I would imagine that most of the people that are coming to check out the premiere episode of The Mist, the new TV series on the Spike network based on the Stephen King written work of the same name, are familiar with said source material (or at minimum, the 2007 feature film also of the same name). A bit of familiarity will obviously help acclimate a viewer to this expanded world of modern social commentary and creeping horror suspense – but it is by no means mandatory, as the premiere episode does a very fine job of standing on its own accord, familiar yet independent from the versions of the story that have come before it.
WARNING: Below lie spoilers for the premiere episode of ‘The Mist’ – if you do not wish to see this information and have it spoiled for you, then the time to stop reading is NOW!
RECAP: In expanding a shorter written tale to a 10-episode TV season (King’s original take on the tale was a novella-length entry into a larger 1980 horror anthology book), certain liberties had to be taken and certain additions had to be made. And indeed, they were, but not in a way that makes things feel shoehorned at all.
This episode is more of a “slow burn,” obviously needing to establish characters and scenarios for the audience. Opening on a man in military garb who doesn’t know his own name (Okezie Morro), the titular mist is shown creeping down the mountainside at an alarming rate, and when Brian – the man’s name, per his ID – is enveloped by it, the sense of dread hits him like a ton of bricks. He takes off running for the nearest town: Bridgeville, Maine.
It seems to be fairly typical “small-ish town USA,” with the usual problems and drama: families with challenging dynamics, friends and neighbors who don’t always get along, and a wide-ranging belief set when pressed on topics like religion, freedom, and morality. We meet Eve Copeland (Alyssa Sutherland), who is being put on “administrative leave” from her teaching position at the local high school because her sex-education program was seen as too liberal for some parents and staff. Her husband Kevin (Morgan Spector) is ready to help by switching careers and wants to stand by her, even if their parenting styles do seem to vastly differ when it comes to their daughter Alex (Gus Birney). Kevin lets Alex go to a party without Eve’s approval, and gosh darn those high school kids, even though she’s with her gay best friend Adrian (Russell Posner), some trouble brews with the school’s star football quarterback Jay (Luke Cosgrove).
The details get fuzzy: did Jay rape Alex, or was it consensual? Rifts begin to form as town members take sides, particularly between the Copeland’s and Connor Heisel (Darren Pettie), the town police chief who also happens to be Jay’s father. Other characters – like Natalie Raven (Francis Conroy), the elderly nature-loving neighbor who seems much of a free spirit, and Mia Lambert (Danica Curcic), a shady character who appears to be in town for her own probably-not-legal reasons – round out the townsfolk we meet and get to know – just as the aforementioned mist rolls into town, against the wind, and begins to cause some serious mayhem…
- Most characters we are introduced to in the first episode are taken from the original King story, albeit fleshed out with a certain amount of liberty. Again, we’re looking to fill at least 10 hours of screen time here in the first season alone, which is a pretty tall order for a hundred-some page story to do on its own.
- The phrase “bugging out” comes to mind when seeing what’s coming out of the mist, as the thematic element of insects and small animals fleeing from or being utilized by the mist is front and center.
- An intriguing question on the previous point, though: after the mist comes into town, one of the police officers meets his apparent demise by being picked apart by insects, after he spent the first part of the episode stepping on spiders and generally letting everyone know how much he dislikes bugs. Are the bugs the specific messengers of the mist, or is this a case of “your greatest fear will be your undoing” in an attempt to show some supernatural sentience from the mist itself?
- Another notable death in the first episode is a mother of a high-school student who was quite vocal in her disapproval of Eve’s sex education. The viewer clearly gets the vibe that she’s a woman who likes to gossip and voice her opinion in order to be the center of attention… and then she goes out into the mist and gets her jaw ripped off. Coincidence? Or something more?
CLOSING THOUGHTS: ‘The Mist’ is off to an interesting start, and certainly has my attention more so than the first episodes of other recent slow-starting TV horror series (‘Fear the Walking Dead’ and ‘Under the Dome’ spring immediately to mind, although the former managed to redeem itself in subsequent seasons). I, for one, am looking forward to tuning in next week to see how this ride – and this mist – rolls along.
PRIMARY BILLED CAST:
Morgan Spector as Kevin Copeland
Alyssa Sutherland as Eve Copeland
Frances Conroy as Natalie Raven
Gus Birney as Alex Copeland
Luke Cosgrove as Jay Heisel
Okezie Morro as Brian Hunt
Danica Curcic as Mia Lambert
‘The Mist’ will continue its 10-episode first season on Thursdays on the Spike TV network.