Damien is not at all the show I expected it to be, and I think that ultimately proves to be a good thing. This isn’t the direction I would have thought to take the material, but by virtue of simply being a different take it sets us up for many more surprises than we would expect. While there are no huge twists in the pilot, there are still a few unexpected turns. This is no small feat, because much of the episode is spent rehashing the events of the original film.
The reason for this is that Damien has no memory, at least at first, of his childhood. He gets glimpses, but that’s about it. As the audience, we see glimpses of visions through stock footage from the original film, something that is definitely a pleasant surprise in the age of the remake. There’s actually great continuity between the series and the Donner movie, at least so far. And while it can drag on a bit for those already in the know, I definitely understand the need to bring everyone up to speed on the events of The Omen as it is a forty year old feature.
If you are a diehard fan of the Omen franchise as a whole, then you might walk away disappointed. While there’s a strong respect for continuity, it is only the continuity of the original. The second, third and fourth films are all outright ignored. If you can overlook this, you’ll have an easier time getting into the story. While one could make the joke that only the original should be remembered, the reality here is that freedom from series continuity means freedom for the story they are trying to tell. It’s an interesting story so far and I’m at least curious to see how it develops.
Damien’s characterization is interesting here. We’ve established him as a full-grown man, just turning thirty when we are introduced to him in the pilot. As mentioned, he has no distinct memories of his childhood. Whatever evil seemed outright in the film has been reshaped as a “dark cloud” that Damien feels has been hanging over him his entire life. This new version of Damien is a photojournalist. He’s very good at what he does, from everything we see, although the episode quickly shifts away from his assignment in Syria to a new story he’s attempting to get to the bottom of: his own.
He has several questions about himself, but they’re questions that one could absolutely see Damien asking given the context of the original film. What happened to his parents? Why were people killing themselves in his honor? Why is it that everywhere he goes, he meets people who know more about him than he probably ever will?
That point proves to be the most interesting, especially in terms of setting up a series. In the film, there were several people who either knew about Damien or had been predicting the coming of the antichrist in some form. Now, these characters can develop on their own and represent different ideologies. Some people will still want to destroy him, whether he is truly evil or not. Some will want to see that evil inside of him fully explored and embraced. We’re introduced to a couple of people who fit this bill in the pilot. Although it’s tough to tell at this point where those allegiances truly lie. Both parties, I suspect, will make it interesting for him as the series develops.
Damien is a solid start to a series, better than I was expecting, but it does waste a bit too much time telling us what we already know. Still, it’s a compelling pilot hinting at a larger story that will surely hold many surprises to come.
WICKED RATING: [usr 7]