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Dominion Review: This Sequel Cribs Liberally from Everything

Elizabeth Harper | 21 Jun 2014 12:00
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Though the cliches are common and the story is overwrought, what else are you going to do while you wait for season 5 of Game of Thrones?

Perhaps you weren't one of the fans of the 2010 movie Legion, but you don't need that backstory to dive into SyFy's new spin-off, Dominion... mostly because during Dominion's plodding, 90-minute premiere it doesn't skimp on backstory. The pilot episode is jam packed with cliches as the show tries to decide whether it wants to be Fallout, The Hunger Games, Game of Thrones or, more likely, all three at once. It makes for a busy hour and a half of television, but the show does feature some solid performances (like a villainous Anthony Stewart Head), good CG effects (though they're mixed with less good effects), gorgeous sets, and an elaborate world that you could easily get lost in. The story has an epic sense of scale, one that hardly seems to fit into the small size of a television screen, even with a lengthy premiere episode.

The size of the world is the real problem: Dominion has a lot of setup to do before it can really get into the meat of the story, and it may well lose your attention before it gets there. Making matters worse, the cast of characters seems to enjoy repeating things we already know to make sure everyone's on the same page, which makes the episode ping pong between confusing and repetitive. However, if you're a fan of supernatural stories inspired by religious mythology -- and find yourself missing CW's Supernatural -- the show might be worth a watch... if only to enjoy Head getting to go full-out villain. Additionally, though the show is laden with cliches, it combines them in a fashion that might amount to something new.

Maybe.

At any rate, there's enough interesting about the pilot that we might see the show settle into something watchable. Though it's not exactly a recommendation, it's the best that can be given after the first episode. You can catch episodes of Dominion on SyFy Thursdays at 9/8c, but you can also watch full episodes on SyFy.com. Now, let's tear into the pilot. Spoilers follow.

Dominion takes place 25 years after Legion. God has left, and in the aftermath many angels held man responsible and waged war on the humans. One angel, Michael, chose to fight for man and has helped them rebuild in a post-apocalyptic world that's part Fallout: New Vegas and part The Walking Dead. Dominion is set in a rebuilt Las Vegas, which its inhabitants now call Vega.

Before going any further, let's cover the primary characters. The episode does a poor job of introducing them, so here's a cheat sheet:

  • Alex Lannen: A soldier and our protagonist, played by Christopher Egan.
  • Michael: The only angel to side with humanity, played by Tom Wisdom.
  • Claire Riesen: Daughter of General Edward Riesen and Alex's lover, played by Roxanne McKee.
  • General Edward Riesen: Head of House Riesen and Lord of the City, played by Alan Dale.
  • Jeep: Alex's father, who abandoned him and has been traveling and thought dead for the past 15 years. Played by Langley Kirkwood.
  • David Whele: Head of House Whele and one of Vega's senators. Played by Anthony Head.
  • William Whele: David's son and the leader of Vega's Church of the Savior. He's in love with Claire and oblivious to Claire and Alex's relationship. Played by Luke Allen-Gale.
  • Arika: Leader of a diplomatic delegation from neighboring Helena, played by Shivani Ghai.
  • Gabriel: An angel who wants to wipe out humanity, played by Carl Beukes.

Now, the episode: We open on Alex alone in an abandoned Las Vegas casino. When he hears a noise, he goes to investigate and somehow manages to step on what's likely the only whole glass in the building, alerting a group of three angels to his presence.

It's here that I start to wonder about this show. Alex is the main character and he's supposed to be, if nothing else, competent. But as he flees from these angels back to the safety of the city walls, I can't help but think that the whole encounter was pretty much his fault: first being out on his own, second going to investigate while out on his own, third stepping on that glass. He could have walked away, which would have seen the wiser course since he was alone and, we find out later, no one even knew he'd left the city... but then we wouldn't have had a dramatic chase scene of Alex driving furiously to safety while an angry angel punches through his windshield.

At least it opens the show on a dramatic note...

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