Damien Review: End of Days Can't Come Soon Enough for A&E's Leaden Horror Continuation

grade_DWho let this dog in?

That’s a question you’ll ask every time a growling Rottweiler makes a surprise appearance — at a Manhattan police precinct! in a kindly professor’s study! outside the bathroom of a Chilean rectory! — during A&E’s horror-flick continuation Damien.

But it’s also a fitting query for how such a glacially paced, emotionally unengaging and utterly suspense-free series made its way onto A&E’s schedule in the first place.

Damien kicks off on the 30th birthday of the demonic little moppet from 1976’s The Omen, who’s grown up to be a globetrotting, danger-loving photojournalist. During a nasty clash between the Syrian militia and an unarmed band of squatters, Damien comes into contact with an old woman whose eyes go all haunted-glassy before she repeats The Omen‘s famous catchphrase — “It’s all for you, Damien!” — and unlocks our protagonist’s childhood memories of the governess who chipperly chanted those words before she hanged herself on his fifth birthday.

The super convenient news is that Damien’s fellow reporter pal (and sometime love interest) Kelly (Devious Maids‘ Tiffany Hines) has filmed the Syrian encounter — which ends with the old girl spouting some Biblical phrases in her native tongue, then getting knocked with a rock in the noggin. Bim bam boom, within days, Kelly has translated the woman’s cryptic followup message into English, determined that Damien’s been “baptized in her blood” and somehow accessed the decades-old travelogue of Damien’s late dad to track down a religious scholar who ties into the whole mess. One look at Damien, and the dude is hinting that he’ll become “the greatest tyrant the world has ever seen” (while simultaneously shoving a rosary into his hands and imploring him to accept Christ).

These kinds of gaps in logic and timing are as frequent and glaring as potholes on the New Jersey Turnpike in February — and Damien‘s uniformly shoddy action sequences (if you can call them that) do nothing to distract from that fact. Episode 2 makes a big deal over a would-be assassin armed with an ancient dagger that might be able to slay the Anti-Christ, but when the dude finally comes face-to-face with Damien, the subsequent fight is performed with all the energy and panache of a supermarket cashier dropping canned goods on top of your hamburger rolls. (Naturally, a Rottweiler figures prominently.)

dm_101_03272015_bmh_00140At least the show’s canine characters seem to have clear motivations, though, which is more than can be said for Damien. While America’s next top False Messiah admits early on that he’s always felt like there’s been a dark cloud hanging over his head, Merlin‘s Bradley James plays the part with such gloomy passivity that you might wonder if Satan’s long-term plan is to bore the populace to death.

Despite the fact that huge corporations, the Vatican, the U.S. government and other global powers have a vested interest in which way Damien’s wicked wind blows, the object of their obsession seems more more anxious about learning his origin story than he does in starting the countdown clock to the second coming of Jesus. Oh, sure, Damien tells a pushy priest that God is “a sadistic prick,” but that doesn’t mean he won’t take time from his schedule to show an interest in the plight of refugees and victims of war and little kids who accidentally fall on the subway tracks. And in Episode 3, when Damien shares his tale of witnessing a horrific wartime atrocity, the end result is depressing — not frightening.

The only one having any fun in this devilish affair is Barbara Hershey, playing Ann Rutledge, a lifelong follower/protector of Damien’s progress who keeps grinning lasciviously at him as though she’d like to turn the middle digit in his “666” birthmark into a 9 (if I’m not being too subtle). Hershey grins like a loopy fangirl when she shares with Damien that she has his grade-school uniform (among other artifacts) as part of a permanent display in her basement, and later, when she taunts a workplace rival with a particularly obscene accusation about his daughter, it’s such a crisp shock of villainy you can’t help but wonder if Satan chose the wrong vessel for his mission.

Hershey’s commitment to the role is impressive, but it’s not enough to follow Damien into the schlockiest circle of TV hell.

The TVLine Bottom Line: Show no sympathy for this devil — instead, cast it back into the pit from whence it came.

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45 Comments
  1. cant believe they canceled unforgettable to give us this

  2. Dave says:

    Meh. I never let reviews stop me from watching. Thanks for the write up but will still watch after Bates.

    • wrstlgirl says:

      Same here. Not saying that Michael is wrong just that I like to watch for myself and make up my own mind.

    • johnhelvete says:

      I think there are the things you are going to watch and than there are the things you are not going to watch under any circumstances. Reviews to me are more about the stuff in between, that I dont have a strong opinion one way or another. I still remember Siskel and Ebert raving up The Rundown years ago, which was a movie that I had barely paid attention to and seeing the film based on that review.

      • Annie says:

        Agreed. I read reviews for the middle stuff. And tvline is usually pretty on the nose with stuff; I never would have checked out Brooklyn Nine Nine had they not raved about it so strongly

        • Isobel says:

          agree their reviews are good to discover new shows or turn off shows you weren’t sure about, I think I’ll still check out episode 1 of Damien myself

    • Kristy K says:

      I’m still gonna give it a shot. I remember reading that stitchers was gonna be awful, and it turned out to be one of my favorite shows to watch. Plus I enjoyed Bradley in Merlin and iZombie so I’ll watch to see how he does.

    • Ana Paula says:

      Me too. Not only because I’m a huge Bradley James fan but because I usually give three to four episodes to decide if I like it or not. I honestly didn’t like the first two episodes of Breaking bad, for example, but in the third I fell in love with the show!

  3. Drew says:

    Hah! With this line, “[he] plays the part with such gloomy passivity that you might wonder if Satan’s long-term plan is to bore the populace to death.”, you may also be describing the lead actor on Syfy’s The Magicians!

    I like to give new series 3 episodes to show some improvement if I’m hooked on a premise but not the immediate execution, so the big question to me is, will Damien (the show) get better after episode 2? My TV is longing for more Bradley James, but I’m not optimistic it will be on A&E based on this review…

    • Drew says:

      PS Bradley James was excellent on iZombie. It’s too bad he couldn’t be resurrected there. :()

    • Shaun says:

      Quentin is supposed to be that way,read the book foolio iglesias.

      • Drew says:

        Thanks for confirming that the lead on the Magicians plays the part with gloomy passivity (as intended, according to you, because it’s apparently in the book). Glad to know I was right.

        • Helena Basket (@Helena_Basket) says:

          I actually think Quentin is perfect on the Magicians. He has the nuances down perfectly.

          That said – I hope Damien is better than this gives hope for – I miss Bradley James

  4. Mary S says:

    They took The Glades from us, have not yet announced the renewal of Unforgettable, and yet, they try to force this on us??
    If they wonder why their ratings are down, they should talk to the director of programming!!

  5. “Damien kicks off on the 30th birthday of the demonic little moppet from 1976’s The Omen, who’s grown up to be a globetrotting, danger-loving photojournalist.”

    Should this be 40th birthday?

  6. Michael loved your review. I think I will watch just to see Barbara Hershey act rings around everyone else.

  7. Sarah D says:

    This article was really hilarious! Couldn’t stop laughing as I read through. As much as I like Bradley James, I am a bit skeptical about this show. Might watch the first 2 episode just to see Barbara Hershey do her thing lol.

  8. I would have preferred for the narrative thread to pick up from where Omen IV left off, or to continue from where the Omen remake left off. Going back to the original to redo the second one is pointless.

  9. Lindsey says:

    This is the only bad review I’ve read of Damien so far. Every other review I’ve read says the opposite. Regardless, I’m there 100% for Bradley James. I’m not a horror fan, so I’ll be watching only for him, and from all the clips I’ve seen and everything else I’ve read, it looks amazing. Pilots are always a bit shaky, anyway. I have no doubt that it will be an excellent show and hope this review doesn’t deter others from watching.

  10. Aly says:

    I’ll definitely be giving this a go anyway. Normally I allow new shows a few episodes to improve.
    Regardless, I adore Barbara Hershey, so even it the rest of the show is awful, I shall probably stick with it a while if only to enjoy her wonderful villainy.

  11. tallsy says:

    No one wants to watch something this dour. Why cast Bradley James as the antichrist and then not let him have any fun?

  12. Cory says:

    Personally I think this show is gonna be EXCELLENT. As much as I love Bates Motel I’d skip s4 to watch Damien. TVLine is *always* harder on my favorite genre shows though so as usual I doubt this review has any relevance for me.

  13. Lucifer Morningstar says:

    Why all the hate michael? You sound pretty prejudice. Perhaps you’re a Christian who disagrees with the plot of the show?

    • LadyXan2099 says:

      I feel that same way, over the years Christians have wrote in or called in to get TV shows cancelled, I feel it’s only fair to tell the anti Christ story, since Jesus gets 2 major holidays, and we all know his story, even if we never went to Bible camp. I’m hoping they show how all religions speak of a false Messiah.

  14. Emma Caulfield says:

    Your “review” is so totally over the top ridiculous it can’t be taken seriously. If I wasn’t already excited for this show (which I was), I’d be even more determined to like Damien now. Bradley James always puts in a terrific performance and from what I’ve seen so far he’s continuing to do so in Damien.

  15. KatieK says:

    “the object of their obsession seems more more anxious about learning his origin story than he does in starting the countdown clock to the second coming of Jesus”

    If I’d just discovered I was the Antichrist I’d be wanting to find out my origins too. Only a fool would accept that bit of news and then not try and find out a bit more about that part of themselves. Most people’s initial focus would be on that more than trying to figure out what comes next.

  16. Lee D. says:

    Loved Glen Mazzara’s work on The Shield. Loved Bradley James in Merlin and iZombie. Know I will love their collaboration in Damien.

  17. Zobek says:

    wait, the show haven’t aired yet so how would you know?

  18. I have no interest in watching this or Luther, shows like this are just a way to shove the bible down our throats! Plus sense both lead characters are supposed to be evil, how are we supposed to root for them on anything they do! Plus I have never been much into movies that centers on the devil in someway,so I sure am not going watch a TV show about it!

  19. Katie K. says:

    Wow. Someone wants a date with Barbara Hershey and is super jealous of Bradley James cheekbones! Those who can’t act trying to review people who can… sounds legit. Not.

  20. Juan Asano says:

    I was very curious about how they would be able to turn “The Omen” into a weekly, hour-long show. I love the results so far. As long as they make the supernatural aspect of the stories the main draw, I’ll keep coming back. Once it becomes more drama than devil, I’ll lose interest. Until then, it’s on my DVR list.

  21. Rhys Hyde says:

    Hah hey Michael Slezak, 80% of people here is laughing/disagreeing of your review you know what that means?. For some reason now I got this idea about a conspiracy against this tv show, lol

  22. Johnny G says:

    You can tell it was developed for lifetime. Bad actors and lousy writing. They lose about a million viewers from bates motel lead in. They should have found a way to let the guy use his British accent. The way he has to move his mouth to force the American one reminds me of badly dubbed martial arts movies.

  23. Peggy Stevens says:

    Obviously you have not seen all 4 of the Omen / Damien films or you could make the connections. Don’t put the wagon before the horse.

  24. Stephanie says:

    Does other Anti-Christ roles play it different in movies you watch, bc I think Bradley James was spot on with the character. I also thought the show was far from boring. I usually do not bother with reviews, bc they usually are inaccurate. Most of the time, good movies/shows get bad reviews, and movies/shows that deserve those bad reviews, usually get good ones. 2 good examples: American beauty and Monster’s ball. Both won awards, had good reviews, and yet both were depressing, and plan out terrible. If you recall in American Beauty, dad (Kevin spacey), has fantasies about his teenage daughter’s friend. Disgusting!! Yet, the movie received good reviews and awards. To top that one, Monsters ball, overly depressing, movie was terrible and rather offensive. African American woman loses her son in a terrible accident. Man who found woman and her son bleeding on side of road, played by Billy Bob Thorton, happems to be racist. Billy Bob’s character has his own demons, his son commits suicide bc he can’t please daddy, plus his father…. well he may as well have been the leader of the KKK. So….Halle Berry, mother of the dead child, ends up in a rather sultry sexual relationship with the racist son. The son, who was supposed to hate any race other than whites I guess, ends up on the wrong side of dad, when dad realizes that his son is in a relationship with a black woman. Point is these are the kind of shows and movies that get good reviews and win awards. I guess I just have particular taste in movies and shows.

  25. Mnm says:

    I have been watching Damien since it aired and quite frankly I love the show. Wish they would hurry and bring it back.