Saturday, November 11, 2017

Pilot Review: Damnation

Damnation (USA)
Premiered November 7 at 10pm

I knew that this show was about a priest, and I figured that it would either fit the bill of AMC’s “Preacher” or FOX’s “The Exorcist.” Instead, this show doesn’t include any supernatural factors, and instead some pretty vicious people with no powers. I don’t think I expected a period drama from USA, a network that has proven capable of delivering lighthearted entertainment and, more recently, the incomparable head trip “Mr. Robot.” This is a more serious show set in the 1930s in the Midwest, a decided departure from the usual fare for USA. It seems to be a relatively successful experiment, since there is a whole lot of intrigue in this pilot and some truly colorful characters. Killian Scott’s false preacher isn’t even close to the juiciest part, though the following that he achieves with his unconventional gospel is formidable. Sarah Jones, who I first got to know on “Alcatraz,” proves once again that she’s capable of great things, here as the ice cream-referencing preacher’s wife. I’m always happy to see Christopher Heyerdahl from “Hell on Wheels,” cast in the rare role of law enforcement, though he’s evidently engaged in a good deal of corruption. Playing the Tom Hardy role is Logan Marshall-Green, who I remember back when he got his start on “24” and “The O.C.” This is a much better use of his talents. This show is relatively brutal and grim, but there’s something to be said for its styling, which isn’t quite a Western. I don’t know that I’ll be back for a second episode even though I found this to be far more involving than I had expected.

How will it work as a series? There are some surprising connections between the preacher stirring things up and those doing their own havoc-wreaking, and those should be quite interesting, especially since neither of them actually live in the places they’re disrupting. There will be a lot of destruction and casualties along the way, and maybe even some decent drama.
How long will it last? The reviews don’t seem to be all that great, but they’re not so bad either. The same is true of the ratings for the pilot, which put it below some recent USA premieres but not anywhere too problematic. I think that, without any strong advocates for this show, it’s likely to be forgotten, though a second season is still possible.

Pilot grade: B

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