'The Mist' series premiere recap: 'Pilot'
The weather outside is not at all delightful
If you look around the television landscape, you’ll find that more than a few series based on Stephen King books (or novellas) have made their way to the small screen. In the 2000s alone, we’ve seen The Dead Zone, Haven, Under the Dome and 11.22.63 (among others). That list grows by two this summer, with Audience’s upcoming Mr. Mercedes and, now, Spike’s The Mist. (To say nothing of Hulu’s Castle Rock, a J.J. Abrams collaboration announced earlier this year. No premiere date has been set.) And on the big screen, The Dark Tower comes out this summer.
In short, it’s a good year to be a Stephen King fan.
But what is it about King’s writing that makes it not only popular among readers but also ripe for adaptation? Well, the answer lies somewhere in the pilot of The Mist itself, which is one part human drama, one part environmental horror — and it doesn’t take too long for the show to introduce both elements. It does, though, take a while for the central weather phenomenon to descend on the small town of Bridgeville, Maine. (Originally Bridgton in the books.)
We open on an unconscious soldier (Okezie Morro) waking up in the woods beside a dog — only he doesn’t remember anything about who he is or how he got there. He doesn’t even know if the dog, Rufus, is his. Faint Lost pilot vibes aside, we discover that his name is Bryan Hunt… and that there’s something hiding in the Mist. (Henceforth capitalized because, like that one episode of Netflix’s The Crown, it is the main villain of this piece. Well, alongside the regular human ones.) Oh. And this something is quite willing to kill and skin a dog. (You know a show is serious when it’s willing to off a canine.) At the sight of the late Rufus hanging from a tree, Bryan screams and takes off running. Good call.
He eventually ends up in Bridgeville, the main setting of the show. But of course, no one quite believes his warnings that the looming clouds on the horizon are dangerous. (Maybe they’d believe him if he were a weatherman.) In a bid to protect himself, Bryan tries to arm himself with one of the policemen’s guns, but that just lands him locked up behind bars for the night, where he still continues to issue his warnings.
The next morning, the officers at the station ask him about his home and his social security number, but when he can’t remember either, they get mad and slam him against the bars. They inform him that they’ll be calling Arrowhead, the name on the patch on his arm, to check up on him. (We’ll be avoiding book-related spoilers, but this reference likely caught the eye of fans who’ve read the novel.)
Over in another part of town, Eve Copeland (Alyssa Sutherland) is also having a couple of terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. She’s suspended from her job as a high school teacher for daring to give her students proper sex education. Her husband Kevin (Morgan Spector) offers to get a job in advertising, but she refuses because she doesn’t want him to hate her. It would be sweet if they didn’t run into some family drama a few hours later, when Eve tells their teenage daughter, Alex (Gus Birney), she can’t go to a high school party after the local football game, and Kevin disagrees. (This whole story line would feel like Friday Night Lights Lite if it weren’t for how unusually supportive Kevin is of Alex’s teenage life.)
Secretly, Kevin goes against his wife’s wishes and tells Alex she can accept an invitation from her football-player crush, Jay (Luke Cosgrove), and attend the party for a couple of hours. She just has to take her best friend Adrian (Russell Posner) with her. So she does just that. Here, we learn that Adrian wears makeup, does not like football, and does not get along with his father. Also, he’s pansexual; he’s not attracted to gender, but rather to the person. Adrian doesn’t fit in with his peers, except for Alex, seeing as how no one joins in their dance party and he gets called a slur. He’s even abandoned by Alex, who waives her no-drinking policy for Jay when he asks her to join him.
Sadly, it doesn’t end well. The next morning, Kevin and Eve discover that Alex never slept in her bed. Instead, she’s on the swing in the yard, where she tearfully tells them that she not only got drunk at the party and blacked out, but also that Jay raped her. She’s not sure about that detail, but Adrian told her it was him. Of all the terrible things I expected to befall the characters on this show, this was certainly not something I expected, especially so early on. Poor kid.
So the Copelands file a complaint with an officer who’s not Jay’s police-chief father. Alex’s doctor also recommends they have her see a therapist. It appears that Eve and Kevin also need one, because they both blame him for letting Alex go to the party. Eve states that she’s tired of being the bad cop while Kevin gets to be the cool parent. They’re interrupted by jocks throwing something through their window (a response to Jay getting called in for questioning at school). The delightful fellows have also spray-painted the word “Whore” on the street in front of the house.
While all this is happening, Adrian and Alex are upstairs, where he tells her that the town will no doubt side with Jay. The camera lingers on him as he says this, which, coupled with the look he gave the departing Alex and Jay at the party, makes me suspect that there’s more to Alex’s night that he’s not sharing. (Recap continues on page 2)
The next day, Kevin goes to the police station to report the harassment they’ve been experiencing. While he’s there, Adrian is brought in for questioning, and an accident takes place outside, commanding the attention of everyone in the station.
At the same time, Eve and Alex are driving out of town when they stop at a mall so Eve can pick up her prescription. In the parking lot, Alex says that her mother was a “slut” as a teen, earning Alex a brutal face slap (one of the most genuinely surprising moments in the whole hour). While Eve is picking up the meds, Alex calls Kevin and tells him she doesn’t want to go with her mother — but their call gets cut off by the now-descending Mist.
Across town, Natalie Raven (Frances Conroy), the Copelands’ neighbor, and her husband are at the library looking up old Bridgeville newspapers to see if something similar happened a few years ago. Spoiler alert: It did. And earlier in the day, a toad (one of many emerging from the body of water they live near) ate an insect right off her hand (another one of this episode’s scarier moments) while flocks of birds flew away from the Mist that was slowly encroaching.
Done with their research, the Ravens exit the library and decide they can still bike home in this Mist. That’s quickly proven wrong when Natalie’s husband is shot in the face by a killer who can’t differentiate between what’s real and what’s not. Peeta Mellark style. Out of guilt, the man then ends his own life. Traumatized, Natalie stumbles to a nearby church, where a priest comforts her.
Back at the station, Officer Pundik — who decided to linger in the Mist and take selfies with it for his wife, which makes me question their whole relationship — is beset by a whole swarm of insects (I want to say cockroaches? Help me out armchair, entomologists!), which we learn eat half his face off.
Pundik eventually staggers back into the station, where he attacks Kevin, who has already been abandoned by Jay’s fleeing dad, Chief Heisel (Darren Pettie); gotten himself a gun; and freed two people from their cells: Bryan and Mia (Danica Curcic), a former drug addict who was arrested after breaking into her former home to steal back a bag full of money and passports. It’s a good thing he did, because Mia quickly dispatches of Pundik with Kevin’s gun. She asks if he trusts her now. He does. Kevin, Adrian, Bryan, and Mia just became our first batch of Mist survivors.
Our second group is at the mall. Mrs. Carmody, one of the parents who disapproved of Eve for discussing oral sex, tries to shame her in front of the other customers, but Eve points out that Mrs. Carmody’s son Eric is already aware of what oral sex is; she caught him watching porn in school. She also calls her a pathetic bitch and walks away. Talk about a mic drop. (Also, as a reader pointed out, Mrs. Carmody is yet another nod to the original novella.)
Following this exchange, the mall loses power, and Eve runs out into the Mist to find Alex, who, for her part, has exited the car. They quickly find each other and head back into the mall. Here, Mrs. Carmody accuses them of lying about the rape and asking for attention. She and Eric then exit into the Mist despite Eve’s protests. Moments later, we hear Mrs. B’s screams, and her bloody body — minus a jaw — is thrown against the glass door. She’s also pulled back into the Mist.
But that’s not as big a surprise as what comes next: We see that Jay is also in the mall.
Overall, the first episode of the Spike series does a fine job setting up its central characters — most of whom fit into every terrible small-town stereotype possible — in interesting groups, which will serve the requisite human drama down the line. I do have to say a lot of that drama is a little too on the nose, feeding into the stock characterization. But everything picks up when the Mist (my favorite character so far) shows up, allowing the series to unleash some of its more creative scares. (This is a Stephen King show.) And as we know from the trailers, it’s going to get a lot more graphic as the weeks go on.
One interesting thing the show teases is the notion that this Mist is something the town might have experienced before, which begs the question: Why doesn’t anyone remember it? Does Natalie, kind of? And of course, that ties back to Bryan’s complete memory loss up until that point. Could the source of his amnesia also be responsible for covering up a previous Mist occurrence in Bridgeville’s past? That’s just one of the big Mist-eries we’ll have to sit with until next week.