The Mist: “Pilot” Review

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By: Jaclyn Cascio (@jaclynator)

There are plenty of movie and television adaptations, both past and present, of Stephen King stories available to enjoy. The Spike network (soon to be Paramount Network) is riding with the King with their new television series, The Mist, and the first of ten episodes in the first season premiered this week.

The pilot episode of The Mist didn’t waste any time. While shows like American Gods have capitalized on the “slow burn” concept, slowly introducing new characters through the first season and teasing the viewers with every turn, The Mist made the players clear from the start. (And there’s quite a few of them scattered around town, not huddled in a single supermarket like the movie of the same name you might remember.) The episode then proceeded to very deliberately create or explain the small town’s troubles, again wasting no time in laying groundwork. With a short ten-episode season, the pilot episode set itself up as the foundation upon which the mysteries of the mist can build (I hope).

By dishing the town’s dirt from the start, tensions are already high. It is a clear effort to give the hostile fog something to work with and a base upon which paranoia can develop. If everything was hunky dory like an episode of The Andy Griffith Show, banding together and cooperating would be the order of the day (and let’s be honest, cooperation in the face of horror doesn’t make for good entertainment). With some characters, the show jumped on the paranoia wagon a little too quickly, fear-mongering them before they’ve actually seen anything actually terrifying, which hints at possible pacing problems to come in future episodes. (But I’ll hold off on a verdict on that…for now.)

That being said, the picture painted in the pilot episode of The Mist was done with broad strokes. To get all the pieces moving left much to be desired as far as depth and detail. Characters fit stereotypical molds of various archetypes found in literature or media, and while we were given a sense of what they’re about, the pilot didn’t really tell a lot about who they are. There’s potential to further develop these characters, and knowing that the mist is likely going to really mess with people’s heads, perhaps there was no point in wasting time getting to know people who might change drastically in the coming episodes. However, with no subtlety or depth, the end of the episode finds you wondering who is actually worth rooting for in the chaos that is undeniably coming.

With Stephen King, there are some creepy crawlies and outright frights to scare readers, but there’s usually a lot of psychological drama that sneaks up on readers to up the ante and create a truly visceral horror. It’s a subtle art, and the first episode of The Mist didn’t quite hit the mark. There’s a difference between horror and just horrible – and (SPOILER) offing a beautiful dog (which was not cool) in the first few minutes is the latter. Clearly, it established that the mist is trouble – but such an event is just horrible and tear-inducing, not terrifying. The nature of fear can be hard to pin down, and it looks like the pilot episode is finding footing for the rest of the season. Once again, it looks like a “wait and see” situation.

The Mist’s first episode, in its efforts to lay a solid foundation, may have lacked a bit of excitement. Maybe the boring exposition was thrown into the pilot episode to allow the rest of the season to explode with action, but if a pilot is supposed to garner interest, a little more gusto wouldn’t have hurt. I’m a believer that flashbacks are often over-used as a tool in movies and television, but The Mist might have benefitted from such a format, thereby allowing the episode to introduce the horror of the almost supernatural fog with speed and panache, with some blurbs about how people became trapped where they are.

Ultimately, the pilot episode of Spike TV’s The Mist was a solid foundation-building episode. While it may have lacked some excitement and depth beneficial in a pilot, it promises possibilities for the future. I’m willing to keep watching and see what terrors await the small town’s residents in their isolation in the mist.


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