The Mist: Surprisingly, Pretty Good. Okay, I’m Lying.

Monday , 30, October 2017 6 Comments

Fear. Bad. Storytelling.

It’ll probably shock none of you that the recently-launched and recently-cancelled The Mist TV show sucked. What may shock you is how thoroughly ghastly the suckage was. It permeated the whole show, and came in three varieties: entirely superficial suckage, suckage in central concepts, and suckage in execution.

(Spoilers below. Like you even care.)

Let’s start with the superficial suckage. The first episode of Spike TV’s Maine monster show throws out an array of virtue signals, enough to rival the light from several dozen Las Vegas casinos. There’s the small town teacher who loses her job for teaching Sex Ed against the wishes of the small-minded small-towners she lives among, the small town Sheriff who covers for his small town Captain of the Football Team jock son after he’s credibly accused of drugging and assaulting the daughter of the fired teacher, the bisexual guy with heavy makeup who’s targeted for a beating by a small town bigot, the innocent Middle Eastern man who’s accused of terrorism by a racist small town jerkhole, and many more I don’t have time to go into. It’s like someone had a control board wired up to every single virtue signal IN EXISTENCE and his boss said “Hit ’em all.”

The thing is, each and every one of the virtue signals are misdirects. Normally they’d indicate a plaster saint, a character who’s just more noble, virtuous, and gosh darn better at everything than everyone else. And yet, if you stay with the show—and Heaven bless your stupid blinkered stubbornness if you do—you find out there are two (count ’em, two) innocent people in the entire town, everyone else being some variety of scumbag, murderer, or psycho—even the people you’d think would end up as saints (or are the apparent main character).

The aging Leftwing Earth-worshipping Baby Boomer former hippie chick whose husband is casually abruptly brutally murdered by some random dude in the pilot? Absolute psycho. The bold, brave feminist Sex-Ed-teaching former teacher? You better believe she’s a psycho. The Goth bisexual assault victim? TOTAL PSYCHO. Everybody, the whole town, both sexes, all races, all sexual orientations, every single person in the entire village is a scumbag, murderer, or psycho. Sometimes all three.

It’s enough to make one cynical about small town America.

Which leads us to problems in the conception of the show. Contrary to what people say, all story ideas are not created equal. Some are good, some great, and some just plain awful. Great ideas tend to stand out no matter how terrible the rest of the material is, shining like solitary diamonds in a bucket full of dung. Bad ideas, in contrast, tend to propagate throughout a work of fiction, tainting everything else with their awfulness, like vomit in a wading pool. The Mist was built atop a pile of awful ideas.

The original Stephen King short story and the 2007 movie (a decent work fatally marred by one of the most nihilistic endings I’d ever seen until now) featured the titular mist descending upon a bucolic New England village, bringing with it a panoply of bizarre and unearthly monsters who proceed to terrorize the town. There’s no indication of what caused the irruption of the monstrous beasties—other than some half-hearted gestures towards a mysterious military project named Arrowhead—and no sign that they’re intelligent or coordinated. They just are. The scenes of the humans having to deal with basketball-sized almost-spiders, forearm-sized not-quite-mosquitoes, and creatures so massive they tear up the freeway just by floating past… well, they’re the only reason to read the story. (Heaven knows the stock characters straight from Stephen King Central Casting aren’t anything to write home about.) The 2017 show, however, threw all of this out.

Instead of an invasion of Lovecraftian creatures from elsewhere in space-time, THIS Mist features a fear-generator. The clouds floating about town intuit your deepest fear and, in thirty seconds to a minute (one of the characters timed it), it materializes out of the mist to attack and probably kill you. This makes for monsters that are COMPLETELY LAME. Leeches. Dogs. Somebody’s overbearing mum. Random hostile homicidal people. A literal dead baby. (Not a joke.) A figure made out of black smoke. A moth that kills a guy by crawling inside his mouth, giving him a moth back tattoo, and sprouting giant moth wings from his back. And the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (who appear but briefly, in silhouette, kill somebody, then disappear.) LAME MONSTERS IN A MONSTER SHOW RUIN THE MONSTER SHOW.

Moreover, the mist-born monsters are barely featured in the 10-episode series. The first trailer for the show made it seem like Spike’s answer to The Walking Dead: a bunch of survivors, walled up in various places about the town, fighting off an invasion of monsters. The Walking Dead, for all its flaws, was at least a zombie show that featured ACTUAL ZOMBIES. They appeared—sometimes out of thin air—ate people and were chopped or shot, then went away until the plot needed them again. They MATTERED.

The monsters of The Mist—again, the focal point of both the short story and the movie—barely make an appearance. All the above creatures count for, at most, 30 minutes of the 10-hour series. Oh sure, characters run through the mist, stare out at the mist, and refuse to venture outside into the mist, but the actual monsters in the mist are almost never seen. People killed in the mist pretty much always die offscreen. A MONSTER SHOW WITHOUT MONSTERS IS A LAME MONSTER SHOW.

The mist itself is also a problem. It’s simply too thick, too obscuring, too easy to get lost in, and too lethal. As the central obstacle / challenge / opponent of a continuing series, it sucks. It makes interesting shots impossible—you can’t see up into the mist to catch a glimpse of a skyscraper-sized thing striding past, tearing great gaping holes in the ground, collapsing buildings with a casually placed limb, you can’t see people running for their lives from some malefic threat, nor can you see the slow but steady advance of some new threat marching towards the last bastion of human life in the beleaguered town. Last, but not least, people can’t respond to the mist.

In the story and movie, people made plans. They utilized the tools available to them and made weapons to fight the monsters with. The utter lethality of the mist in this show means people can’t effectively scavenge for food and weapons, nor can they easily navigate the thick and obscuring clouds, nor can they fight back. All these things are the building blocks of an interesting series. Writers NEED them to tell decent stories. Yet the show makes all of them impossible.

Not that the writers of this show could tell a decent story anyway. The Mist is, as per the usual trend recently, less a series than a serial. One show leads directly into the next, and what plot there is gets spread out over all ten shows. Basically, it’s a ten hour movie. Now, ten hour movies can be done (I guess. In theory.), but not by the writers of this show. (Or Jessica Jones. Or Luke Cage.) Instead we get apparent plot movement that meanders back and forth for too damn long, eventually going nowhere. It’s long, tedious, and MEANINGLESS. In the end, a lot of things happen, but you just don’t care.

Somebody needed to send these jerks to TV screenwriting school. Teach them about a 4-act TV drama structure, mini-climaxes before commercial breaks, and A-, B-, and C-plots. When, and ONLY when, they master these basics (after having done it for a while), then we’ll give them a shot at semi-serial storytelling. LEARN YOUR CRAFT FIRST, MORONS.

Now all of the above is absolutely awful. But it isn’t the awfullest thing about the show. That, they saved for the series finale.

Our hero, the main character, has been trying to reunite with his wife (ex-teacher Sex Ed lady) and his daughter (little miss “got assaulted and then unknowingly made out with her half-brother”. No, really. Because there just wasn’t enough awful in the show.) Daddy dearest shows up at the mall to rescue them and—because of some wholly contrived and altogether stupid reasons—the people in the mall (about 50 or so panicking small town people who’ve been neighbors with them for decades) throw the lot of them out. Into the parking lot where he has a car warmed up and waiting to drive away. So he drives away… then rams the vehicle into the front doors of the mall, letting the mist in and ensuring all 50 of their neighbors meet grisly ends.

People scream. Blood flows. Lots of people die.

Your hero, ladies and gentlemen!

It’s an ugly and pointless ending, even more nihilistic than that of the 2007 movie, and reveals our main character to be a total and utter murdering psycho. Because THAT’S the kind of hero audiences root for.

The Mist is absolutely awful, beginning to end. If I was thrown out into the mist, my greatest fear would materialize as a small, featureless room where they force me to watch this series over and over and over again.

Jasyn Jones, better known as Daddy Warpig, is a host on the Geek Gab podcast, a regular on the Superversive SF livestreams, and blogs at Daddy Warpig’s House of Geekery. Check him out on Twitter.

  • Andy says:

    “Instead of an invasion of Lovecraftian creatures from elsewhere in space-time, THIS Mist features a fear-generator. The clouds floating about town intuit your deepest fear and, in thirty seconds to a minute (one of the characters timed it), it materializes out of the mist to attack and probably kill you.”


  • Carrington Dixon says:

    Now, ten hour movies can be done (I guess. In theory.)…

    The Russians made a version of War and Peace that runs about 8 hours. They started with something a bit longer that a short story …

  • Andy (different Andy) says:

    Yes, the beasties are the only reason to read King’s story. I thought some of the human characters were not just ‘stock’, but ridiculously unbelievable and a waste of space. Ordinary supermarket shoppers who suddenly form a cult of human sacrifice, with Mrs Carmody as their leader! I just resented Mrs Carmody and the other lunatics taking up space in the story when otherwise we might have found out more about the giant spiders, etc. I passed on the 2007 movie just because they kept that stupid character instead of tossing her out, as they should’ve done.

  • JP says:

    “Now, ten hour movies can be done (I guess. In theory.)…”

    Winds of War = 14 hour miniseries, very well done as I recall.

  • Vlad James says:

    Hollywood’s goal is to make fictional small towns as evil and depraved as the reality of what the worst parts of major cities actually are.

    “Pleasantville” was an illuminating, if more restrained example of this.

  • TWS says:

    Dumbest show I ever watched more than 30 mins of. I’m glad someone else had to watch the rest.

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