Tonight’s episode of Dominion is a bit light on angelic angst but shines a much-needed light on its human characters. They’re a tortured bunch, these put-upon mortals, and in “Something Borrowed” we take a break from the usual carnage for some character development. So let’s get into it. Spoilers ahead.
Any good dystopian tale worth its salt understands how important it is to create a convincing post-apocalyptic world. It’s one thing to show shattered skylines and barren, smoldering landscapes. But it’s also vital to show the world as it used to be, when social mores meant something, when acting civilized was taken for granted. AMC’s The Walking Dead does this well, even if it’s a bit stingy with its flashbacks. The CW’s The 100 is also good at fleshing out its characters by turning back the clock. Tonight, “Something Borrowed” sheds some light on David Whele, who, it turns out, suffers a terrible loss during the war.
In fact, he loses his entire family to an eight-ball attack—save for little William, whose fearful, uncontrollable whimpering brings irreversible devastation to his family. If you’ll recall, pre-apocalypse Whele is a man of God, peddling faith and religion to the masses. And yet his prepackaged televangelism isn’t enough to spare his family from the hungry wrath of the lower angels. And in that sudden, immediate moment of loss and terror, the contempt the elder Whele feels for his young son is obvious. William’s weakness has cost David nearly everything. It’s a credit to the intensity of Anthony Head’s performance (and a very bloody hammer) that made me fear, needlessly, for his son’s well-being.
When we finally cut to the present, it’s clear the memory of the attack is still fresh in the senator’s mind. It’s also clear how much contempt he has for William. When prodded for marital advice regarding his impending nuptials, David tells his son, “We’re survivors, William. We’re not immortal. Cherish your time together.” There is no love in these words, only bitterness and regret. But this contempt is a two-way street. William does not hold his father in very high regard, either. They are at odds with one another, antagonists with a shared past. What’s interesting about this is how Alex and the archangels pine for their own absent fathers; indeed, they’re defined by it. But for William, the senator may have saved his life once upon a time, but he will never be father of the year.
There is much the elder Whele does not know or understand about his son. The senator may be hell-bent on protecting Vega against angelic incursions, and yet William is in league with Gabriel. One could argue that, like Gabriel, William is a fallen angel of sorts, disgraced and beyond saving despite having an all-powerful father.
Claire, too, is the child of an influential man. She has lived under her father’s protection, but now it’s her turn to protect him—from his own failing health, and from Senator Whele’s obvious political maneuvering. But to do that, to truly come into her own, Claire understands she must get her hands dirty. When it comes to political cunning, she may be no Cersei Lannister, but you have to start somewhere. Claire even rallies William to her cause; he’s all too glad to aid her attempts to blackmail his father.
As for Alex, we don’t learn too much about him, aside from the fact that he has trouble trusting his instincts. He is merciful, though—a valuable trait in a Chosen One. This penchant for mercy manifests itself in tonight’s episode when he spares the life of an eight-ball that’s been killing people inside Vega’s walls. It’s the same eight-ball who, unbeknownst to Alex, has been in a secret relationship with the general. Such a romance, as you might imagine, is taboo, much like Becca’s forbidden relationship with Michael.
Alex corners the wounded eight-ball, who pleads for her life, insisting that after death there is only darkness. Alex points out that she is merely a lower angel possessing someone else’s body—someone who lost their life in the war. But she counters that she has a family, and has a child. And, in a neat twist, it turns out (big spoiler ahead if you haven’t watched tonight’s episode) that this eight-ball is Claire’s mother. This unexpected revelation raises the question of how someone possessed by a lower angel could retain their memories. I for one am curious to see how this gets explained. I’ve always seen eight-balls as mindless zombies, devoid of personality or souls. But if the lower angels are actually coexisting with their hosts, that means millions of innocent people have been slaughtered.
Some closing thoughts:
Alex is an impatient man who’s clearly uncomfortable in his own tattooed skin. The idea of quiet contemplation is a foreign concept to him. How can he bring about world peace, if he has such trouble finding inner peace?
We learn Alex and fellow soldier Noma used to be a couple. This makes a lot of sense, especially since she clearly still has feelings for him. As Claire continues to pull away from Alex, will he seek comfort in Noma’s arms?
It’s good to see an episode that doesn’t rely so heavily on supernatural elements. Many of tonight’s scenes, especially between David and William, really boiled down to the idea of dysfunctional families trying to cope with their mutual burdens and their shared sins.