to Sheriff Heisel (asshole dad to Jay) and proposes a truce before asking if he can take Mia (junkie) and Jonah (amnesiac soldier) with him to the mall, which goes about as well as you’d expect. Sheriff Heisel also informs Kevin that Mia is suspected of murder, which is actually a pretty solid argument for not letting her leave from his standpoint.
Kevin reacts to this by calling Sheriff Heisel an asshole and saying he became a cop just so he could feel important and arrest people…which is probably true, but definitely not helping things. Sheriff Heisel proceeds to spite Kevin by proving him right, taking Mia and Jonah and locking them in the church’s basement.
A Warm Shoulder
Jonah begins digging through the church’s old files. Mia remains cuffed to a pole and suffering from the effects of withdrawal. She asks Jonah for her jacket because she’s cold. He gives her his military jacket instead. When she insists on wearing her own, Jonah (to the surprise of no one) pulls out a bottle of pills and asks if this is what she
was looking for. Then, to the surprise of everyone, Jonah gives her the pills. He also manages to unlock her handcuffs with a paperclip he found in the files and says they should try and trust each other.
Jonah tells Mia about how he woke up in the mountains and didn’t remember anything about himself. Mia replies that his situation actually sounds preferable to hers. She begins to cry while Jonah comforts her.
“It’s okay…at least we don’t have to listen to Kevin anymore…”
Later, Kevin comes to the door and tells Mia and Jonah that he’ll get them out of the basement. He also asks Mia if she knows how to hotwire a car. She’s gets pissed that he would so blatantly stereotype her as a career criminal before admitting that yes, she totally can.
Back in the sanctuary, Adrian talks to Father Romanov (Beard Priest) about being scared and seeking comfort through God. The two actually start having a meaningful conversation about how God loves everyone no matter what homophobic things people throw his away before Sheriff Heisel butts in, accusing Adrian of lying about Jay raping Alex. When Kevin walks in and sticks up for his daughter and Adrian, Heisel kicks things up a notch and implies that Alex is a slut just like her mom was.
This sets off Kevin enough to FINALLY do what we’ve all wanted to and attack Heisel…who easily subdues him and throws him down in basement jail with Jonah and Mia.
Way to go Kevin.
Elsewhere in the church, Mrs. Raven (Diet Ms. Carmody) discusses her thoughts about the mist with Mikhail, one of the people who helped her get the wine to toast her husband last episode. He also has a tattoo of a death’s-head moth on his back, which might as well be accompanied by a tramp stamp of the word FORESHADOWING.
Mrs. Raven mentions her interest/knowledge about a similar nature-related disaster conspiracy theory from 1860. Mikhail reveals that he knows the incident as something called “Black Spring,” a local urban legend that is passed down from one generation to the next. Mikhail also says that he did some terrible things in his past—bad enough to put him in jail for six years—which means that if this is another “Black Spring,” he’d be the first to die (FORESHADOWING).
Later, back in the sanctuary, Mrs. Raven decides that she’s going to walk out into the mist and die so she can be with her husband again…which is a little weird since she’d previously expressed a complete disbelief in a spiritual afterlife. When Mikhail tries to stop her, she clarifies things by stating that she has no business being alive and walks out the church’s front door into the mist.
Mikhail follows her outside. As he begs her not to go, a lone death’s-head moth flies into his ear. Mikhail freaks out (like any of us would) and takes off his shirt. He turns his back to Mrs. Raven (and the television audience), exposing his death’s-head moth tattoo as the skin beneath it begins to writhe and pull. When he turns back around to face her, moth wings have sprung from his back, which Mrs. Raven declares are “beautiful.” The others come outside and attempt to pull Mrs. Raven back inside, who continues to stare hungrily stare at the dying Mikhail in a way that’s somehow even creepier than the way Jay looks at Alex.
Milkhail’s mouth opens, releasing a swarm of death’s-head moths. He finally collapses and dies as the others manage to pull Mrs. Raven back inside.
“ARRGH! Why didn’t I get a tattoo of a bottle of bourbon instead?”
After they close the door, she declares that she no longer wants to die and is happy now because she’s seen God. When the Father Romanov declares that Mikhail sprouting wings and spewing insects out his mouth before dropping dead has nothing to do with the Almighty, Mrs. Raven chillingly responds “I’m not talking about your God.”
In the aftermath of the Mikhail Butterfly Effect, Adrian and Father Romanov revive their discussion about the existence/nature of God. Romanov believes that their current trials are a test of faith. Surprisingly, Adrian seems to agree, even asking if Father Romanov would be willing to baptize him.
This spiritually sweet moment is ruined when Romanov performs what might be the most aggressive and belligerent baptism, which Adrian uses to secretly pilfer Romanov’s church keys. Once the baptism is over, he heads over to the basement and unlocks it, freeing Kevin, Mia, and Jonah. All four of them head toward the church exit just as Sheriff Heisel rounds the corner. Kevin (FINALLY) kicks the dude’s ass, allowing them to escape outside into the mist as a visibly hurt Father Romanov realizes he got totally played.
Let the Bodies Hit the Floor
Back at the mall, Eve attempts to comfort Alex, which doesn’t go well.
Meanwhile, Gus (mall manager/guy from The Wire), Kyle (security guard), and Jay (quarterback/suspected rapist) are cutting down the dead bodies they found in the bathroom. It’s during this gruesome process that they discover both corpses are wearing military dog tags. Gus wonders aloud why the military would be in the mall (because of course people in the military never go shopping together).
After getting the bodies down and placed into shopping carts, the trio thoughtfully wheels them in front of the rest of the group. Gus once again shows his fine-tuned situational awareness by proclaiming that the bodies cannot stay there because the resulting health code violations would shut down the food court.
At this point, two characters we haven’t heard much from start laughing and making snide remarks. Gus responds by angrily berating the pair, declaring that their video game store has always been the “embarrassment” of the mall. (Guess that means they don’t have a Hot Topic).
After Gamers #1 and #2 skulk off, Gus decides they’ll keep the bodies in the grocery store freezer. He also says that he and Kyle are searching everyone for dog tags, causing Wes, the lone surviving member of the Arrowhead Click, to attempt to flee…although I have no idea where he though he could go.
When they catch him and ask what’s going on, Wes angrily screams that he’s only a private and doesn’t know anything (ha!).
Eve decides that she and Alex should find somewhere to camp away from her daughter’s alleged rapist. It’s a smart decision that is almost immediately negated when she leaves Alex to look for supplies alone.
As expected, Jay finds Alex and corners her. To his credit, though, he uses the opportunity to swear that he didn’t do anything. When she refuses to believe him, he claims that the fact he stood up for her and Adrian when his friends made fun of them is proof he didn’t do anything (ugh). He also says that although he did take her upstairs, all he did after that was put her in a bed, put a blanket over her, and left her alone to sleep off her (drug-infused) stupor.
Okay, so maybe Jay isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed—leaving a clearly inebriated young girl in a bed alone with a house full of horny/drunk dudes—but maybe he’s not a rapist, either.
Unfortunately, Jay obliterates any goodwill he may have fostered by insisting that Alex let him touch her hand to see that he won’t harm her. He actually whispers “I’ll touch it and let it go” and “Let me touch you” while inching closer to her, which is about the most rapey thing a person could possibly do short of full blown sexual assault.
“How about no, you creepy slick-haired bastard?”
Thankfully, Jay does manage to only “touch it and let it go” before once again insisting he wouldn’t hurt her and walking away (although I would have much preferred it if Eve showed up and shot him in the dick). When Alex finds her mom again, she tells her about Jay’s promise never to hurt her. Eve assures Alex that no, she never will have to worry about Jay harming her again—but heavily implies that it will be due to her kicking his ass if needed.
After returning to their store, Gamers 1 and 2 pretend to play video games on a blank big screen TV—just in case we needed to another reminder that they are poorly conceived walking stereotypes. They eventually come up with the brilliant idea to wheel the Arrowhead soldiers’ dead bodies outside to see if it attracts whatever is out there to show itself.
They get the bodies, wheel them outside…and nothing happens. Later, Wes wanders in (they’re just letting him walking around I guess), sees the Gamer Dudes parking lot fishing with the bodies of his dead friends, and goes ballistic. This brings a large number of the mall survivors over to intervene, including Gus, who decides that they can’t go outside to retrieve the bodies. He also declares that it’s time the mall people begin establishing a set of rules. Back in the main concourse area, Gus asks for people to come with rules that would like to see enacted, which would then be voted on by the entire group.
“Another vote for Spencer’s Gifts as the sleeping area. Damn it, people…”
It starts off well enough (rationing food, no looting), but takes a dark turn when Security Guard Kyle says they should deal with anyone who endangers the group by throwing them outside into the CGI mist.
As the group debates the morality of this latest proposal, Even, Alice, Kimi (nice water bottle lady) and Raj (dude I incorrectly identified as a security guard last week) decide that this situation is headed into Lord of the Flies territory and split off from the group to another part of the mall.
As they leave, Gus and Wes plead with them to stay. Jay soon joins in on the fun by confronting Alex and asking that she tell her mom about how he’s really a good guy. He even has to the gall to say that she should stay because what they’re doing is a democracy.
Eve responds by pulling out her gun and taking off the safety. It’s a truly badass moment…which is immediately ruined when she utters “I always was an anarchist,” which made me cringe so hard that it felt like I might sprout wings out of my back too.
Gus wisely decides to let them leave along with a few other families, but also tells them not to come back when things get bad.
Eve leads her group to a loading dock, where they set up camp and hopefully await an eventual homage to the loading dock scene from the original source material.
Later, Eve finds Alex in a room filled with red balloons, writing ‘PLEASE HELP’ notes to attach to them. She looks like she’s about to tell her daughter that what’s she’s doing is a waste of time, but it really isn’t, especially since the balloons are in absolutely no danger of being popped by a horrific flying creature SINCE THERE ARE NO MONSTERS ON THIS FREAKING SHOW!
Ahem…sorry about that. Anyway, Even asks if she can help. Alice says yes and they share a nice moment. The final shot of the episode shows the group watching as the red balloons float off into the mist, providing observant Stephen King fans with a nice little easter egg while also serving as a stark reminder how much I’d rather be reading It than watching this show right now.
“Maybe one of the balloons will end up at a library.”
Okay, so let’s talk about the actual mist itself. Aside from the bad CGI, my main issue is that the rules and mechanics of it don’t make much sense. If you are not a main character, then the mist can totally wreck you, either through a lethal bug attack or driving you insane. If you are a main character, however, the worst you’ll deal with is low visibility and/or pleasant hallucinations.
I know Mikhail said that thing about being punished, but it doesn’t line up with what
we’ve seen before. Did Roofus the dog deserve to get sliced up? No, I bet he was a very good boy. And remember the police officer who died in the first episode? I wanted to punch him in the face when he started taking selfies, too, but he certainly didn’t deserve to have his skull overtaken by cockroaches. Also, if Mikhail did deserve to be punished, then turning him into a winged month dispenser seems like at best an arbitrary method done simply for a cool/gorey moment.
And speaking of moths and cockroaches, large (but still relatively small) insects do not count as monsters. I live in South Carolina. If I don’t put roach discs in the garage for a couple weeks, then I’ll see things that look a hell of a lot more terrifying.
I know, I know…humans are the real monsters. We got that. It’s not only a very common trope, but basically the show’s tagline, as well.
But that doesn’t mean you get to skimp out on showing us creatures and pretend it’s all in the name of suspense.
And don’t even get me started on the Alex and Jay subplot. Even as someone who thinks people often overanalyze entertainment media to find things to be offended over, this part of the show makes me sick to my stomach. Like I said before, the subject of rape doesn’t have to be off limits, but it needs to be handled with care. Jay closing in on Alex and whispering “Let me touch you” while proclaiming his innocence feels like cheap ploy for tension rather than a meaningful character moment.
Even acting performances, which were the one thing I had consistently enjoyed about the show so far, weren’t very good. It’s hard to blame the actual actors themselves, though, especially when they’re given lines like “I always was an anarchist.” The video game store clerks make Beavis and Butthead seemed nuanced, while Kevin has already begun digressing toward in Rick Grimes (The Walking Dead) Season 6 territory. As one of the show’s designated leaders, this guy hasn’t done anything besides screw up constantly and get one lucky (and severely overdue) punch against Sheriff Heisel, who himself is about as subtle a villain as Snidely Whiplash.
At least Frances Conroy as Nathalie Raven is still killing it, although I fear she’s about to begin a painfully forced/condensed character arc into crazy tow—although that could be interested if it’s done well. Unfortunately, the first three episodes of The Mist have failed to instill any confidence that things will improve. Perhaps we’ll at least get a cool looking monster next week…
…0r maybe the entire cast will sprout wings and fly away along with all the red balloons.