Frank Darabont’s film The Mist – and the Stephen King novella of the same name which inspired it – works great as a standalone story. But it’s also an idea ripe for expansion into an ongoing series. After all, there is a sprawling fog, the boundaries of which are unknown, and which stepping outside into is almost certainly a death sentence. Then there are the surly townsfolk who are just hours away from devolving into wild-eyed murderers the second things stop going away. Finally there is the mysterious military experiment that created the whole mess in the first place, their agenda, and what their ultimate goal might be. Those questions were never answered in either previous version, but under the leadership of series creator Christian Thorpe, SpikeTV’s The Mist set out to address them. Alas, it is not meant to be. As of September 27th 2017 the show was publicly pronounced dead and will not be a part of SpikeTV’s revamped lineup when the network rebrands itself as The Paramount Network in 2018.
So what went wrong? Why did the show struggle with low ratings from its premier and only saw a steady decline after that? For many, it was the utter lack of the film and book’s ubiquitous monsters. The Mist series attempted to take a more psychological route with the Mist creating phantasms from peoples’ own minds rather than serving as mere cover for packs of roving alien predators. In the show’s defense, this decision was likely budgetary. Like it or not, monsters cost money and frequent attacks by giant pink tentacles or spiders the size of trucks was probably beyond the cable series’s modest means.
Others found distasteful the late-season reveal that the bisexual character Adrian was in fact a psychotic rapist and murderer. After all, the unfounded belief that LGBTQ people are secretly sexual predators continues to cause real harm to this day. Even so, The Mist perhaps could have spared offense if Adrian’s heel turn were in any way believable. Adrian’s portrayer, Russell Posner, deserves credit for shifting effortlessly between craven weakling and manipulative monster but having him be that way felt forced. There was no shocking twist there. The show made it so obvious from the get-go that the other suspect, Jay, was not the rapist that having it be the only other person in the room at the time carried no suspense whatsoever. We learn that Adrian raped his best friend Alex because he feared Jay would “take her away from him.” But given that he seems to barely even remember that she’s alive for most of the series (to the point of him even having a romantic relationship with another character), that doesn’t feel plausible either.
These are the big things that people say was wrong with The Mist but they weren’t the only things. Here are a few others did the show no favors.
Too Much Time Spent With Unlikable Characters
In a story about society breaking down not everyone can be likable, right? What The Mist failed to understand is that when people are turning on each other while monsters are eating them is exactly when we need characters we can root for the most. Every such story needs to see heroes fighting against the entropy whether they’re successful or not. (There is a reason, after all, why Frank Darabont took three of the most memorable actors from The Mist movie – Jeffrey DeMunn, Laurie Holden, and Melissa McBride – and immediately cast them in the similarly-themed The Walking Dead.) The Mist series didn’t seem interested in finding those depths in its characters. Instead we got the aforementioned loathesome Adrian, the haughty, self-righteous Eve, the ineffectual Kevin, and the brainless, bullying Connor. More interesting characters such as the amnesiac Bryan and the bold, courageous Kimi were practically extras in comparison. They had story potential and it was largely wasted. Speaking of wasted…
They Wasted A Perfectly Good Villain
Frances Conroy is one of those actors who could sit and read the phone book and make it enthralling. Casting her as Nathalie Raven, a kindly old flower child who comes unhinged after seeing her husband murdered, was a coup for the fledgling show and no matter how silly or feeble the stories became, Conroy always delivered, promising to become a different kind of cult leader than the book/movie’s Evangelical Christian villain, Mrs. Carmody. But in the end, her story goes absolutely nowhere. She gradually kills off all her own followers over trivial annoyances and by the time she eventually reaches the survivors in the mall who have turned evil she’s clearly supposed to appear as just a tired, delusional old woman who pulled the wool over peoples’ eyes. Just when she finally has the potential to do real damage she is killed off with the rest of the mall, her storyline having amounted to nothing. For a few brief episodes, however, Nathalie was a chilling character whose eerie prophecies of nature taking revenge against mankind were the most frightening part of the show. She deserved better.
Actually, They Wasted Two
Character actor Dan Butler might be best remembered for his comedic stint on Frasier, but when he donned the robes of The Mist’s troubled priest Father Romanov, he displayed a new and frightening side. It’s probably not a coincidence that the charismatic minister spent most of his screentime verbally sparring with Nathalie Raven, but there was clearly a lot going on under Romanov’s authoritative exterior. The scene where he baptizes Adrian is utterly uncomfortable for the viewer and hints that the Father may be more than a little unhinged. And what exactly was his relationship with the murderous altar boy who was so willing to commit atrocity in the name of the faith? Sadly, we never learn as Romanov is killed off midway through the season’s run. And while watching him get impaled and then dragged to his doom by the literal Four Hoursemen of the Apocalypse themselves was great, gory fun, it ultimately wasn’t worth it to no longer have Father Romanov to cringe at and speculate upon.
It Tried To Answer Questions No One Was Asking
Let’s not bother asking what made this doctor go so crazy in a matter of days that he’s started performing fatal medical experiments on human subjects. Let’s not even wonder about what those vampiric smoke monsters were. No, let’s devote swathes of the story to Mia’s relationship with her dead mother or why Kevin’s brother hates him. Yes, the backstories of these characters are important, but The Mist tended to stall out its action on laborious plot tumors of backstory that did not make its characters any more interesting or their motivations more clear. The worst offender by far was the revelation of who Alexis’ father is. This subplot was given a few mentions in the pilot episode, forgotten almost entirely, and then it ballooned up to fill the entirety of the finale. It was a question literally no one was asking because that would have required them to even remember it in the first place.
The ending of The Mist movie has become one of the most talked-about horror movie endings of recent decades and elevated the film to the status of modern classic. The series ended on a scene more like that of the book, with the surviving protagonists driving in a car toward an uncertain future. A seed for a future season was laid down when the group comes across a group of soldiers throwing terrified prisoners out of a train and into the Mist. When asked what’s going on, Kevin studies the tableau and grimly says, “They’re feeding it.”
With a military force as the new de facto villain, a second season could have been the show’s salvation. The idea of feeding something as evil as the Mist is intriguing. Sadly, The Mist won’t feeding be on anything now, its first (and now, only,) season, having served up too many empty calories beforehand.