At the close of last week’s premiere, we were introduced to what looked like a new kind of 8-ball. They didn’t just grunt, these possessed hosts—they were grunts. And tonight’s episode, “Mouth of the Damned,” certainly bears this out in the show’s opening minutes. We also learned a great deal more about the town of Mallory, and its stalwart spiritual leader, Laurel.
Spoilers from this point on.
Dominion is an example of world-building at its deepest. Yes, the show offers up yet another end-of-days scenario, but it does so not only with great relish, but an impressive amount of consistency and attention to detail. Best of all, Dominion populates its world with morally complex, fallible characters. Yes, humanity is at war with the angels, but mankind is still its own worst enemy, consuming itself with almost cannibalistic fervor to stay alive. But more on this last point in a bit.
First, let’s talk about these evolved 8-balls, who work for New Delphi’s leader, a no-nonsense capitalist named Julian. He’s worked out a system with the lower angels, which allows humans and the possessed alike to live together in harmony. This is certainly an evolved way of thinking, given what we know of 8-balls being violent savages.
But Alex isn’t interested in 8-ball cohabitation. Like Vega, New Delphi is one of the cradle’s most powerful cities, an underground “paradise” built on trade. Alex wants to join forces with New Delphi against Gabriel, but Julian is having none of it—and could you really blame him? He doesn’t know Alex from Adam, as it were. He values honesty as much as he values a good barter. And while New Delphi may be armed with Empyrean steel, Alex knows the enchanted metal isn’t enough to stop an archangel as determined and as righteously wronged as Gabriel. Soon enough, Gabriel and his army find their way into New Delphi. He ultimately leaves empty-handed, but in the process, Julian gives Alex a chance to prove himself a worthy ally.
On the flip side of this, Claire proves herself to be a worthy adversary to David Whele. With Arika’s help, the two formulate a plan to bring the House of Whele to his knees—and to do so, they enlist the aid of an 8-ball named Rose. In addition to being somewhat sentient (and incredibly creepy), Rose is portrayed as something to be pitied. She is also something that can be trained. In this case, the carrot dangled before her are the various accouterments of her host’s former life—a bit of jewelry, some lipstick, a photograph. The motivation for Rose to possess these objects is just as powerful as her desire to possess her host, and before long, she fulfills her mission by putting David in a seriously compromising position. The moral here? Claire and Arika are not women to be trifled with.
What is it about the post-apocalypse that gives rise to strong, resourceful female characters? This is not a complaint, merely an observation. From The 100’s Clarke to The Walking Dead’s Michonne to Mad Max: Fury Road’s Furiosa, these women own their respective apocalypses.
Which brings us to Laurel, Mallory’s spiritual leader. Clearly she has a special gift, communing with the Father and being rewarded for her faith with a protective fire that keeps the 8-balls out of their town. She appears to know a lot about Michael, too, even though she doesn’t know him per se. He is an enigma wrapped in a divine riddle, a walking question that both baffles and intrigues her. (So much so that it seems she wants to know him in the biblical sense, too.)
What’s most interesting about the Mallory storyline is the introduction of the mysterious Prophet. It was He who established the rules of Mallory’s continued protection—mainly that the town must cleanse itself every five years of its sins or their fire will go out. It seems like a small price to pay for guaranteed survival.
All in all, tonight was another strong episode. It’s great to see Claire holding her own in a world of such stark morality, but methinks she should keep one eye on Arika. With David out of the way, Arika could very well make a bid for control over Vega. As for Alex, I’m looking forward to next week’s trial by 8-ball.
Some closing thoughts:
I thought for sure Pete was redshirted. Instead, he seems to be serving as some sort of comic relief. While I agree that a dark show like Dominion could use some occasional levity, Pete isn’t quite cutting it for me in that regard just yet. But I do like that he’s a newbie to this post-apocalypse. What others like Alex or Noma might take for granted is a fresh set of horrors for their recently liberated traveling companion.
It’s not every day that Buster Keaton’s classic The General gets a shoutout in current pop-culture. Keaton was a genius who was definitely ahead of his time in the nascent days of early cinema. That Julian owns a print of this film makes me wonder what he traded to get his hands on it.