TV Review: Syfy’s ‘Dominion’

Dominion Syfy cancelled
Courtesy of Syfy

If you haven’t seen “Legion” — the movie about angels declaring war on mankind — then Syfy’s new series “Dominion” will feel like a fever dream, with perhaps the most elaborate post-apocalyptic backstory ever. Yet even those familiar with the movie might find the 90-minute opener dizzying, as well as unevenly acted (to put matters kindly) and derivative in the extreme. Paired with returning planetary post-annihilation show “Defiance,” Syfy has an alliteration-friendly summer tandem for those inclined to watch overwrought melodrama. Anyone else should probably avoid this latest episodic invader as if it were the last show on Earth.

“Dominion” opens by informing viewers — via perhaps the most depressing on-air script ever — that 25 years ago, God disappeared, triggering an assault on Earth waged by angels under the leadership of the archangel Gabriel (Carl Beukes). Humans were able to repel them, we’re told, thanks in part to assistance from Gabriel’s winged peer Michael (Tom Wisdom), who has taken up residence in Vega (as in “Bright-light city gonna set my soul on fire”), one of the surviving outposts where people have congregated. (Stephen King’s “The Stand” also featured Vegas as a post-apocalyptic stronghold, which it can certainly feel like after a bad night at the tables. )

Vega, however, has its own elaborate political and caste systems, with brave soldier Alex (Christopher Egan) assigned to guard — while secretly bedding — the resident princess, Claire of the House Riesen (Roxanne McKee). One need not be a genius to anticipate that the relative peace vis-a-vis the evil angels won’t last, or that hushed talk of a mysterious chosen one destined to lead mankind against them will be advanced before premiere’s end.

Written by Vaun Wilmott and directed by Scott Stewart (reprising his role on “Legion”), the series — shot in South Africa and augmented by a lot of CGI — does feature some interesting players in supporting roles, including Alan Dale as Claire’s father and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s” Anthony Stewart Head as an unctuous elitist eager to expand his power.

The show musters a few ninth-inning wrinkles in an attempt to reel in viewers to subsequent episodes; by then, though, the dense mythology about the angel invasion, angel hierarchies and what’s transpired during the intervening quarter-century — along with scads of political jockeying seemingly lifted out of “Dune” — has come to feel almost oppressive. All in all, it provides scant incentive to endure another messianic “The Matrix” knockoff that (in success, anyway) will have to milk these stories across multiple seasons.

Even as a guilty pleasure, the series requires a willingness to suspend concerns about logic, and embrace the elaborate plot entirely on its own terms, ignoring the sizable gaps in coherence as the opener races through its setup.

Such gentle, undemanding souls are out there, no doubt. But for the rest of humankind, if this is as good as “Dominion” gets, Heaven help us.

TV Review: Syfy's 'Dominion'

(Series; Syfy, Thurs. June 19, 9 p.m.)

Production

Filmed in South Africa by Bold Films in association with Universal Cable Prods.

Crew

Executive producers, Vaun Wilmott, Scott Stewart, Michael Litvak, Todd Slavkin, Darren Swimmer, David Lancaster; producer, Jean Higgins; director, Stewart; writer, Wilmott; based on the movie “Legion,” written by Peter Schink, Stewart; camera, Adam Suschitzsky; production designer, Carlos Barbosa; editor, Henk Van Eeghen; music, Chris Young; casting, Zane/Pillsbury, Kate Dowd. 90 MIN.

Cast

Christopher Egan, Tom Wisdom, Roxanne McKee, Alan Dale, Anthony Stewart Head, Luke Allen-Gale, Shivani Ghai, Rosalind Halstead, Carl Beukes

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  1. Derik Wilson says:

    I know this is an old blog, but I feel this has to be said… Dominion was basically Game of Thrones with angels, only it was boring.

  2. paolo says:

    Dominion it’ s a good production but who wrote Alex character made him far way too silly and stupid, not really ideal for this drama where every other characters are serious and smart enough. The show could be by far one of the most exiting in the last few years, that’s a shame!

  3. Dominion i love the story line. But i regret watching this movie as it encourages racism.so angel is white while the devil is black, what insolence.

  4. This movie is crap and it potraits racism. I regret watching it. So angels could be white but devil is black what insolence. Am disappointed at both the writer and producer

  5. This new show is so wonderful. Yes, it has a lot going on which only creates more interest about what will happen next. All the leads are very strong and committed to who they are playing. The context of the show is original and interesting on several levels. I do hope everyone will allow this first-year show to settle in and find its footing. The cast is first-rate as are the scripts. The is the best original show I’ve seen in a long time. It appeals to everyone. Please give it a chance and for some folks a second chance.

    • sirvape says:

      You must be watching a different show that I am then. Dominion is crap. That includes the writing , the acting and yes, the entire premise is stupid as well.

  6. Kris Adams says:

    I had really high hopes for this show. It is exactly the type of thing I’d enjoy watching. I was hoping it would be like Supernatural, just more serious..

    But I gave up after 2 episodes. The storyline isn’t too bad, I just couldn’t handle people dropping in and out of accents. I heard it a few times. I appreciate them trying, but I thought actors had voice coaches and things to make sure this doesn’t happen..

  7. EnlightenGent says:

    I never post on anything ever. This article was well written, but you as an individual miss the point of some movies and television shows. Suspension of disbelief is one of greatest things about them. If you are mentally capable of doing so than you can see the movie or film the way the creator intended. Someone thought of an idea that they loved and put so much work into for viewers to join in on his vision and enjoy it. You don’t think the creators of this show expected people like you to look at it and be like “Wow, this could nevvvvver happen.” I feel bad for you. You’ve probably never gotten a truly good movie experience involving ideas out of this world.

    Im super stoned right now.

  8. andria lassiter says:

    Thank goodness the chosen one is now seeing the light sorta speak lol don’t know with Michael and dying from stab wound but he better not be left alone with the humans lol everybody on this show is a suspect lol and Gabriel has love hate with Micheal they fight but don’t fight okay I guess that’s angel stuff lol

  9. andria lassiter says:

    Please someone tell me if you don’t agree how disrespectful the humans are to the angels especially Michael somebody make it stop lol lol I am so glad Michael reminded them what he could do but hasn’t kill them I don’t know if I can continue to watch this but I am trying to

  10. Theod says:

    I was excited to hear that there was going to be a show about Angels helping our embattled species ….. And then DOMINION aired …. sigh

    Conclusion? The only saving grace I could find for this show was Actor Tom Wisdom as Archangel Michael. He is totally believable, enjoyable to watch and with fine acting miraculously manages to bring some class to the show ~ he belongs on PBS. Savior Egan is pleasantly okay but totally miscast.

    And that is as good as it gets. Archangel Gabriel’s crew is laughable. Armored angels look like they belong in an old Godzilla movie. Frantic crowd scenes and series wardrobe are easily outdone by the 1996 hit “Mars Attacks” and the nude scenes are a viewer’s cheap peep show nightmare.

    In closing, and if we’re lucky, a future episode will produce an Archangel who will arise and use his talents to cleanse the network of their ineffective efforts thus far … and in doing so obtain and retain a good intelligent fan base … and then, just maybe, the Father will return and the series redeemed. But Archangel Michael “Tom Wisdom” may not want to be bothered …. And if he agrees to stick around to help with the major reparation needed ~ that would be a miracle indeed. We can only pray …

    It is a great concept …. hoping they can clean it up. But for now, very disappointing …

  11. JR says:

    I saw Legion, and it was a fairly good movie. Dominion may be based on Legion, but my biggest gripe is the mother (of the chosen one) is missing. She was by far the most interesting character. Jeep (described as his father, but of course there wasn’t one) is held over long enough to get killed, and then start reappearing in flashbacks (at least one in the 2nd episode). For some reason they’ve taken the plot in a strange direction that does indeed resemble a mishmash of Dune and The Stand. The actors portraying Michael and Gabriel are thin wisps beside the movie versions.

  12. Joyce Johnson says:

    There are quite a few shows on Syfy that I have watched and enjoy, but this new show, Dominion, I found it boring and tedious to get through. I watched all of it, hoping that I would finally like something about it, but it just did not happen. I liked Legion, but there was too much going on in this pilot, and it was kind of confusing. I always tried to give a new show a chance, so I might watch the next episode, but if it doesn’t get anymore interesting with the next show, I will stop watching it.

  13. Trish says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed Dominion. Though the beginning was a little rough; everyone needs to remember this is the pilot episode. Need I reference Star the Trek Next Generation’s pilot. If you look at every show done today it has been done in the past. The difference is finding the nuances that make it it’s own. My prayer is that SyFy will give this at least one season to iron out the kinks.

  14. Shad in DC says:

    I just watched the premiere and I must say the show was fantastic. Syfy does not disappoint. I can’t wait until the next epi. The guy who plays Michael is hot and sexy as hell.

  15. Clint says:

    I thought the pilot was very well done and am looking forward to seeing where it goes..surprising for the channel that brought you Sharknado..I guess that’s why I never pay attention to the critics or what they say..Guess it’s all a matter of opinion,

  16. Norma says:

    Sorry, I loved it! I guess I must be one of those ‘gentle undemanding souls’. Which is a pity because with these reviews the show is likely to be cancelled after a few episodes.

  17. diogenes says:

    I’m quite certain laughter wasn’t intended, but I found the pilot often risible. Between the mostly awful “American” accents (Anthony Head is an actor I quite like but I think I’ve discovered his weak spot) and terrible, hackneyed, dialogue, I was surprised at how truly awful the pilot was. Plus, it pretty much rips off the last five seasons of “Supernatural”, in which God has abandoned creation and the angels are mostly a bunch of a-holes at war with man (and that take possession of human hosts). Even the location has been done before (Vegas was a post-apocalyptic etting in one of the “Resident Evil” flicks). There wasn’t one fresh element in the whole thing. SyFy clearly spent some money on it. But boy is it off to a rotten start.

  18. loved it. can’t wait for episode two!

  19. I got through about 20 minutes of agony and boredom of Syfy’s Dominion TV show last night, and finally left it the rest of it on my DVR, wondering if I want to waste any more time. I am a die hard Sci-Fi fan, but not this hard-up!

  20. pusha-d says:

    This show was a great idea, however after watching the first episode it is horrible… It’s a typical dumb SYFY defiance like community soap opera and apocalyptic based show. I would have preferred the TV show to be similar to the movie…

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