Dominion "Broken Places" Review: The Writing on the Wall
We're still very early in Dominion's run, but "Broken Places" felt a little bit like a transitional episode. Not to say that this was a slow hour; it was, however, one where characters were making deals and scheming for things that might not pay off for a number of episodes. In fact, it's a good sign that Dominion could churn out an episode like this while keeping the story moving forward. I wouldn't necessarily say that Episodes 2 and 3 have been EXCITING, but I'm impressed at how easily the show took its foot off the gas pedal after the pilot without turning into an exposition-heavy slog.
If last week's episode was all about the actors finding more comfort and rhythm in their performances, "Broken Places" was about the writing catching up to the performances. For a show that started so haywire, this episode did a solid job in exhibiting the different shades of these characters. Even clearly villainous folks like Gabriel and David were given a couple of moments to appear more likable, or at least more invested in the value of relationships with other people (or angels). Thus, while David has no problem throwing his weight around and threatening Arika using his caged lion (not a metaphor), he also seemed at least partially concerned about her emotional state once he discovered her sister's head in a box. Apparently Arika's wife has seen Se7en.
Similarly, this episode began with Gabriel destroying a diner full of innocent humans just to prove to William that he needs to be unafraid of the blood and death that's surely to come in this war, but it also ended with the villainous angel taking out one of his own just to prove that no one gets to his brother Michael. Heck, even the traitor William was given more time this week so that we could see that some (though I don't know how much) of his allegiance to Gabriel stems from a real belief that he can bring God back to Earth. He also, surprisingly, really wanted to respect Claire's wishes regarding the wedding. Though these weren't massive moments and these characters are still likely to serve as the show's primary antagonists, the less cartoonish they are, the better, especially if Dominion is going to continue to take itself this seriously.
Two of the show's "good guys" made concessions that are going to have long-term consequences for the story. After ignoring her father's wishes in the last episode and berating him about his attempts to look strong politically in the aftermath of the high angel attack, Claire agreed to marry the craven William. That's a big sacrifice to be made in the name of installing "basic human rights" into Vega, particularly when dangerous scumbags like David Whele are plotting in secret (and only barely so) to keep Vega the way it is, and to remove General Riesen from power.
Meanwhile, Alex's escape from Vega didn't last long, as Michael found out and convinced The Chosen One to take a drive to what ended up being his childhood home—or at least the place where Jeep would take him when not driving himself mad trying to understand the tattoos. These sequences worked well enough, despite an excess in exposition. Not only did Alex have visions about his father's drunken nights trying to crack the tattoo code, but then Michael had to deliver long descriptions of what happened to Jeep, Alex's mother, and so on. We can give those sort of monologues a pass because this is information that Alex didn't totally know himself, and because both Tom Wisdom and Christopher Egan sold the material, but there was quite a bit of "I did this and that for you, you just didn't know it"-type stuff and that can wear thin. Nevertheless, Alex's choice to ride with Michael didn't end up going so well, as the bad-ass angel in the red suit, Furian, appeared again for another brawl with Michael and this time, Big Red took it home.
Clearly Michael isn't going to die, and even the idea of a mortal stab wound this early in the show is kind of lame. However, that move did signal that this powerful being could be gone at any time, leaving the humans to fend for themselves. That highlights Michael's importance but also suggests that Alex is going to have to get his crap together to not just to provide protection or guidance or whatever to everyone in this abstract, Chosen One way, but for those he actually holds close. The show can't waste too much time with him completely refusing the call to action and Michael's sudden injuries are likely the catalyst to get Alex going down the savior path.
Last week, I wondered about the kind of show Dominion was going to become. "Broken Places" tells me that on a week-to-week basis, the show won't operate on the level of insanity seen in the pilot episode and in fact, it might be time to write off the messiness of that first episode as simply a byproduct of having to deal with a complicated premise, the relationship to Legion's narrative, and more. This version of the show isn't spectacular or even good yet, but the people involved are clearly starting to figure out what they want Dominion's story to be and what kind of things they can do to produce the best version of that story. Reigning in the acting and sharpening up the characters in Episodes 2 and 3 are fine ways to make that happen, but it does still feel like something is missing. From here, the challenge will be trying to weave some of those bigger themes and concepts alluded to in the first episode back into this version of Dominion. The budget isn't big enough to make this an all-out action extravaganza and the writers don't seem too interested in turning into a more playfully aware dumb show. It can't just be plot. But Dominion has been better every week thus far. That's a good sign, right?
– After last week's big cliffhanger, not a whole lot was said here about General Riesen and his angel sidepiece. She seemed resentful of how he spoils her in that it keeps her away from the rest of her kind, but there's certainly more to be explored there. But he did tell Claire about his illness, so that's something. Wouldn't shock me to learn that his relationship and his illness are related somehow.
– David presented a plan to Senator Thorne that would ask Michael to submit to testing so that people could better understand the archangel. That didn't go over very well, and it didn't even make it to Michael. At least Thorne had something to do this week; weird that the show hasn't dedicated any time to her not-so-secret relationship (at least to David) with Michael. Where are my late night orgy scenes?!
– I have to hand it to the show, the effects and the costuming look better than I would have imagined. The angel wings and the high angel costumes are particularly appealing. The show is already over-using the whole "wings blocking bullets" approach to combat, but at least the wings look cool when seen up close.
– How about that acolyte meeting, huh? You have to be really committed to something to let two dozen strangers watch your midsection get vice gripped nearly to death. There hasn't been a lot of information given about this group in the story, but like many things on this show, there's potential for something interesting.
What'd you think of "Broken Places?" Is this a show you've decided to stick with?
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