June 27, 2014

THE SKED Pilot + 1 Review: “Dominion”


DOMINION:  Thursday 9PM on Syfy

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on DOMINION:  Following on the events of the movie Legion, in a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas, an enclave of surviving humans are protected by the Archangel Michael (Tom Wisdom) from the evil angels, led by his brother Gabriel (Carl Beukes), who killed most of mankind–which they believe they did at the behest of God, who had given up on humans.  (Michael thinks it’s more complicated.)  Vega, as the colony is called, has a pair of rulers:  the relatively benign General Riesen (Alan Dale) on the military side, and the scheming David Whele (Anthony Head) as chief politician.  The politically maneuvered engagement of Riesen’s daughter Claire (Roxanne McKee) to Whele’s son William (Luke Allen-Gale) has been publicly announced, which is inconvenient, since Claire is not-so-secretly in love with the low-born soldier Alex Lannon (Christopher Egan), while William is very secretly in league with Michael and the angels who want to slaughter the rest of mankind.  Complicating all of this is the prophecy that a Chosen One will come forward to save humanity, and the pilot’s reveal that this Chosen One is actually Alex, who magically has tattoos suddenly covering his body (luckily for the continuing storyline, the tattoos will only become intelligible gradually over time).

Episode 2:  The second hour of Dominion, written like the first by series creator Vaun Wilmott (and directed by Rick Jacobson), continues to have the tinny quality of a grade-D horror movie with few of that genre’s occasional pleasures.  Much of the episode was given over to the desire of just about everyone, very much including Alex, to pretend that the whole Chosen One thing had never happened.  This is difficult, of course, when a dozen people heard the Archangel Michael confirm it (Whele took care of that by having most of them killed, eaten by lions apparently still around from Siegfried & Roy’s Vegas days), and when your body is covered with mystical tattoos–the latter, glimpsed by an evil angel in deep cover as a serving woman for Claire, led to the episode’s (badly staged) action sequence.  The dim acting, especially by Egan, is no help here, but of course everyone is victimized by the shallow, unsubtle writing.

A subplot was slightly more promising.  In the pilot, an agent of Gabriel’s who came into Vega as part of the diplomatic party led by Arika (Shivani Ghai), launched an attempted assassination, which led to Arika’s arrest.  She had already been portrayed as eminently practical, being both the wife of her colony’s queen and a lover of Whele’s, and in this episode her ruthlessness was underlined when she poisoned all of her ladies in waiting in order to pressure Whele into releasing her from jail.  Arika is the closest thing the show has come to an interesting character so far, but she’s unlikely to be a major part of the series.

Dominion‘s 2d episode was faster-moving than its pilot, not surprising since it ran half an hour shorter.  The production values, though, were even lower than before (the sets seem to be lit dimly so we won’t be able to see how tacky they are), and even leaving dialogue and acting aside, it’s difficult to feel much suspense about the Chosen One’s reluctance to be the Chosen One, since there’s no show if he doesn’t do his thing.  There was nothing in the hour to suggest that Wilmott and the other writer/producers have figured out a way to make their story compelling.

The ratings for Dominion‘s premiere were OK by Syfy standards at 0.6 (the same as its lead-in Defiance), so if it can stay at that level, it could well have a future, especially since Syfy can’t be spending very much on it.  The show is considerably less engaging than the middling Defiance, though, so the Chosen One may need to act fast.  Even as cheap post-apocalypses go, Dominion‘s is low-grade.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  Change the Channel

PILOT +1:  The Evil Angels Are Closing In

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."