I’ve been trying to decide which line of dialogue in The Mist’s sixth episode, “The Devil You Know,” best sums up the issues with this series as a whole. An early contender comes from Nathalie Raven, spoken to Connor Heisel inside the church: “Few things are more beautiful than destruction. Doesn’t mean I enjoy it.”
Now, pretend this statement is even a little true—if you walked outside right now I think you could see, at least, ten things more beautiful than “destruction”—and apply it to The Mist. This show is filled with storytelling issues, but it’s hard to ignore that episode to episode it is often just as shockingly gorgeous to just look at. Director David Boyd turned episode two, “Withdrawal,” into a particularly memorable hour of The Shining-esque horror visuals, but every episode has at least a few moments where it rises above its CGI limitations and provides an interesting flourish or screenshot-worthy shot. The balloon-filled baby room from episode five comes to mind; in “The Devil You Know” it’s the small touches, like the image of the mist puffing through a keyhole, or from the cracked skull of Mia’s hallucinated mother.
But that doesn’t mean I enjoy it.
Because beneath the impressive imagery there is no logic behind a single thing happening on The Mist. So maybe the most fitting line comes from mall manager Gus Redman: “How did we get here, Eve?” That is a fantastic question, Gus, one you could conceivably ask several times throughout “The Devil You Know.” How did we get here? When did Link transform from a somewhat awkward but relatively normal church attendee to a violent zealot, willing to lock an elderly woman in the attic and threaten her with God’s justice? What led that doctor to start performing mad scientist experiments on unwilling patients? At what point did the lower level of the mall become a Lord Of The Flies situation, where first offense gets you sent outside to your death and an assumedly once-normal person is now willing to light a teenage girl on fire?
The problem is that, with more than half a season gone, showrunner Christian Torpe and his writing staff seem content with answering those questions and more with, “because of the mist.” But that’s not good enough, because the only thing we know less about than these characters’ motivations is the mist itself. At this point, it’s easy to surmise that whatever it is, the mist digs up some manifestation of your greatest fear. For Mia, it’s her past. For a small child, it becomes a hulking storybook monster. For Alex, it is nothing, the great emptiness of a high school kid’s fear of going unnoticed and unwanted.
But that, in itself, is an issue; because the mist changes by the person, this show is essentially juggling a dozen storylines at once—all in different styles— and failing to explain any of them. So maybe it’s appropriate that the most telling line of dialogue doesn’t even come from a main character, or even a human being. It comes from a hallucinated owl who only says “what?” That owl is straight-up the most relatable character on The Mist. Hell, by the end of “The Devil You Know” half the audience probably was that owl.
Bryan Hunt shouts at his former friend “tell me who I am” while also choking the life out of him. What?
Father Romanov essentially condones kidnapping and torture because he disapproves of a grieving widow calming his panicked parishioners. What?
Eve decides the best course of action is to spread false hope using fake rescue fliers. What?
In a way, The Mist certainly lives up to its namesake; it sure is intriguing to look at, but you can’t explain a single thing that’s going on underneath the surface.
- What was funnier? The nurse categorizing a few missing patients as “nothing to worry about” or the fact she was communicating this information in a whisper so loud it carried down an entire hospital hallway?
- When Mia tells her mist-induced mother (so, herself?) that “someone is waiting,” is she referring to Bryan? Because she just met that dude, and he doesn’t even remember who he is.
- Alyssa Sutherland deserves an award for putting even an ounce of realism into a line as clunky as “If I see you touching her, I will put a bullet in whatever body part you touch her with.”
- End result aside, Father Romanov desperately hopping on the organ to try and attract attention away from Nathalie was a stellar example of making a character look pathetic.