In the US: Thursdays, 10/9c, Spike
Is there a Stephen King formula? Sorry, trick question. King’s obviously a very diverse author, since although he’s best known as a horror writer, he’s turned his hand to everything from The Shawshank Redemption (feelgood prison story) to 11.22.63 (time travelling attempt to live in the sixties to stop Kennedy from being assassinated). Sure, the action’s always almost set in Maine, but that’s really his one definitive defining trait.
Yet one in comes to adaptations, maybe there is a formula, since the adaptations have so often been much of a muchness. If they weren’t, there’d never have been a Darkplace.
Part of the problem is that success breeds imitators who want to latch onto what made the first thing a success and piggyback to the same popularity. CBS’s Under The Dome wasn’t exactly the greatest TV show on Earth – beyond Rachelle Lefevre’s hair – but it was CBS’s surprise summer hit of 2013 and swiftly went from being a limited edition one-off to a full-blown, multiple-season series as a result.
So with Spike once more dipping its toe into the water of scripted content, after its efforts with Blade and The Kill Point made it more or less hide its head in the sand for a decade, it’s perhaps unsurprising that for its glorious return, it’s decided to play it safe and follow both CBS and Hulu in not only adapting a Stephen King story but also following Under The Dome more or less beat for beat, to the extent that The Mist borrows more from Under The Dome in the first episode than it does from The Mist.
We start off in a teeny tiny Maine town full of people with issues that are tediously spelled out for us all up front so that we don’t have to bother trying to do anything too subtly once the action starts. Most of the ‘issues’ revolve around Alyssa Sutherland (Vikings) and her family, especially her gay step-son and her step-daughter who fancies a high school jock, but wakes up after a party suspecting that he’s raped her. Problematically, said jock’s dad is also a police officer.
But there’s also a guy in an army uniform (Romaine Waite) who wakes up on a hillside not remembering much and who comes into town to warn people that there’s something odd in the mist that’s coming towards town. He’s arrested on suspicion of being black and locked up in the jail, where we meet a murderous bad girl (19-2‘s Alexandra Ordolis).
Unfortunately, his warning comes too late, as before you know it, animals are being weird – toads are biting little old ladies and cockroaches are attacking policemen. The mist rolls in, killing anything electric, but woe betide anyone who enters it. Best everyone with the most issues stay locked up together in the shopping mall, hey?
None of this especially subtle stuff. You can see straight from the off what most of the issues are going to be, particularly if you’ve seen Under The Dome. The main difference is that Spike is basic cable, which means it can get away with more swearing and more gore. Once the mist rolls in, suddenly faces are coming off or losing parts, cockroaches are burrowing into flesh, people are being shot in the head. It reads like someone’s idea of what a Stephen King story should be like – it’s horror, isn’t it, so surely there should be nasty unpleasantness.
Even when a little old lady’s husband is shot in the head in front of her by someone driven mad by the mist, the desensitisation process has already began enough that neither the show nor the viewer seems to care. Normally I weep buckets whenever old people are left all alone by the death of their partner, but the scene evoked barely a trace of emotion in me, because The Mist doesn’t really know how to create real people you’d care about.
The Mist is good at gore, but that’s about it. It’s not even a good imitation of Under The Dome, let alone the original Stephen King story. Maybe Spike should have another think about scripted. See you again in 10 years’ time, guys?