Twenty five years ago,God disappeared. His angels held man responsible and declared ware on humanity.The archangel Gabriel led this war of extermination hoping to rid this world of humans and hold dominion over it. Some higher angels refuse to take sides, but the lower angels joined Gabriel. These lesser spirits lacked bodies, and so their first line of attack was to steal ours. But Michael, the greatest of all the archangels, chose to fight for man. With his help, the survivors struck back and built strongholds to defend themselves. Soon, word spread of a baby Michael had saved, a child who would grow up to be mankind’s saviour. This child, the Chosen One, would be known by the markings on his body. Finally, Gabriel and his army retreated and we were left with the realization that not only were angels real, they are our most hated enemies.
Dominion drops us into a post-apocalyptic world, where God will not save anyone, and religion now turns on one archangel and the promise of a “chosen one,” a child who will lead humanity out of the long-lasting war against the angels. Unlike many other shows, Dominion spends little time on exposition and explanation of this world, at times leaving viewers feeling like they’ve missed something. The pilot episode is set in Vega – a fortified reboot of Las Vegas, complete with many of the large hotels and resorts you would recognize. The world is similar enough to ours to make it obvious that the beginning of this war was near our own time (and the Dominion “legend” on the Syfy website says the first battle was in 2013), but different in so many respects that one wonders how it changed this much in the 25 years that have passed since the war began. (For more information about the war of extermination, angels, and Vega, Syfy has set up a beautiful and interesting website, enterdominion.com. Only the first two chapters are currently available.)
Tonight’s pilot episode was exciting, with lots of action, a highly developed and structured mythology, men and women with mysterious motives, supernatural creatures who don’t behave in ways we had expected them to. How many people believe that angels are loving, caring creatures? But in this show, “not only are angels real, they are our most hated enemies.”
A caste system has been implemented, leaving many “citizens” so far down the rungs that they can’t use the marketplace or find adequate food. The ruling class, which includes the military, Michael’s Archangel Corps, and a Senate, live like kings. Technology has been developed that can tell when a human is possessed by an angel, and the city is dependent on a nuclear reactor. There are hints of other cities and outposts – the mysterious city of Helena sends Arika, wife of Helena’s queen, as representative, who offers “500 brides, all of child-bearing age” in return for nuclear reactor capability. A child accompanies the delegation, a surprise since Queen Evelyn rarely allows outsiders to see the colony’s children.
Alex Lannon, a young, rebellious soldier, has left the security of Vega’s walls, as he stockpiles food, weapons and a vehicle for a planned departure from the city. During one outing, he’s attacked by three “eightballs,” which we assume to be angels who have taken human bodies and corrupted their flesh. They retain wings and unearthly abilities – they have supernatural speed, strength, and agility, and can fly. Alex outmaneuvers one eightball, makes it back into Vega, and is disciplined by Archangel Michael (Tom Wisdom). While looking mostly human, Michael’s eyes are huge, dark pools. (And the majority of the actors in the show are British or Australian, but using an American accent – except for Michael, who has a more regal British tone.)
Alex goes to his duty station, guarding Claire Riesen, daughter of the city’s military commander. In one of the “did I miss something” moments, we learn that Alex at one time saved Claire’s life, and that the General is unusually protective of her because of whatever the incident was – and Alex and Claire have fallen in love, secretly. Claire says she’ll ask her father’s permission to marry Alex that evening. And as Alex leaves, he’s told by William Whele, son of the Senator David Whele (and William carries the title of Principe – another “what?” moment), that by law, nobody is allowed to be alone with Claire. Turns out that William is also in love with Claire, and their fathers have agreed to have them marry (unknown to Claire). Alex takes care of a young girl, Bixby, who is at the bottom of the caste system. He tells her to meet him that evening in the stadium after the evening’s Jubilee, preparing to take her and Claire out of the city so they will no longer have to live by Vega’s rules.
A Tattooed Man Returns
As Michael prays in a remote area, Jeep, a long-missing man with strange tattoos, returns and says that he has been unable to decipher anything about the signs on his body, but it’s time to reveal the Chosen One. He is Alex’s father, and left Alex in the city nearly 15 years ago. He tells Michael that Archangel Gabriel has created a new fortress outside of Boulder, filled with a large number of angels fighting on his side. They agree to go to Vega’s Council (the Senate and top military) to make this revelation, but Sen. Whele doesn’t believe in the “myth” of the Chosen One, refuses to cancel the city’s Jubilee in light of the potential attack, and walks out.
Whele has some surprises at the Jubilee – he announces the engagement of Claire and William, and he has captured one of the eightballs that Alex found at the beginning of the episode. In gladiator style, he sets the city’s champion to kill it – but the eightball is being controlled by Gabriel; it escapes and begins to kill people in the crowd. Michael kills it, and goes after some of the angels that are flying into the city. One of the angels attacks the reactor, and Claire refuses to leave with Alex yet, so he gets her and Bixby into the shelter with Michael, Jeep, Riesen, the Wheles, Arika from Helena, and the child she brought with them.
The child picks up a knife from a food plate and kills Jeep, then escapes – as an angel. As Alex tries to save him, Jeep tells him that he, Alex, is the Chosen One, and the tattoos begin to flow onto Alex’s body. Whele says Jeep was hallucinating, “the last words from a dying brain,” and refuses to believe that there is a Chosen One. Claire bows down to Alex, Arika is arrested for bringing the child that killed Jeep. Whele and Riesen are now at odds – Whele sees this as a way to consolidate his power; Riesen sees the threat to the citizens in his care. When Michael returns from fighting Gabriel’s angel, he too bows to Alex.
The Chosen One
Michael tells Alex that he must now find a way to be able to read the markings the cover his body – “they will lay out a path by which mankind can be redeemed,” he says. “They are our fate, our hope, written in a language long since forgotten, one even I don’t know.” And Alex begins to be able to read one phrase on his arm – that says “beware of those closest to you,” which he chooses not to reveal to Michael.
Who is good, who is bad, who is trustworthy and who isn’t? At the end, we see devout Principe William Whele walk out, robed, to meet Archangel Gabriel and tell him that the Chosen One has been found.
What did you think of this pilot episode? On Twitter tonight (@DominionSyfy), they said that there would be nine episodes (including tonight’s pilot). Next week’s episode is entitled “Godspeed.” Coming soon: a discussion of Dominion from star Christopher Egan (Alex Lannon) and Executive Producer/Creator Vaun Wilmott.