Oh dear. It’s not going well is it? And no, we don’t mean well for the people of Bridgeville, we mean for episode 3 of a series that suddenly doesn’t seem to have any idea what to do with itself. Normally, episodes like this one are fated for the 6th or 7th of a season, where showrunners have to flab out a narrative that could probably do without an extra 80 minutes of run time. Instead, it’s only taken three episodes for The Mist to crumble into flabby drawn out character scenes and frankly ludicrous plot devices.
It’s such a pity after such a strong pilot but The Mist is dangerously spiralling down in a foggy pit of lazy writing. Once again, here are the questions we have after watching. Like someone who probably hasn’t showered in three days after hiding out from creepy condensation in the basement of a church, it’s not going to be pretty. As ever, spoilers await.
1. Why on earth did they get a teenager to cut down the bodies of people who have committed suicide and then wheel them into a mall?
This whole entry could just be full of questions. Why did they have to cut the Arrowhead soldiers down to check if they had dog tags instead of just looking under their collar? Why did the showrunners feel it necessary to show a dead body landing with a thud into a shopping trolley in some weird tonally deaf ‘neither horror nor comedy nor drama’ moment? Who thought any of this was a good idea? But the mishandling of two corpses only crosses further into farcical territory as the group who we previously thought to have at least one braincell between them, then wheel the unfortunate deceased into the middle of the mall. Insert your favourite expletive strewn acronym here.
It’s worth saying here that The Mist novella and Darabont adaptations both take incredible care to show exactly how people react in survival situations. After his encounter with the tentacles and demise of Norm the bag boy in the loading dock, David Drayton speedily changes his blood soaked t-shirt and speaks in hushed tones so as not to panic the already volatile shop of terrified human beings. It’s an incidental but essential part of the humanity of the moment. Fear spreads. Instead, the TV show throws nuance out of the window entirely and no one, in a mall full of children, even acts particularly shocked when two corpses are wheeled in. It’s staggeringly tone deaf and makes everything that follows just another passenger on the farce train. Speaking of…?
2. What lazy character stereotype is coming next?
This episode we meet the ‘gamers’ - two bozos who own a video game store in the Mall. They don’t ‘take life seriously’ and ‘contribute nothing’ to the town, earning them the frowns and disapproval of the other played-out character archetypes in the Mall. After pretending to play games in front of a blank TV - because gamers are incapable of spending their time doing literally anything else - they hatch a plan to lure out the nasties in the Mist by pushing out the corpses of the dead Arrowhead soldiers as ‘bait’.
Knowing your enemy is a damn good idea, but the hapless gamers are berated by the rest of the Mall-dwellers for their lack of respect for the dead. They’re DEAD. And you don’t know why the town is shrouded in a supernatural fog. Yet the two characters who decide to do something proactive are metaphorically given a dunce hat and told to stand in the naughty corner. The viewer is invited to condemn them too, as man-children who need to grow up. Wake up, The Mist - your characterisation is awful, and totally out of step with the horrific menace you’re trying to create with your monsters. Let’s see which lazy stereotypes come next…
3. How on earth was Adrian meant to know that being baptised would mean he could steal the keys?
Here’s the thing. Young Adrian’s conversion to religion could have actually been an interesting moment for The Mist. A scared young man being sucked in by the appealing nature of the unquestioning love of the church in an apocalyptic situation. Sure it was hard to immediately trust his convictions but it would have been an interesting character development if suddenly he had chosen to believe in miracles in a world where men grow wings through their moth tattoos and spray locusts from their mouth (more on that in a bit). But no, instead it was all a ruse to steal the keys to the basement which surely, surely, the priest would have handed over to the police chief by now. But yes, glaring plot holes aside, The Mist once again surrenders an interesting narrative prospect for the sake of a cheap plot device to get captives out of a basement. Sigh.
4. How did The Mist know about that death’s head moth tattoo and why did it choose that man for a gory butterfly effect?
Basically Chekhov’s tattoo - the movie trope you can’t unsee - the only reason we see the death’s head moth inking on the back of the ill fated church goer early in the episode is so we see wings burst through it later in the episode. It’s a weird moment, given that it’s the only real mist action we get as a locust flies in his ear before taking over his body as a host. Yes, the bugs spilling from his mouth and butterfly wings make for a dramatic looking scene with plenty of religious connotations but it feels a little empty after the random destruction of a more dangerous mist in the first episode. Now it doesn’t just make hallucinations for its victims, it can also choose whether to turn them into giant bugs. On paper this should all be brilliant but in action it feels less shocking or even vaguely scary, further cementing the feeling that the showrunners just can’t decide how to make things terrifying and are now stabbing in the dark. Moths worked for Silence of the Lambs, right guys?
5. How badly can the Mist mishandle a rape storyline?
Let’s count the ways. While the pilot episode gave us a version of the events that took place at the party, it was already clear that this wasn’t exactly how things went down. This is further cemented when Jay corners Alex alone in the shopping mall in the most awkward scene since the aforementioned trolley drop. While he claims his innocence, looking painfully puppy dog-like sincere, the fact that he decides to corner her alone instead of perhaps asking her to speak to him in public where she feels safe is a serious misstep. Proceeding to force her to let him touch her to prove that he can’t be a rapist is facepalm levels of cringe but exactly what you might expect in an episode where a mother says, for absolutely no reason at all “I’ve always been an anarchist.”
6. How many of those mall rules are going to go very wrong?
The list of rules drawn up by the mall survivors is surely only going to cause problems. Surely when a society decides to make some laws they start with ‘be nice’ or ‘maybe share your chicken nuggets’ not ‘when you go against the group you get thrown into the mist to die.’ The descent into Lord of the Flies is meant to be slow and steady over a number of episodes, slowly bubbling away as resentment grows between a motley crew, not immediately drawn on a glass stairwell with permanent marker. All this is doing is stating exactly what’s going to happen in the next few episodes. The removal of any possible tension is another slap in the face for anyone that thought this series had some smarts up its sleeve. The only question left to answer is can The Mist recover from this? Unfortunately, the answer might be written on the stairwell.