From the beginning, Dominion has trucked in the nature of duality, whether it’s angels versus humans, the divine versus the profane, the haves and have nots, lower angels and high. Tonight’s episode, “Lay Thee Before Kings,” explores this duality in the corporeal sense by presenting us not only with a new kind of 8-ball, but in Julian’s dyad, too. And let’s not forget a city divided, literally, by a massive trench. Spoilers from this point on.
Julian is an interesting character with a good backstory: he was banished by Michael to the outer sphere simply for carrying out God’s plan in Sodom. His only sin was that he reveled gleefully in the destruction he inflicted upon the doomed city. Since then, the higher angel once known as Lyrae (and the angelic half of Julian’s Dyad) has been waiting for the day where he could strike back at what he considers holier-than-thou archangels. Again, a good backstory, great motive, and yet Julian was turned into a monologuing, garden variety Bond villain. Sure, we learn that in addition to their weakness against Empyrean steel (in no short supply in New Delphi), angels are also vulnerable to electricity. Generally speaking, I’ve enjoyed the way Dominion has rewritten the Good Book when it comes to angelic mythology; indeed, this has been one of the show’s strengths from the beginning. But I hope this sort of thing doesn’t lead to the Vulnerability of the Week. Dominion is a better show than that, and doesn’t do itself any favors by succumbing to convenient gimmicks. But that’s just my opinion.
In any case, Julian’s ultimate plan is to trade up to a new body, specifically, that of an archangel. So he conspires to torture Michael and Gabriel with the aforementioned electricity, weakening them enough so he can take over one of their bodies. Sounds great on paper, though not so much in execution. I do like seeing Michael and Gabriel together. They play well off one another. We also get to learn more about the latter angel when he played at being human. These flashbacks to the time of King Saul give the show a chance to once again rewrite an important Biblical moment. Last season, we learned that Noah’s Ark was actually a bunker, and the Flood was actually Michael’s bloody vengeance sweeping across the land.
The retcon in tonight’s episode is two-fold: one, Gabriel was David’s father. And two, while David did best Goliath, King Saul, who hid from the giant inside his castle, ultimately killed David in a fit of pique. An imposter secretly replaced the dead boy. As much as I enjoy these sorts of twists, I didn’t understand why the false king would be the one to suffer Gabriel’s eventual wrath. After all, it was Saul who was responsible for the real David’s demise, not the boy who took his place all those years ago.
Now, on to Alex and Noma’s visit to the big box store. It’s here that we’re introduced to another kind of 8-ball that’s so obsessed with their hosts’ former lives that they obsessively reenact the most mundane moments. In this case, we see an 8-ball running nonexistent bar codes over an imaginary scanner. There’s also an 8-ball absently pushing a broom through the aisles. This idea is taken to its conclusion by throwing a possessed greeter into the mix. In theory, this is all a bit unsettling, yet Alex is confident these 8-balls pose no threat—until they do. It’s worth noting here that Colson Whitehead’s post-apocalyptic book, Zone One, also featured zombies who were trapped in the routines of their former lives. Called “stragglers,” these poor undead souls lived out their dusty obsolescence, pantomiming tasks as irrelevant as making photocopies.
In Zone One, they served as a poignant reminder of the humanity that is lost to the undead menace. In tonight’s episode, however, these disaffected 8-balls struck me as a gimmick with very little to offer in the way of social commentary. This isn’t to say that Dominion (or any show, for that matter) has a responsibility to shed light on human nature, but some of the best fantasy and sci-fi stories are better for doing so. The Good Book has never shied away from the copious use of parables to make valid points about humanity’s strengths and weaknesses.
Some closing thoughts:
A person I initially thought was The Walking Dead’s Morgan tells Noma to bring the Chosen One east. Which can only mean that this would-be Lennie James is Mallory’s mysterious Prophet? This possibility is driven home when he sets an 8-ball aflame simply by pointing a finger at it. Prophet or no, it’s still an impressive display of power.
And speaking of power, I didn’t get the sense that Goliath was truly a goliath. I’m sure most people are familiar with the story of how a boy bested a giant with nothing more than a slingshot and some faith, but this Goliath came up a bit short.