Thursday, June 29, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Mist' - Everyone Seeks Shelter at Either the Mall or the Church in 'Withdrawal'

Spike's The Mist - Episode 1.02 "Withdrawal"

As the mist settles in, Eve and Alex find themselves stranded at the mall. They gather with dozens of others around mall manager Gus Bradley as he tries to bottle up the rising panic. Kevin, Adrian, Mia and Bryan venture out into the mist in order to get to reach Kevin's family at the mall.

The Mist got off to a solid start last week. Yes, it was clear that the show would be much more consistent with its tone once the mist fell onto Bridgeville and forced the characters into specific environments. It took its time getting to that point. But it did eventually. And now, the mist is here to stay. It may be thicker in some areas but it's still an ongoing problem for these characters. They have to decide whether to stay where they are or venture into the world. At times, it seems like characters stay in the same spot just because the narrative demands that they do. When Kevin and company are leaving the police station, it's because Kevin needs to reunite with his family at the mall. But after they take shelter at the church, all of that urgency is gone. Instead, he is perfectly content with just spending the night there and hoping that the mist will have lifted by the morning. That's a little strange and odd. But right now, it's just important that all of the main characters are in two locations. Everyone either gathers at the church or the mall. Those are the only two locales really shown in this story. What's happening to the people outside those areas is just a guessing game at this moment in time. Things probably won't stay that way. But it's also nice to see the show settling into its environment a bit more in "Withdrawal."

Of course, there are still some jarring inconsistencies within the story as well. The most glaring of which is probably what happens to Mia in this episode. Last week she was seen as this mysterious badass. She wasn't really from this community but was here to get something she desperately needed from someone who was like her mother. She proved that she could protect Kevin and Adrian while they venture out into the mist. But now, she's becoming crippled by a drug withdrawal. It's strange and sudden. The symptoms come on incredibly fast. She isn't able to hide them. It hinders her ability to be all that useful. So, it's a complete 180 with her character from the premiere. It's significant that she and Bryan have a number of bonding moments. He seems to be the only person who notices her withdrawal. He's interested in learning more. Meanwhile, everyone else is wondering why she crashed the police car after awhile. It's all a little strange. It's suppose to be that way. It builds up the mystery of the overall narrative. These characters were forced out into the open to experience the mist firsthand. They are still all okay. But Mia believes she's hallucinating her dead mother figure only for Bryan to confirm that he saw her in the mist as well.

All of this essentially proves that the mist is a sci-fi allegory for forcing this community of characters to confront their deepest and darkest impulses in this world. As such, it's a little scary to see how far these people are willing to go in order to survive. Connor drove away after his vehicle was attacked. He left Kevin and Adrian behind at the police precinct. He wasn't actually doing his job in that moment. He's not really a great leader at the church either. He's still condescending and upset about his son being accused of rape by Kevin's daughter. The children aren't in this environment and being forced to deal with what happened that night. But it has shaded Connor's perception of Kevin which could be a huge detriment in the future once the mist compromises their safety at the church. Right now, the church is safe though. Sure, it won't be for very long if they keep the doors open for anyone to come in. So far, everyone has been very welcoming. But there are dangers from both man and the unknown outside waiting to corrupt this world. That chaos already killed Nathalie's husband. She's in mourning right now. That gives Frances Conroy much more to do this week. She's fantastic to watch as she has to accept that Benedict is gone. His spirit isn't lingering around to help her survive all of this. Instead, all she can do is reflect on the past and share some church wine with the rest of the people trapped in the building.

Elsewhere, things do so more official over at the mall. Things seem very logical as the administration reacts to what has happened while ensuring the safety of everyone still inside. It helps that Isiah Whitlock Jr. is playing the man in charge at the mall, Gus Bradley. He brings a nice sense of calm authority to the show. He has no idea what's going on just like everyone else. But he's trying to keep everything together so that they can survive this ordeal together. He's just trying to learn as much as he can. That means interviewing Eve about what she saw out in the mist and the horrors it did to the mom who failed to listen to her advice. Gus knows that they need to put the building on lockdown. But even that isn't good enough to keep the mist at bay. All it takes is one window being open for the mist to seep into this building. That's an ominous tease. Wherever the mist is, so is death. When Eve and her new friend, Kimi, stumble upon the part of the building with the mist inside, they see a dead body as well. It's a gruesome sight. It's a new detail that Gus and company need to address right away. It's very informative when they take a drone from the electronics store to surveil this part of the building. It's very logical while still very intense because anything could happen in the mist.

It's not that surprising that Eve has to go into the mist in order to complete a mission. In one of the rooms of the administration wing, there is a radio used for emergency situations like this. A lottery is made to see who in the crowd will have to venture in and try to get a message out of the building. Of course, Eve's name is drawn because otherwise there would be no dramatic tension to this story. The moment someone else volunteers to go in with her it's clear that something bad is about to happen and he will die. He's an expositional plot device throughout this episode. So, he is earmarked for death right away. Of course, he also introduces the idea of something more going on as well. In the beginning, he and Eve work effectively as a team. But once they get the radio, he starts making cryptic messages and doesn't want to explain what they are. Plus, Eve sees that he has a gun. This story ultimately works because it's not some mysterious or supernatural entity that kills this guy when he's out in the mist. Instead, it is Eve because she fears for her life. The mist is forcing her to make a choice that she wouldn't normally do. She kills this guy before he has a chance to kill her. Sure, it destroys the radio in the process. But she survives and is able to reunite with her daughter. That's the most important thing to her. She finds peace in that even though she is lying to everyone else about what happened. And now, she has a gun to keep track of as well. But it all may ultimately be setting up something ominous going on with a group of strangers in the mall. Eve is suspicious of them. But then, two of them are found hanging from the bathroom ceiling at the end of the episode. So, if they were a threat, it's not clear right away why. It's still an intense and intriguing cliffhanger though.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Withdrawal" was written by Peter MacManus and directed by David Boyd.
  • The premiere included the shot of the woman who walked out into the mist from the mall coming back with her jaw clean off before being thrusted back into the mist by some creature. Everyone assumes that she's dead. But they are hoping that her child is safe. That may be naive though since he was right by her side. But since the audience didn't see what happened to him and the show calls attention to that fact, he may pop up again.
  • Everyone keeps suggesting that the mist could be an act of bioterrorism. They fear that if they come into contact with it, then they'll start acting crazy. Eve disputes that fact since both she and Alex were out in it and are perfectly fine. And yes, the show is suggesting that something more supernatural is the cause of what's happening to the people.
  • The devout believer at the church who is trying to get Father Romanov to say something for the crowd to find peace and clarity in this situation is going to die at some point this season, right? He already seems a bit too uptight to survive in this dangerous world. He snaps at Adrian when he says he's an atheist.
  • It is fascinating to see Adrian care more about what's happening with Eve and Alex than his own family. That shows how estranged he really is with his parents. He loves the Copelands much more. And yet, Kevin still wants to comfort him by saying his family is surviving all of this uncertainty as well.
  • Jay is finding himself at the center of the action at the mall as well. He hasn't forced a confrontation with Alex yet. He still doesn't have much personality either. But he's the one flying the drone into the mist. And he's the one who discovers the bodies in the bathroom late at night. So, he's clearly someone who is going to continue being important.