Where You Lead: Thoughts on the ‘Gilmore Girls’ Revival

‘Where you lead, I will follow anywhere that you tell me to. If you need, you need me to be with you, I will follow where you lead…’ -Carole King and Louise Goffin, ‘Where You Lead’

*This post contains major spoilers about Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. Read at your own risk.*

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Gilmore Girls has had a special place in my heart since the first episode aired 16 years ago. I watched it with my own mother and never missed an episode. The episode about Rory’s 16th birthday ‘Rory’s Birthday Parties’ aired on my own 16th birthday, so I grew up with Rory Gilmore (Alexis Bledel). When I heard about A Year in the Life, I was both excited and apprehensive. I wanted to see what came of the characters but thought Gilmore Girls wrapped up nicely. Even though I always wondered what the last four words that were hyped up for over 10 years were supposed to be, I never felt like it needed a revival. I was also worried a revival would ruin the mark Gilmore Girls left on me, remembering other disappointing revivals. (I’m looking at you, Arrested Development!) Unlike the others, Gilmore Girls was especially personal to me, so I tried to keep my expectations low.

My excitement and apprehension were both warranted. I enjoyed it overall, and it brought me back to my teenage years. Seeing so many old characters – and Mr. Kim! – felt like a fun, quirky family reunion. Ignoring the musical in ‘Summer’ and ridiculous Life & Death Brigade scene in ‘Fall,’ both of which lasted way too long, and other serious issues that I’ll get to, there was a lot to love about Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.

While it was difficult to watch without the late Edward Herrmann as Richard Gilmore, it was interesting to see how everyone processed his death. Richard’s death led to some brilliant work, most notably by MVP Kelly Bishop, who will surely (finally) be nominated for her role as Emily Gilmore. Watching Emily mourn the loss of her husband made for surprisingly incredibly entertaining television. It was always fun to see dignified, pretentious Emily cut loose in the original series, and Richard’s death gave her permission to do that. Her Candies T-shirt and jeans were only the beginning of the fun, carefree Emily we saw at the end of A Year in the Life. She even let a maid, who spoke a language no one knew, and her whole family move in with her, ending the running gag of Emily firing all her maids. This storyline also continued another Gilmore tradition: casting the same actors in multiple roles with Rose Abdoo playing both the maid and Gypsy. As sad as it was, Richard’s death gave us a new Emily we never knew we always wanted to see, and it was glorious.

Other highlights include Lorelai’s (Lauren Graham) award-worthy, tearjerking monologue about her thirteen birthday; Paris (Liza Weil) and her classic Paris freakout over Tristan; Alex Kingston’s appearance as the nutty Naomi Shropshire; Luke (Scott Patterson) and Lorelai’s beautiful wedding accompanied by the perfect song (though I’m still not sure why Michel and Lane were there); the Secret Bar; Kirk (Sean Gunn) being Kirk; Luke’s fake wifi passwords; questions about a dog called Sherlock being gay (Sherlock and Johnlock fans should understand why that’s funny); the return of Miss Celine (Alex Borstein); and Jess (Milo Ventimiglia) seeming to be closer to Lorelai.

Despite so many great points, I had major issues with one character from beginning to end: Rory. Her storyline ruined a lot of the revival for me. It’s time to take off the rose-coloured glasses and see Rory for who she is. I’ve always been open about my disdain for Rory, but I had hope it’d change in the revival now that she’s grown up. I’ve always seen Rory as the type who wanted what/who she couldn’t have and acted entitled to it/him. She became more and more unbearable as the series went on, and the same was true in A Year in the Life.

The jokes about Rory and everyone else forgetting her long-term boyfriend Paul (Jack Carpenter) were funny at first. Then we found out she was cheating on him with her engaged ex, Logan (Matt Czuchry). She flew to and from London regularly, even leaving her grandfather’s funeral early, to ‘work’ and see Logan. Rory’s never had a problem with cheating, whether it was kissing Jess when she was with Dean (Jared Padalecki) or sleeping with Dean when he was married. The first time could be chalked up to a mistake by a young girl; at 32, it’s a pattern. The affair is terrible in its own right, but to make it worse, her relationship with Paul was played off as a joke the whole time with her constantly reminding herself, ‘I need to break up with that guy.’ It could have been somewhat redeemable if she’d actually done so, but it never happened until the very end when Paul broke up with her in a text, naively citing scheduling conflicts.

When Rory slept with a married Dean in season four, she caused drama for everyone, and Lorelai called her out on it. It seemed as though she eventually learned her lesson, but her affair with Logan showed the opposite. When Lorelai found out she was having an affair with Logan, the main focus for both of them was that Rory had a one-night stand with a different man in a Wookiee costume while on a writing assignment. The horror! Never mind that it’s unrealistic for all these guys (We’ll get to the other one later) to still be hung up on Rory or for her to be hung up on them 10+ years later; it shows that Rory still selfishly wants what she can’t have and has learned nothing from the drama with Dean.

Logan wasn’t the only thing Rory thought she was entitled to by being Rory Gilmore. She was working as a freelance writer with her heart set on working for Condé Nast, but her meetings kept getting rescheduled. Her general attitude was that she loved journalism and deserved to work there, but the work we saw her do and her lack of professionalism (Again, Wookiee) did not back it up. This article outlines the reasons she’s not actually a good journalist, no matter how much the writers try to make her out to be. Maybe it’s time to accept that Mitchum Huntzberger (Gregg Henry) wasn’t really the villain he was made out to be and was right about Rory not having what it takes to be a good journalist. Rory still hasn’t proven herself to be the Christiane Amanpour she aspired to be but couldn’t believe it herself. A Web site called Sandee Says was initially interested in her work, but she turned her nose up at them, believing it was beneath her. When Lorelai convinced her to accept an interview with them, Rory didn’t prepare and blamed them for not just giving her the job she thought was hers. Rory also thought she was too good to get a master’s degree to teach at Chilton. She eventually took a non-paying job as editor at the Stars Hollow Gazette. Are we to assume that Rory’s become a trust fund kid who doesn’t have to work for money and food because she stayed with family and friends?

With her love life and career in turmoil, Rory returned to Stars Hollow but refused to accept/acknowledge that she was ‘back.’ She bragged in ‘Winter’ about bouncing around from place to place, essentially homeless, but acted as though there’s shame in temporarily returning home in your 30s. Star Hollow’s 30-Something Gang are 30-somethings who returned home, like Rory, and wanted her to join their circle. Rory was too good to associate herself with such pathetic losers. She barely even hung out with the seriously underused Lane (Keiko Agena). Instead, Rory pretty much stayed in her own Gilmore Bubble.

The problem with these faults is they don’t come across how they’re written. Rory has always been worshipped by everyone around her – her mom, Luke, Dean, Jess, everyone in Stars Hollow. Even when she’s awful, the writers’ intention was to empathise and feel sorry that Poor Rory she can’t get whatever she wants. Fans are starting to see through it, but the writers don’t seem to understand how difficult it is to root for her, acting as though she deserves everything because she’s Rory Gilmore. In an interview with TIME, creator Amy Sherman-Palladino said before the revival that fans should be asking if Rory had a Pulitzer yet, instead of focusing on her love life. She claimed, ‘Everybody should go back and think about their boyfriend at 16 and then reevaluate whether that should be the focus of the conversation.’ As true as this is, it’s a complete contradiction to A Year in the Life. So much of it revolved around Rory’s love life, and at the end, Jess still pined for her. Rory and Logan weren’t much older when they were together, yet they were still involved years later, even though both were in relationships. So much for not focusing on young relationships.

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Actual complaint from someone who can fly to London regularly but apparently can’t buy underwear. (Via ET)

Rather than redeeming Rory for everything in what was likely the end of Gilmore Girls, there was a lingering vibe that we were intended to feel sorry for Rory because she didn’t have a real job or underwear. Her actions and attitude made it too difficult to pity her. Jess was the only one who always called her out in the original series. I spent the revival hoping he would find out everything she was doing and set her straight. Instead, Jess – who was great up until his last scene – became Luke 2.0, continuing to fawn over her like everyone else. (Run, Jess! You’re too good for her now!) He even inspired her to do something with her life and write a book. Even with her book plans, Rory was never redeemed; no apologies to Paul or anyone else were given. It seemed as though the writers didn’t think she needed redemption.

In the disappointing last four words we’d heard about for over 10 years, Rory revealed she was pregnant, presumably with Logan’s baby. Some have called for a spin-off, but it’d be pointless when the story came full circle to an extent: Rory became Lorelai, Logan became Christopher (David Sutcliffe), and Jess became Luke. Rory regressed since the original series and apparently learned nothing from her own mother. The difference between Rory and Lorelai is that Rory’s not 16, could potentially break up an engagement, and wouldn’t be raising her baby on her own or without financial means.

Any revival has its strengths and weaknesses, and even with that one major complaint, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life was not as disappointing as some revivals. I don’t have much faith for another revival, but everything was wrapped up enough that there’s no need for one. It focused on the most important characters – the three Gilmore girls – and did justice to two of them. It was interesting to see Rory at the age Lorelai was at the start of the show and see what become of everyone in Stars Hollow. For all my disappointment about Rory’s storyline, Gilmore Girls‘ place in my heart remains and probably always will.

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The Gilmore life in a nutshell. (Via Livingly)

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66 Reasons “Damien” Deserves a Second Life

In the wake of A&E’s cancellation of Damien after only one season, passions for this unique show have continued to run high. This list was written before the news of the cancellation broke and was initially aimed at A&E for renewal, so only minor edits have been made. Here’s my Hail Mary – or Hail Satan – to get Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Chiller, AMC, SyFy, or FX to pick Damien up for a second season.

1. It’s the smartest show on TV. You have to pay close attention to catch everything.

2. Naturally, the smartest show also has smart fans. Read the insightful questions Damien creator Glen Mazzara answered in the post-finale Twitter Q&A, and it’s clear what kinds of people the show attracts.

3. As mentioned in my previous article, 10 Reasons You Should Be Watching A&E’s “Damien”, it makes you think about and question everything.

4. The finale made fans want more and left them satisfied, rather than frustrated, unlike traditional cliffhangers.

5. We need to know whose hand that was in the finale. No spoilers, but if you saw the finale, you know what I mean. (It was Amani’s, right? I need it to be Amani’s.)

6. It’s more of a long movie than a regular, serial TV series. Every scene is significant. No filler.

7. It’s easy to rewatch and binge-watch.

8. It’s not preachy. No matter your religion (or lack thereof), you can enjoy it. It makes you see every side. This is no easy feat, especially on a show about the Antichrist, but Damien does it masterfully.

9. Season one was about Damien’s journey to accepting/becoming the Antichrist. Now that he’s traded his soul, the possibilities for season two are endless. Will he still fight to hold on to any remaining humanity? How will he be different?

10. Glen Mazzara is the creator/showrunner. The Shield, The Walking Dead, etc. Need I say more? We need more of his genius, twisted, beautiful mind on Damien.

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11. Such gorgeous cinematography is rarely seen on TV. It looks like a movie. Every detail has been carefully considered and has meaning.

12. Every character is fleshed out and well-developed. No role is small or wasted.

13. If that was Amani’s hand, what will happen when he sees Damien? How will he change? Will Damien finally really let Amani in or keep him at a distance?

14. Damien sold his soul to protect someone he loved. Will he continue to try to protect the people he cares about? Will he look out only for his own self-interest?

15. Cinematic television is the future. Let Damien help pave the way.

16. With strong female characters, who aren’t there for love triangles, it passes the Bechdel test. When women talk about Damien, it’s always “How do we start/stop this?” If the women were replaced with men, the conversations would mostly be the same.

17. Your theories are wrong 99.9% of the time, but you’re shocked and pleased, not upset, when all is revealed. Expect the unexpected.

18. There’s a lot of religious imagery and symbolism – Simone Baptiste washing Damien’s feet, the seven-headed dragon, etc. Things like this are what make it the smartest show on TV.

19. We need to learn more about Damien’s powers. Does he have complete control over his powers now, or do some things happen as an emotional response? Is he able to stop himself from killing? Would he even want to now?

20. Bradley James is phenomenal as Damien, exceeding undoubtedly high expectations. He is the definitive Damien. Damien is a challenging role, especially with 25 years of missing backstory, but he is exceptional. I’ve always said he has the most expressive face, and that helps make his performance subtle without ever being over-the-top, which would be easy in this role. He deserves every award for his outstanding portrayal of this complex character.

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Iconic in so many ways.

21. Homages to The Omen – Few series would be able to reference and weave clips from source material into a show so flawlessly.

22. The smile (above) at the end of the finale showed Damien finally at peace. No more running from the “dark cloud.” I’ve always been a sucker for tortured souls but even more so for “evil” tortured souls. I need more happily evil Damien.

23. Ann’s backstory – What’s the real story about her husband and daughter? Does her carving the “666” into her leg mean that she wasn’t a true/born follower but chose to become one? She’s so intriguing.

24. It’s terrifying and only gets more scary with each episode. Not afraid of the dark? You will be!

25. Damien and Amani “You look like shit.” “You look like an undertaker.” Whether they’re teasing like brothers or taking care of each other (usually Amani caring for Damien), their chemistry is palpable. Bradley James’ and Omid Abtahi’s real friendship translates to the screen.

26. No matter what happens or how messed up it seems, it always remains truthful. It feels like it’s taking place in the real world.

27. How will Damien trading his soul and accepting his role change the choices he makes? We need to see how he plays judge, jury, and executioner.

28. What would you do if you found out you were the Antichrist? Would you embrace it or be conflicted? How far would you go to save the ones you love? There aren’t many shows that encourage self-awareness and force us to think about difficult questions. There are even fewer shows that could make a traditionally “evil” character sympathetic and relatable without getting campy.

29. Foreshadowing – I wondered what the significance was with part of Simone’s head being cut out in “Seven Curses” but dismissed it at the time because the entire sequence was bizarre. Its purpose was revealed in “Ave Satani.” So smart.

30. The legendary Barbara Hershey is brilliant as Ann Rutledge. She, too, deserves every award for her work on Damien, and her passion for the role is evident in both her performance and her interactions with fans. She has the power to make you question her motives one minute and feel for her character the next. She’s just as vulnerable as she is strong. It’s clear that she loves Human Damien as much as she loves Antichrist Damien.

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That’s why we love Ann. We won’t panic (yet), either!

31. Fans everywhere are as loyal to Damien as Amani is to Damien! Damien hasn’t aired in most other countries yet, but it has a loyal fanbase worldwide. Many of its biggest fans live in places where it hasn’t premiered. I remain baffled that it never aired in the UK (where Bradley James is from and has a following) and was cancelled a week before its premiere in Latin America. Still, there’s a passionate international fanbase, even after only 10 episodes.

32. Why didn’t Damien ever kill Detective Shay, who was a threat to him early on? How will things change between them after Shay’s actions in the finale?

33. Despite being a show about evil, Damien has the nicest cast and crew. I’ve met Glen Mazzara and Omid Abtahi, and everyone I’ve come in contact with on/behind the show (not to mention the lovely fans!) has been exceptionally nice. Glen Mazzara and Barbara Hershey regularly interact with fans on Twitter. They’re the kinds of people you want to succeed.

34. It’s not afraid to take chances and ruffle feathers. The risks always pay off. “Seven Curses” almost didn’t make it to air because network execs were worried about it being too much. It ended up being one of Damien‘s best episodes. More series should be so daring.

35. It turns stereotypes on their heads. Nuns aren’t always good; the son of the devil isn’t totally evil; women aren’t weak. (I’ll share the other examples later.)

36. A&E only had one other scripted series, Bates Motel, and didn’t seem to really know how to handle Damien. Cancelling it could be a blessing in disguise if another network will pick it up. Netflix, especially, values quality over quantity (ie. ratings) and its edgy content would make it an excellent fit for Damien.

37. Bear McCreary’s score is breathtaking. Often reminiscent of the music in The Omen, it remains modern and only adds to the scenes in which it is used, never taking away from anything.

38. How much control does Damien have over others’ free will? Will he encourage people to do things or commit murder for him in the future or will he continue to try to stop them sometimes?

39. A Middle Eastern character who’s not a terrorist, has an American accent, whose ethnicity doesn’t affect the plot, AND is a main character? Who would have thought such a crazy idea could be possible?! Glen Mazzara, that’s who.

40. Omid Abtahi is insanely amazing as Damien’s best friend Amani. While I love all of the characters in different ways and don’t have a favourite (besides Damien), I’m admittedly partial to Amani. He provides comic relief, in addition to stability and protection for Damien. Even when he thought Damien was being dramatic, he stuck with him, despite the Antichrist thing. He’s loyal and fearless.

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Damien fans are just like Amani – there till the very end.

41. Even Detective Shay’s son is interesting. Maybe he’s just there to push Shay to Damien, but he’s actually very significant. I have my own (likely incorrect) theories about him and want to learn more in season two.

42. How will Damien’s relationship with Ann change now? Will he accept her and trust her? Will she guide him more?

43. It has funny moments. Amani has some great lines, and even Damien can be funny. I loved the bug in the coffee scene in “Seven Curses.” (Did Damien’s presence cause it to commit suicide?) One of my favourite lines is Damien’s snarky, “What about the Antichrist thing? You got a pill for that?” I’d kill to see some dark comedy when Damien has no soul.

44. It’s diverse on- and off-screen. The cast is obviously diverse, and some of the best episodes were written or directed by women. Glen Mazzara is often commended for being inclusive, and most would (hopefully) agree that Hollywood needs more diversity.

45. Where are all the daggers of Megiddo? Who forged them and how are they indestructible?

46. We’ve hardly seen the Vatican Death Squad. Silly name, yes, but we need to know more.

47. Firefly, Arrested Development, Veronica Mars Many shows find life (and cult followings!) after death. Too many networks don’t give shows time to build an audience before cancelling them. In a binge-watching era, many people waited for Damien‘s first season to end before watching it. If given a chance, the audience will come.

48. How much does Shay really understand now about who/what Damien is?

49. Simone, previously a Christian, was resurrected by Damien. How will that change her?

50. Megalyn E.K. is incredible as Simone. Simone took the longest to grow on me because she’s a hard read, but once I understood her better, I loved her. She knows being around Damien leads to trouble (okay, maybe she has a tendency to meddle), but she stays with him and tries to help him. She even sacrificed herself for him. Total badass.

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Just like fans won’t stand by and watch Damien get cancelled without fighting for it.

51. It’s a slow build. In the hands of lesser talents, Damien would only work as a miniseries and would rush to the “evil” side of Damien. With Glen Mazzara, it takes its time getting there without getting boring. It could easily last 5 seasons if given the chance.

52. How many series can make you really feel for and root for the Antichrist as much as or more than traditionally “good” people, like priests and nuns? I only know one…

53. The original episode order was for 6 episodes but was increased to 10. It’s amazing how much more ground Damien covered in those additional 4 episodes. Think of all it could do with another 10!

54. I flew across the country to see the Damien panel at WonderCon (and sat through several panels to get front row), and the very first thing I did on my 7-hour layover to return home was watch the episode I missed while I was flying. (Priorities!) If someone was dedicated enough to do all of that after only 3 episodes aired, imagine how dedicated fans will be after another season.

55. The last two episodes brought several characters together for the first time: Ann and Amani, John and Amani, Ann and Sister Greta, Damien and Greta. Honestly, I could watch a season of Ann and Greta fighting about their gods.

56. A major character was revealed to be gay, and it was no big deal, no grand statement. I do wonder if there’s another reason behind it, but that goes back to my theory in #41. Regardless, I love how they approached it with subtlety and made it so normal (because it is.)

57. It has something for everyone: Horror, thrills, drama, religion, (dark) comedy, action, politics, friendship, even a little romance.

58. TV needs more shows with controversial subject matter – not controversial stars. (I’m not naming names of certain A&E shows…) You don’t hear about drama behind the scenes of Damien, only how respected and classy everyone is.

59. Parallels – Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but nothing’s unintentional on Damien. In episode 1, Amani says, “You see how the boss man (Damien) is – he wants what he wants.” In episode 7, Ann says, “The power wants what it wants.”

60. David Meunier is marvelous as Detective Shay. Everyone thought Shay was crazy, but he was right about everything. Did he really fall to his knees on his own? What happens now?

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One of the most powerful moments of the finale

61. Damien’s past – We found out a little about Damien’s youth, but it could be interesting to learn more.

62. The end of the finale showed many people kneeling before Damien after he sold his soul, which was quite moving. Will people naturally gravitate towards him now? Will the rest of the world know/understand who he is or will they try to keep it secret?

63. The Walking Dead‘s Scott Wilson is menacing as John Lyons. Unlike Ann, he cares only for Damien the Antichrist, but there was even some (short-lived) sympathy for him when we saw his wife’s condition. Could we potentially see him in a second season? If you don’t see a body…

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You wish that were true, A&E.

64. It’s painfully addictive. It makes you wait for the good stuff but keeps your interest while you wait. The episodes feel too short. Commercial breaks make you angry because you want more. The wait between episodes was brutal. The idea of there never being another episode? Torture.

65. It doesn’t shy away from heavy, taboo topics – veterans (and benefits they receive/problems they have), suicide, mental illness, PTSD, murder, religion, greed. That was only in one season. Imagine what it can tackle in season two!

66. Real talk: A&E did an awful job of promoting Damien. While A&E promotes and marathons other shows, Damien was left to fend for itself. They only showed reruns once at 2 AM. Misleading promos often focused on the horror aspect, ignoring that it’s also a character-driven psychological thriller/drama. If A&E had promoted it well, it could have been as successful as it deserved to be. Any failures were on A&E, not on the quality of the show. Critics and viewers who understood where the show was going (admittedly, many critics did not) and stuck with it were rewarded. The finale wasn’t the end of the story; it was the beginning. A&E just didn’t give it a chance to tell the rest of that story.

There could easily be 666 reasons Damien deserves a second life, but it comes down to this: For many, quality is more important than quantity(/ratings), and Damien has quality but wasn’t given a fighting chance. There’s talent in spades in front of and behind the camera, and that talent deserves to be seen. If you love Damien and want to see the Beast truly rise, tweet Netflix, Hulu, and everyone else that might pick Damien up for another season. Hound them incessantly on social media using hashtags #Damien and #SaveDamien. Buy the season passes on iTunes and Amazon. Request season one on Netflix.

Fans won’t stop until we’ve done everything possible to secure a second season somewhere, and if all our efforts fail, at least we can say we did everything we could to try to save Damien. Our support is the only way Damien will have a chance. A&E might not have seen the gem they had, but we won’t go down without a fight. It’s up to us, Hellhounds!

10 Reasons You Should Be Watching A&E’s “Damien”

If you’re not watching Damien, A&E’s series about the Antichrist, you’re missing out on the best show currently on TV. Here are ten reasons why it’s all for Damien, and you should be, too.

10. The many talented people behind it

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Via A&E

I raved about the cast in my reviews of the first and fifth episodes of Damien, and as the series progresses, they prove themselves time and time again. Bradley James is the definitive Damien, making you feel as conflicted as Damien while he tries to avoid the inevitable. Damien evolves in every episode, and Bradley James is absolutely sensational in capturing every nuance of Damien’s complexities. His portrayal makes you feel whatever Damien’s feeling and want to be on his side.

The cast also features legends Barbara Hershey and Scott Wilson. Barbara Hershey is haunting as Ann Rutledge but makes you feel for the character, even when you’re not entirely sure you should. Her chemistry with Bradley James is electric. It’s often difficult to tell whether she feels more maternal or sexual towards Damien or some warped combination of both. She consistently leaves you guessing what Ann’s motives behind her words and actions really are, but there’s no doubt that she truly loves Damien.

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I won’t spoil it, but this is one of the best scenes in the series so far. It reveals a lot about Damien but even more about Ann.

Scott Wilson’s part is smaller, but he does a lot in the scenes he is given and is still an important character. All of the characters are very well-rounded and make you want to learn more about them. There’s not a weak actor in the cast, which is rounded out with Megalyn E.K, Omid Abtahi, David Meunier, Melanie Scrofano, and Robin Weigert. Everyone gives it their all, and it shows. No matter the relationship or who is on screen, there is chemistry between all of the characters and actors. No character is wasted, and all are well-developed, making you want to come back each week to see more of them.

If the insanely talented cast isn’t enough, the show was created by Glen Mazzara. Known as a former showrunner for The Walking Dead and The Shield, he has used those same talents to make Damien a truly special show that stands out from the rest. He is well known for diversity (racial, gender, and GLBTQ), and that is evident behind the scenes with his staff, as well as on the show itself. I can’t rave enough about him as a showrunner and a person.

9. It demands your attention.

Damien is very unique in that it’s very cinematic (not just with its gorgeous cinematography) and is essentially like a movie broken up into ten parts. It’s not the same as a serial show in which every episode builds upon a particular storyline but still has standalone elements. On Damien, each episode and each scene is meaningful. Even if you have a terrible attention span, you won’t want to turn away (or live tweet, except during commercials) for fear of missing something important. Everything from the camera angles to the lighting to the sets to the clothes (or so I assume – Damien’s clothes get darker as his mental state does) is significant. From beginning to end, each episode is more riveting than the one before it and will keep you on the edge of your seat. It holds up over multiple viewings, as you can notice something each time that you didn’t notice before. With its cinematic qualities and ability to hook viewers, it makes for great binge-watching material.

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8. It doesn’t give you what you want when you want it.

Some viewers have been fixated on having an Antichrist who is “pure evil” right off the bat. How boring would that be?! While we know that Damien will eventually accept his destiny as the Antichrist, the show doesn’t rush in getting him there and is all the better for it. There are scenes in which you may want something to happen, but it’s better that they don’t. Good things always take time, and Damien requires patience. It will make you wait, but it doesn’t feel like they’re prolonging events for the sake of prolonging them. Everything has a purpose. Damien is a smart, sophisticated show, and it is rewarding in the end.

7. It does the opposite of what you expect.

Previews for Damien are interesting but can be misleading. You can try to guess what will happen, but the show will take it in a completely different direction that you likely wouldn’t think of on your own. You may know someone is going to die, but you think it’ll happen one way, and it’ll go the complete opposite direction, keeping you on your toes. Even in certain episodes (No spoilers!), you might know something isn’t quite right but can’t tell what’s actually happening until the end. Eventually, you learn throw away expectations and enjoy the ride. There are so many twists and turns, and it makes the “Ahh” moment much more satisfying when you figure it out or when it comes together.

6. It makes you root for the Antichrist.

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When this happens, it’s hard not to shout, “Go, Damien!”

Simply put, Damien is all of us. He’s neither completely good nor completely bad. There’s a reason the show is called Damien and not Antichrist. This is about Damien’s journey after he finds out who he really is. Though he’s half-human, half-jackal, we are shown his human side, which helps us relate to him. Damien doesn’t want to be the Antichrist or cause destruction, but he can’t escape his destiny. He does everything he can to stop the inevitable, but it’s futile. He is clinging desperately to his humanity while simultaneously becoming more unhinged by the moment. Damien’s path was laid out for him long before he ever knew it. It’s easy to understand why he takes the actions he does, and we root for him to win. Even when he does something “bad,” he does it for reasons that we can understand.

Many viewers have been waiting to see more of the Antichrist side of Damien. In episode 8 “Here is Wisdom,” Damien finally reaches his breaking point. As he learns new information about some of the deaths around him, he takes matters into his own hands quite literally, beating the source to a bloody pulp but is unable to bring himself to actually murder someone. His actions are not unwarranted, and it shows that whenever he does kill for the first time, it will not be without purpose and will be incredibly significant.

5. Even the Antichrist needs a friend.

And what a friend he has! It’s hard to choose a favourite relationship on Damien, but Damien and Amani’s friendship is easily in my top two. Damien might be the one with the power, but Amani goes to bat for him time and time again. He is not afraid to stand up to absolutely anyone to protect Damien. There is (seemingly/hopefully) no agenda on his end, and he genuinely just loves Damien, Antichrist or not. We should all be so lucky to have a friend as loyal as Amani. He’s one of my favourite characters and is pretty much the only one I really trust. Personal plea to Glen Mazzara: Don’t kill Amani. Please.

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“Whatever’s going on, man, I’m with you till the very end.” If Amani dies, we riot.

4. It’s honest and rooted in reality.

One of the things that made the show’s 1976 prequel The Omen so scary was that it was true to life. While there are many twists and turns, Damien follows that lead and stays pretty close to reality. The characters’ reactions are believable, no matter the situation, and the whole thing just feels real. There are obviously supernatural elements, but it feels like the events could actually happen in our world. This makes the terrifying parts even more frightening, but as twisted as it is, it stays truthful.

3. It leaves you wanting more.

I’m generally a very patient person. Damien really tests that patience. It’s not that every episode ends with a massive cliffhanger (it doesn’t), but it’s just so good that the wait in between episodes is, well, Hell. Even the commercials breaks are like torture. There are only two episodes left as of this writing, and I’m already worried about the withdrawals. Damien is like a drug you can’t quit but you don’t even want to, and its small but very vocal fanbase on social media is evidence of this.

2. It makes you question everything you thought you knew and believed.

“Are people born wicked or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?” Sure, this is a quote from Wicked, but it fits Damien pretty well. It makes you ask so many questions and re-examine your own thoughts on life and good versus evil. Is anyone really good or bad? (Nope.) Does Damien really have a choice in who he becomes? Do any of us have a choice? What if we save someone, and that person becomes evil? Are we then responsible? What if we think we’re making the “good” choice, but it results in evil? Was it the “good” or “evil” side of Damien that let a killer live? Is Damien going to become more evil because he was born that way or is it because he is being pushed to it? Why do we root for the Antichrist more than the detective who is trying to figure out what Damien’s deal is and stop him? Is {insert character here} in on it or is he/she genuine? Did a character do what he/she did because they’ve always been in on it or were they possessed? What causes some to be affected by Damien and others not? What are this person’s real intentions? Does Ann love Damien as a person or because he’s the Antichrist? (I say both.) What’s with her carving the “666” in her leg – does that mean she wasn’t born a true follower? Is it always the evil forces at work that cause someone to die or is there ever something else? (I’m still asking this after episode 5.) What’s the deal with Detective Shay’s son? Is he involved in it somehow? Who’s the old lady? Where are all the Daggers of Megiddo? If we kill an evil person, are we any better than they are? What will finally cause Damien to accept his destiny? (I have my theories…) Will he still retain some of his humanity when he does? So many questions…

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Should we? Who makes that decision?

1. It needs another season (or five) to tell its story.

It’s no secret that Damien‘s ratings have been disappointing, to say the least. This may partly be because it’s a (poorly promoted) slow burner, and people want to make sure it pays off. I think it will build its audience after all the episodes have aired when people can see that it does pay off, but that will take time. I fear that A&E doesn’t recognise the truly unique show that they have here or the potential it has and will cancel it before it gets the chance to show what it can do. There are so many stories to be told and directions to take with Damien. The first season is only the beginning.

I hope I’ve offered some compelling reasons to watch this brilliant show. I’m not going to say, “Pretty please with a cherry on top, watch Damien because I really love it, and you will, too.” I will say you that you should watch it because I think you lovely readers would probably want to stay on the good side of the Beast, and cancelling Damien might not be the best way to do that.

If you already watch Damien and love it, for the love of all things unholy, please tell A&E. Tweet them and post on their Facebook pages. Buy a season pass on iTunes and Amazon. Send A&E tongues. Sacrifice a goat. (I’m being 95% facetious. Please don’t actually do those last two things.) Whatever you can. Force all your friends to watch it. Do whatever you can to let them know you’re watching and want more.

Watch Damien on Mondays at 10/9c on A&E. Catch up on previous episodes on AETV.com. It’s all for you.

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Via Lexi Porter. (Thanks!)

 

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Quicksand: Review of Damien’s “Seven Curses”

“Should I kiss the viper’s fang or herald loud the death of Man? I’m sinking in the quicksand of my thought. And I ain’t got the power anymore. Don’t believe in yourself. Don’t deceive with belief. Knowledge comes with death’s release…” -David Bowie, “Quicksand”

*This post contains major spoilers. Read at your own risk.*

“Seven Curses,” the fifth episode of A&E’s Damien, continued the show’s streak of providing harrowing, thought-provoking entertainment. To this point, Damien has been more of a supernatural thriller with bits of horror and strong character development. We’ve seen Damien (Bradley James) continue to struggle with his true nature and clash with Ann Rutledge (Barbara Hershey) as she continues to act on his behalf for purposes still not entirely known to Damien or to the audience. Each episode has moved Damien further into darkness as he tries desperately to hold on to his sense of humanity. Damien knows that he is really the Antichrist, but he doesn’t want to be and wants everything to stop. He wants to lead a normal life, but he knows deep down that it isn’t possible. “Seven Curses” focuses on his struggle to accept that he is, in a sense, powerless to control his destiny and pushes him to try to escape it.

Unlike the other episodes, the first of two episodes written by K.C. Perry, “Seven Deaths” focuses more on Damien and less on characters like Ann Rutledge, though there were still some large developments with the other characters. We learn, for example, that the blonde woman Veronica (Melanie Scrofano) in previous episodes is Ann’s daughter when Ann asks her if she’s been a good mother. Veronica appears jealous of the attention the “prodigal son” Damien receives and is getting involved with Amani (Omid Abtahi) for reasons still unclear. Meanwhile, Mommy Dearest is none too pleased with Damien’s resistance to her and sends out some mysterious men for “housekeeping,” resulting in Damien’s apartment being trashed when he’s not there. His late ex-girlfriend’s sister Simone (Megalyn E.K.) is growing more suspicious of Damien, even breaking into his apartment to look for answers. (Incidentally, she’s there while the men are trashing it but remains unseen by them.) There’s plenty of development of these characters, but the episode is really about Damien.

While there have been complaints that Damien is too slow, it’s important not to rush the development, as it is set up for a multi-season arc. “Seven Curses” appears to be the start of a change in tone and in Damien. Through each episode, Damien has gradually gotten darker, even threatening a suspicious, obsessed detective who asked a few too many accusatory questions. Although some may still complain that the show is slow, “Seven Deaths” was noticeably darker – and scarier – than the others. It was even more based in reality, as Damien spent the episode photographing and even connecting with a war veteran called Alex (Jose Pablo Cantillo), whose son Damien saved on the subway tracks in the third episode.

Damien and Alex bond quickly over the things they saw at war and the PTSD that resulted. While previous episodes hinted at the Beast in Damien, “Seven Curses” shows the human side of Damien. As Alex tells him that he is planning to end his life and asks Damien to photograph it, Damien tries to talk him out of it, reminding him that he has a wife and son who need him. It’s difficult to make a realistic episode about veteran without crossing the line into cheesy, mushy, or preachy, but “Seven Curses” defies cliché. By showing us the pain and hardships Alex faces every day as he is cared for in the hospital, viewers are better able to understand why Alex is so determined to die. It even gets political when Alex talks about the VA not giving him the help he needs. “People think they can get by with a, ‘Thank you for your service.'” Damien vows to make Alex’s story heard, so he can get more help, but Alex appears determined to end his life. Alex’s problems are real ones that are faced every day by veterans. Damien manages to address important issues without losing sight of what the show is about or being insensitive to the real veterans. Many shows ignore the true effects of war, but Damien brings them to light in a realistic way without an overpowering political agenda.

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“I’ve seen too much death. I’ve had it all around me.”

That’s not to say that the episode is all heart and no horror. It is called “Seven Curses,” after all. The most terrifying scene of the series (so far) is the stuff of nightmares for those of us who aren’t as into horror. Damien goes to look for Alex and sees things that lead him to the creepy basement of the hospital, which is essentially Hell. In the basement, he sees two men playing dominoes with a pool of blood around one’s feet, employees with drugs (Alex warned him about a black market in the hospital), an orgy with doctors and patients, and a surgeon cutting into Simone’s head, followed by Simone looking over at Damien. Damien is concerned, as shown in a phone call to Simone later, but that’s only the beginning of the horror.

The way it’s filmed is enough to make these bizarre images surreal and disturbing, but the scariest part is when Damien gets locked into a room with seven injured veterans in a circle. As soon as the door closes, the veterans start speaking in tongues as Damien moves to the center of them. The veterans are possessed by a demon, representing the seven-headed dragon. At least some of the things they say about the Beast are from the book of Revelation, and they sometimes speak all at once. Multiple people being possessed by one demon has apparently not been seen on TV before, and it was very well done on Damien. Even as they are saying things like, “Your name is Death” and “His number is six hundred threescore and six,” the most frightening part is when they start laughing maniacally. The whole basement sequence feels like a hallucination or nightmare, and it’s difficult to tell if it’s real in Damien’s world or not. It’s enough to leave us questioning if Damien’s going insane or if we are. The scene, particularly the part with the seven veterans/curses, certainly served its purpose to scare those viewers who have been craving more horror. Maybe (probably) I’m just a big chicken, but I could only watch the scene with the sound on once before needing a spot in Ann Rutledge’s “panic room” she mentioned in the fourth episode.

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It’s too creepy for me to watch with the sound on, even while making this gif.

While a show about the Antichrist naturally has supernatural elements, the thing that makes Damien truly scary is that the show feels like it could take place in our world. There has been at least one death in every episode, most of which were gruesome and more or less supernatural. In the first four episodes, Damien indirectly caused deaths by Rottweiler attacks, quicksand (or sinkhole?), an escalator, a taxi that swerved because of the Rottweiler and hit Damien’s assailant, and a man who stabbed himself because “The Beast” was near. “Seven Curses” is a welcome change from what we’ve seen on the show so far. Alex wants to commit suicide on his own volition. He knows his body is shutting down, and he thinks his death is the best thing for his family. There are no supernatural elements obviously at play in his scenes, only the real, gutting loss of hope he feels that viewers also feel for him in return.

It is not until the end of the episode that we learn whether Alex goes through with his plan. After ensuring that Simone was okay and trying to contact Amani (who is about to feel really bad for not picking up), Damien returns to Alex’s room to find him ready to kill himself. With Bear McCreary’s beautiful score, Damien photographs Alex injecting the pain meds he has saved for this moment. Both men are in tears, but not a single word is spoken, making the scene all the more powerful. Every emotion is conveyed through looks. I said in my review of the first episode that Bradley James has one of the most expressive faces, and nowhere is this more evident than in the last ten minutes of “Seven Curses.” Damien doesn’t do anything to try to stop Alex, nor to assist him. The fact that it’s a more or less “normal” death (without the grotesque elements like the other deaths) makes it incredibly moving. The cinematography on this show is absolutely gorgeous in every episode, and the close shots and lighting in this scene make it even more magnificent. Both Bradley James and Jose Pablo Cantillo deserve awards for their brilliant performances in this episode.

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Words would be superfluous, especially as the scene continues.

A friend told me he couldn’t respect a show that would show a veteran committing suicide, but Damien would be doing a disservice by not portraying the real effects of war. People go to war and get injured and/or come back with PTSD. Bills pile up, and they rarely get the mental, physical, or financial help they need. Many veterans do commit suicide. It’s an important issue, and shows like this can only help to bring awareness to the problem. Without empathy, nothing will ever change to help veterans. Damien handled it in a respectful way that neither shames nor glorifies suicide.

Above all else, “Seven Curses” is a significant episode for the character of Damien. Between the things he saw in the basement and yet another death of someone he cared about, he finally reaches his breaking point. Damien leaves the hospital and drives to his old family home, stopping to look at a portrait of the Thorns before he goes out to the garage, alcohol in hand. Damien gets into the car and turns on the radio. As Mildred Anderson’s “Everybody’s Got Somebody But Me” (a surprisingly eerie but appropriate musical selection) plays, Damien gets drunk. Last week, Damien was shaving and clearly contemplating slitting his own throat but hesitates. In this scene, however, he is much more determined to go through with it. He tapes up the sides of the garage, then turns the car on and pulls out a syringe and the same pain medicine Alex used. The cinematography is, again, stunning and perfect for the scene. Like Alex’s suicide scene, there is no dialogue, only the sound of Bear McCreary’s score and the sounds of the car. By this point, it’s difficult to not feel sorry for Damien, as he is trying avoid being the one who ends the world. To make it worse, the poor guy can’t even die on his own terms because some magical force causes the tape to come off, the garage door opens, and the Rottweilers pull the all but dead Damien to safety.

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I just love the cinematography. This doesn’t do it justice.

While we don’t know what happens in episode six, it is easy to imagine that Damien’s failed suicide attempt will be a catalyst for his change. We’ve seen some of his sinister side before, but the lack of power over his situation is likely to push him to the brink. He’s sinking further and further into darkness, and no matter how hard he tries, he can’t escape it. After this compelling episode, it will be even more interesting to see how he reacts. If the events of “Seven Curses” aren’t enough to set things in motion for Damien (or to make people watch the show), I’m not sure what else could do it.

Every week, Damien leaves me wanting more, caring more about these characters, and wanting to see Damien’s growth into the Beast he is meant to become. I’m ready for his descent into darkness to happen, so I can be terrified by Damien and not just the things that happen to him. If “Seven Curses” is any indication of where the show is going, I’m looking forward to being scared, questioning what I think I know and feel, and longing to see more of these fascinating, well-written and well-acted characters for the next five weeks and hopefully more seasons to come.

Watch Damien on A&E, Mondays at 10/9C. Previous episodes can be viewed on AETV.com.

Devil’s Whisper: Review of A&E’s “Damien”

“You better run, run from the devil. You better hide…” -Raury, “Devil’s Whisper”

The Antichrist is pure evil. He’s going to bring about destruction and the end of the world. He must be stopped at all costs. Right?

Not in Damien, A&E’s new series based on the 1976 classic The Omen. Created by former The Walking Dead and The Shield showrunner Glen Mazzara, Damien takes place 25 years after the first film – on Damien’s 30th birthday – and essentially ignores the sequels, though there are apparently some subtle homages paid to them. (Full disclosure that I’ve only seen the first film once and have never seen the others.) In the first episode “The Beast Rises,” we don’t see Evil Damien. Instead, we see a very human Damien. He’s shown as being rather amiable, though distant to those he cares about most. As we all know, however, he has a good reason for pushing others away, as people around him seem to die horrible deaths.

Damien’s story parallels that of Jesus Christ, who started his ministry when he was 30. Obviously, their stories have them going completely different directions – one “good” and one “evil” – but this show isn’t about the end of the story. Damien is about filling in the blanks between The Omen and the end of the story to show how Damien got to where he did. It’s a very character-driven show from the first episode, and it causes viewers to question things about themselves. We all like to pretend we know how we would react in certain situations (say, finding out you’re the Antichrist), but if viewers are honest with themselves, I think they’ll find that it’s not always an easy to know. As Damien learns, it can be difficult to understand how certain events are connected or what they really mean.

Damien (brilliantly portrayed by Bradley James) is a war photographer, who uses the pain and destruction of the war to block out the noise and the “dark cloud” from his own life. He does not remember his childhood and is unable to articulate exactly what causes bad things to happen around him, but he knows he’s not like other people. He becomes determined to find out why these things things happen when an old woman in Syria grabs his face and says, “Damien, I love you. It’s all for you.” When she starts speaking in Latin, it triggers flashbacks to his childhood, complete with original footage from The Omen. Throughout the episode, Damien sees various things – Rottweilers, certain things in a church – that help him remember his past, but he spends the majority of the episode trying to find the old woman who knew these things about him and working with his ill-fated ex-girlfriend, Kelly (Tiffany Hines), to piece everything together.

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“Damien, I love you. It’s all for you.”

Damien meets several people along the way, but no one actually says to him, “You’re the Antichrist.” Though he has always known that there’s something different about him, but even when he meets the menacing, mysterious Ann Rutledge (Barbara Hershey) or the scared Professor Reneus (Sam Anderson), he doesn’t understand their connections to him or why they are so fascinated by him. The professor talks about “The Beast” mentioned in the book of Revelations, but the closest he gets to telling Damien the truth is asking whether 666 – the alleged mark of The Beast – means anything to Damien. The last five minutes are downright powerful, as we see Damien crying in a church over the first death he knows he’s directly responsible for. He then sees the old woman again, who suddenly doesn’t look so happy to see him, and forcefully pulls his hair out without giving Damien any answers about what she knows.

When Damien returns home, he looks through his photographs again and finds the old woman in all of them, even in one of him as a child, a nice nod to the original film. When he goes to check his bloody head, he finds the “666” where the woman ripped his hair out, and he gets sick at the realisation. It’s difficult not to feel for him as everything finally hits him and he realises that he is The Beast. It’s an interesting, important choice for the show to have Damien figure it out on his own, rather than someone else telling him. It makes the vital moment where he learns the truth more intense and is important for his character development. It will be interesting to see how he’ll act in the next episode now that he knows who he really is.

While some people just want to be scared and don’t want a sympathetic Antichrist, it’s an interesting choice when we’ve seen how Damien started when he was young and essentially know how the story is supposed to end. It’s refreshing to see a conflicted Damien, and that’s what the show is really about. Damien, like the rest of us, is not just evil or just good. He has shades of grey and is a complex character from the very first episode. Who wants to see an Antichrist with no depth? That would be painfully boring. As someone who doesn’t watch a lot of horror or thrillers, good characterisation is crucial. Some may think the pilot was slow (as pilots often are because they are meant to set up the story), but it’s important to show where Damien started in order to appreciate the Antichrist we know he will become. I have no doubt that the Damien in “The Beast Rises” will be very different than the Damien we will see in the finale and through each episode as he comes to terms with his destiny as the Antichrist.

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Don’t get used to this Damien. He won’t be like this for long.

Horror series are often held to a different standard than other series, especially when they are sequels to classic films. Viewers of Damien are likely to have extremely high and specific expectations, based on their own experiences with the films, horror, or the cast/crew. Whether it lives up to those expectations is up to the individual. I’ve seen many compare it to Lucifer, the new series about Satan. Both shows may be devil-related and feature British leads, but the similarities end there, nulling any comparisons people may try to make. It may also be important to note that Damien was originally meant to air on Lifetime and was moved to A&E after several episodes were already completed. I would anticipate a tonal shift when the change was made and expect it to be much darker and potentially more gruesome.

Other than its different take on the Antichrist and good/evil, Damien is sure to draw viewers with its excellent cast. Bradley James is phenomenal as Damien. He has one of the most expressive faces in entertainment, and he needs no words to show exactly what his character is feeling. The last five minutes proved that he is more than capable of handling Damien and doing justice to the role. Barbara Hershey was only in one scene in “The Beast Rises” but created a memorable character in only a few minutes. Scott Wilson was not present in the first episode, but I’m looking forward to seeing his character in upcoming episodes. It will be interesting to see how some of the side characters, such as Omid Abtahi’s Amani, react to the changes in Damien.

How much do I already like this show? Enough that I’m planning to go to Wonder Con in Los Angeles at the end of March to see the Damien panel. If you like shows with great casts, haunting music, excellent character development, and ones that actually make you think about how you would react to learning you’re going to bring about the end of the world, be sure to watch Damien on Mondays at 10/9c on A&E.