‘The Mist’ Season 1, Episodes 7-9: They’re Creeping Up on You

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On the last few episodes of “The Mist,” things finally started to come to a head, as to be expected with the end of the season in sight. As ever, the best episodes continue to be the ones at least co-written by show developer Christian Torpe, who has a flair for the more character-driven moments.

Unfortunately, when he isn’t more directly involved, the show tends to go almost completely sideways, often indulging in typical horror movie clichés and dubious motivations for even more dubious acts. As such, each subsequent episode continues to be a shot in the dark- one that frequently misses the target.

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In Episode 7, “Over the River and Through the Woods”- a title which seems to have no connection to the episode whatsoever, which could serve for a metaphor for the show itself and its sense of disconnection in general- Torpe was not the writer, so, naturally, the episode was scattershot and all over the place.

On the other hand, it was also pretty bonkers, so it was, at the very least, reasonably entertaining. I mean, how many other shows can you think of that feature a naked old lady who sees herself as a sort of prophet (Frances Conroy, easily the best actor on the show, not that it’s saying that much) and a Preacher (Dan “Bulldog” Butler, a long way from “Frasier”) offering themselves up to a seemingly sentient mist in order to engage in a so-called “Trial by Ordeal,” only for the latter to be shot down by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

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If that sounds crazy on paper, it’s even crazier in execution. I have no idea what any of it means- is the mist judging people one by one and killing off the sinners, or are the killings almost completely random? It seemed like the former for a while, but, given the revelations (pun intended) of recent episodes, you have to wonder, as there are quite a few people who have done some messed-up stuff still walking around in the mist as if it were no big deal.

Indeed, that’s part of the problem. These characters shuffle though the mist with alarming regularity, but almost nothing ever happens to them, barring the occasional cameo from the “Lost” smoke monster, or the aforementioned mythical beings bringing down judgment on a rogue priest. Is there even a method at all to the mist’s madness? Or the show’s, for that matter?

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Slightly better were the events at the hospital, as Kevin (Morgan Spector) and his crew found themselves out of the frying pan and into the fire, as they ran afoul of a patient (Phillip Ettinger) pretending to be a doctor, who was meting out justice as he saw fit, killing off those as he saw as inherently evil. Hey, at least he’s less ambiguous than the mist itself.

Of the group, he settles upon Adrian (Russell Posner) as the designated evil one, all but confirming my “Adrian was the actual rapist” theory in the process. Kevin goes to lengths to try and save the boy- which he will soon come to regret, needless to say- by offering himself up in his place, pointing out that if he got a hold of his daughter’s rapist, he wouldn’t hesitate to kill him. Whoops! Hate to break it to you, Kev…

Obviously, he succeeds, as do Bryan/Jonah (Okezie Morro) and Mia (Danica Curcic) in their quest to “rapid detox” the latter. Jonah also starts to recall that he was seemingly experimented on somehow, or perhaps more likely, had an extreme reaction to the mist and had to be put down temporarily, the end result of which was his current state of not being able to remember anything much at all.

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Back at the mall, people are rapidly disintegrating into “Lord of the Flies” territory, dividing into factions that are extremely wary of one another, despite little reason to feel that way. As Eve (Alyssa Sutherland) and her crew spy on the others via baby monitors, we discover that mall manager Gus (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) is hoarding food and Shelley (Alexandra Ordolis) is becoming more and more unhinged, convinced that Alex (Gus Birney) is evil and the real reason her daughter was killed by the creature in the mist.

With Episode 8, “The Law of Nature,” we get one co-written by Torpe, and it’s easily the best one since the premiere. At long last the “mystery” of who raped Alex is solved, and the answer is, as expected by this point, none other than Adrian, whose reason was that, um, he was scared of losing his friend to Jay (Luke Cosgrove)? Or sexually confused? Or something?

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Okay, granted, it isn’t great that Adrian, the show’s main LGBTQ character is not only a rapist, but a bona fide psycho who kills his father, then nearly kills Kevin to boot, after making him swear that he’ll be his new “family” and never betray him. This plays into the unfortunate negative stereotype of LGBTQ characters being “bad” in the horror-thriller genre- think “Dressed to Kill,” “Basic Instinct,” “Pretty Little Liars,” and so on- to say nothing of rape being used as a plot twist.

That said, though, it really is an interesting twist, especially as it proves that Jay, despite his oft-dubious behavior, and the fact that even his own father thought he did it, is genuinely innocent of any wrongdoing. Of course, Eve doesn’t know that, which is what makes it a neat twist, as it raises the stakes of what she might end up doing, only to find out that the boy’s innocent.

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Yes, it is also a bit of an icky twist, and one sure to leave a bad aftertaste in the LGBTQ community, who have enough to deal with, given who our president is at the moment. The last thing haters need is “proof” that such people are inherently corrupt, which is, of course, the farthest thing from the truth in most cases. But I really don’t think that this was what Torpe and the other writers were up to- they just wanted to surprise people.

Unfortunately, given that I and more than a few others saw the “twist” coming a mile away doesn’t exactly help matters. That said, though, it was reasonably well-executed, and if one can get past the more unsavory repercussions of using such things as a plot twist, it actually is a pretty nifty one that nonetheless does flip the stereotypes of the jocks typically being the bad guys and the GBF always being the knights in shining armor who are always there for their besties.

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I just worry about the timing of it all, and the fact that we’re living in such heightened times, where even the smallest thing can set people off. After all, Spike is generally a channel aimed at guys, for the most part, even if they are clearly trying to reach a wider audience with a show like this. I’d hate to see someone get the wrong idea, from what is clearly just a TV show trying to entertain and keep people guessing.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those people that tend to blame the media for negative things that happen in our culture, such as horror and action movies encouraging people to commit IRL acts of violence. If anything, I HATE it when people try to blame movies and the like for such things. But unfortunately, these are not typical times, and I do worry about things like that more than I used to for that reason.

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As such, though I don’t doubt that Torpe and Co. had their heart in the right place, and probably had no idea how bad things would get when they wrote this, it really is unfortunate timing. (See also “Mr. Mercedes,” which opens with a car plowing into a group of people- now THAT’S bad timing. Good thing it premiered a few days before the actual incident- now incidents, alas- or it wouldn’t have premiered at all, most likely.)

But, even so, it is questionable to use such things (rape, one’s sexuality) as plot points used in a certain way, and hopefully, if the show even gets a second season, Torpe and his writers will steer clear of such things in the future, as the world has enough problems without our entertainment stirring up such a wasp’s nest of trouble. Torpe is clearly a talented writer- I’d hate to see him get blackballed from the industry because of simple bad timing and dubious judgment. Maybe we should let the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse decide?

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It doesn’t exactly help matters that Torpe has Alex flirting with and even kissing her accused rapist at one point, raising the eyebrows of others in the mall, understandably. As such, it isn’t exactly a shocker when Mama Bear Eve dupes Jay into a storage room and traps him inside. Who can blame her? Alex isn’t exactly thinking clearly, under the circumstances- but then again, no one is, really.

As evidence, we have Nathalie (Conroy) claiming that the mist was sent here to judge everyone, and if one isn’t pure at heart of whatever, then it will kill them. Except for the fact that, you know, it killed a (presumably) innocent little girl and all, in a previous episode. And, you know, shortly thereafter, Nathalie traps all the non-believers in the church and sets it on fire, making her status as an innocent dubious at best.

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Their goal is to get to the mall, with the main mission being to kill Jay, whose father has confessed that he thinks raped Alex. Nathalie latches onto this as the catalyst for bringing about the mist in the first place, and suggest that, if they kill Jay, nature will be appeased, and everything will return to normal. Once again, not sure why people are buying into all this nonsense, but okay.

On other fronts, Jonah and Mia hook up in the garage of Adrian’s parent’s house while refilling the tank of the car, because of course they do, and the long-lost Vic (Erik Knudsen) finds Kevin and gives him an update on how the mall has gone crazy town, at which point Kevin informs them that’s where they’re headed. It’s no wonder poor Vic opts to wait in the car when Kevin finally makes it there in the next episode!

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However, before we get there, Kevin has his showdown with Adrian, who knocks him out after asking him for his loyalty just before confessing what he did- hmm, why does THAT sound familiar? Adrian then proceeds to tell the others that Kevin is dead, because he is the worst, and they speed off without him. Lucky for Kevin, Vic stays behind, not particularly being in a rush to get back to the mall.

Shelley catches Gus with his food stash and threatens to tell everyone, so Gus naturally kills her (!), then pins the blame on Alex, of all people. Like it makes sense that Alex would kill Shelley in the first place, but then again, Gus doing it is pretty out there as well, so okay whatever. If all of this sounds like I’m being critical, after saying previously that this was one of the best episodes of the show, then rest assured, I am.

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The reason being that, in spite of my enjoying all of this because it is all so delightfully mental, I’m still able to acknowledge that, even so, it doesn’t make it necessarily good. I legitimately do think Torpe has talent as a writer, and that he is far and away the MVP of this particular show, such as it is. But that doesn’t necessarily make it a good show, not by a long shot. It’s more like an entertaining enough misfire that’s engaging almost in spite of itself.

In the penultimate episode, “The Waking Dream,” at long last all the main characters converge on a single location, the mall. Of course, they’re going to save the big confrontations for the finale, but they do manage to deliver a little bit of action along the way, as Eve shoots one of the angry mob attempting to hunt down her daughter for the mistaken crime of killing Shelley, and Nathalie has Connor (Darren Pettie) stab one of two of her own followers when the woman’s husband falls and breaks his leg and toss her down to him. So much for loyalty to the cause!

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Meanwhile, Kevin wakes up to find Vic there, and the two continue to make their way to the mall together, spotting some nutty stuff along the way, including a woman impaled with a golf club hanging from a tree. They eventually find themselves in a house where several soldiers lied dead on the ground, while some guy goes nuts and threatens to kill them before they get the better of him- for a while, at least, until he pulls the pin on a grenade and attempts to kill them all!

Thankfully, Kevin has the wherewithal to use one of the soldier’s dead bodies as a shield and is able to save himself, while Vic finds an army vehicle outside and the two hightail it to the mall, at long last, though, like I said, Vic takes a hard pass on actually going inside, for obvious reasons. Oh, and at one point, Kevin actually literally fights himself, in what might be a nod to Stephen King’s underrated “The Dark Half.”

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Back at the mall, as the group including Jonah, Mia and Adrian arrive, Adrian goes and looks for Alex, as Mia stays put while Jonah goes to forage for supplies. Jonah runs afoul of Wes (Greg Hovanessian), who puts him in a sleeper hold and ties him up, questioning him about who he is, before revealing that…he knows exactly who he is, and he’s Wes’ commanding officer! Say what now? Yeah, this show is nuts.

So, as you might have guessed, I’ve been bending over backwards to say something, anything nice about all this, but yeah, it’s all a bit of a train wreck. A moderately enjoyable, slightly insane train wreck, but a train wreck nonetheless. But who doesn’t slow down a little to careen their neck and check out a wreck when they come across one? I suppose there’s a compliment to be found buried in that somewhere.

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It’s plainly obvious that we’re not going to get a lot in the way of concrete answers to what exactly is up with the mist and exactly what the role the military plays in it might be, aside from obviously being directly involved with it. I can live with that, I suppose, so long as Adrian gets his comeuppance, Jay’s name is finally cleared, and Kevin is at long last reunited with his family, after all he’s been through. I’d also like to see Vic come out of this thing alive, for no particular reason beyond I like the actor from other projects he’s been in, notably “Continuum.”

That, and perhaps an all-out war between one side of the mall dwellers and the other is about all I really expect, though it would be nice to see at least hints of one of the larger beasties we got in the novella/movie version of “The Mist.” I wouldn’t be surprised if it was perfectly awful CGI, but still…kinda want to see it anyway. What can I say? It’s the bad sci-fi/horror movie lover in me, I guess. What are you gonna do?

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Any predictions for the grand finale? Or do you expect it to be more of a grand disappointment? Or are you beyond all that at this point, and firmly in hate-watch territory? I’d ask what you think could be done to improve the show, but honestly, where do you begin? I guess the answer would be more like, what couldn’t be done? Be that as it may, what would you like to see, at least? Sound off on this and more down below, and join me for the season finale next week, for better or worse!