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TV Review: ‘Dominion’ – ‘Ouroboros’

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Dominion [syfy]The most recent episode of Dominion, “Ouroboros,” written by Larry Shaw and directed by Bryan Q. Miller, reveals more of the show’s angel mythology.

“Ouroboros” is framed by flashbacks to 1900 B.C. that reveal more about the dynamics among archangel siblings Michael (Tom Wisdom), Gabriel (Carl Beukes), and Uriel (Katrine De Candole). The opening scene occurs in the Babylonian Desert. Broken and mutilated bodies litter the sand, but one child has survived. A blood-splattered Michael flies to him and offers the child his hand, saying, “Don’t be afraid.” The child takes his hand.

The timeline then shifts back to the present, where Gabriel is performing a long-distance possession of Louis (Kevin Otto), a market vendor and higher-angel hiding in Vega. The ensuing switches between the two actors are well done and remind us of Gabriel’s duplicity: While viewers see the archangel, those in Vega see Louis. Gabriel’s trickery also reinforces that tensions between angels and humans are escalating.

As Gabriel breeches Vega’s walls, Chosen One Alex Lannon (Chris Egan) is continuing his training with Michael. The tattoos have told Alex that he no longer needs to study evictions in the Apocrypha, which Michael translates as a sign of progress. However, the training exercise, an attempted eviction of an 8-Ball named Dirge, is unsuccessful and ends with Alex shooting him.

Later, back in Vega, Becca Thorn (Rosalind Halstead) and her guards discover the tortured bodies of four angels. The V-2s, including Alex and his friends Ethan Mack (Jonathan Howard) and Noma Walker (Kim Engelbrecht), are called to the scene. The sight horrifies Alex, and Noma is bothered as well. Ethan has a different reaction, and in a brief conversation, he gives voice to the prejudices that seem common in this dystopian world, asserting vehemently, “angels aren’t people.”

Dominion [syfy]Michael confesses to Alex that there are more “neutrals” living in Vega, and Alex agrees to take a message of warning to Louis. Michael’s instructions are for the higher angels to stay put, even though their true natures are being discerned by some means not yet discovered; he cautions that if they run, they will be gunned down.

The always-intriguing Uriel returns in this episode; when Michael arrives at her residence, it’s trashed. According to Uriel, Gabriel forced her to share the names of all the angels in hiding. (My question, though, is how does Uriel know all the names? If she’s been gone for 25 years, have the angels simply remained in place all that time?) Uriel tells her brother that she only named neutrals living in Vega and assumes Gabriel wants them for recruitment. She appears taken aback when informed that they are being killed and asks if Michael has tried summoning their brother. Michael responds, “Words are no longer an option.” I can’t decipher the expression on Uriel’s face at this point, though I think that’s intentional. After all, the narrative has already shown us that she’s playing her brothers against each other, even if we don’t yet know to what end.

Gabriel is exploring Louis’s apartment when Alex arrives with Michael’s warning. Gabriel-as-Louis remarks, “You’re Michael’s boy, right? Mankind’s final savior?” The angel says that he expected Alex’s visit and makes references to who Michael used to be. Specifically, Gabriel-as-Louis tells Alex about The Great Flood and that Noah didn’t build an ark: “…It was a bunker, to protect the people.” Alex clearly has questions about the allusions to Michael’s past and his role, but we don’t get to see if the conversation goes further.

The seeds planted by Gabriel-as-Louis do lead Alex to express doubts about Michael and who he can trust to Noma, but their conversation is interrupted. Shortly after that, the angel calls Alex, asking him to come to the Stratosphere. When Alex arrives, he doesn’t see any danger, and he questions why he was called. Gabriel-as-Louis asserts, “I know who the killer is.” Just then, Noma enters, calling out for Louis. Their exchange ends with Gabriel-as-Louis throwing Noma out the window; Alex shoots the angel and runs to the window, yelling for his friend. Mid-fall, her wings come out, and Noma flies away – she’s a higher-order angel who’s been living in disguise. Michael has been fully aware of her presence and her proximity to Alex.

Dominion [syfy]Alex feels betrayed by both Noma and Michael. As he and Michael argue, Gabriel-as-Louis sits in the corner chuckling. Michael tells Alex, “This isn’t about humans vs. angels. This is about what’s right and what’s wrong.”  When Michael confronts “Louis,” he realizes that Gabriel has possessed the formerly neutral angel. The brothers face off over who should be guiding Alex and whether or not the neutrals deserve to die.

When Alex attempts an eviction, Gabriel-as-Lewis laughs – right up until the eviction works. Louis collapses in Michael’s arm, and Gabriel collapses on the floor of his lair, where Uriel is waiting. The eviction confirms that Alex is, indeed, the Chosen One. Uriel asks if killing three of their own was worth it, revealing that her interactions with Michael were false. Gabriel responds, “It certainly wound up Michael – won’t be long till we have another Flood on our hands.” Though Uriel and Gabriel seem on the same page here, I wonder just how far Uriel’s manipulations go? What’s her ultimate goal?

Because Gabriel didn’t pass on Michael’s warning, all of the neutrals except Noma tried to flee Vega and were killed. Alex asks if the things that Gabriel told him about Michael were true. Michael refuses to answer, instead saying, “Don’t listen to my brother.” As he strides off, Alex yells after him, “We’re not done here. You hear me?”

But Michael isn’t listening to Alex, he’s remembering: The episode’s final scene takes us back to the Babylonian desert and when he takes the little boy’s hand. Gabriel swoops in, throwing Michael and telling the boy to run away. He taunts Michael: “Father’s Great Flood, sent to cleanse the earth. Let every nation tremble before his might.” As the brothers take arms against one another, Uriel drops in the middle of them, pulling her sword on Michael too.

Dominion [syfy]Michael is non-plussed, and says that he is just “ensuring the natural order of things – almost more natural than death.” Wisdom’s expressions here distinguish a clear difference between the demeanors of past-Michael and present-Michael. With the revelation that Michael is the “Great Flood,” the mystery between the angelic siblings intensifies: So Michael fights to save humans now while Gabriel and Uriel do the opposite? Yet Uriel is manipulating both of her brothers. Is she after something other than the Great Flood? Is this truly a conflict between right and wrong? Or will it come down to humans vs. angels, despite what Michael said to Alex?

As the angelic drama intensifies, the Riesen and Whele family dynamics remain compelling. The Riesens make a brief appearance this week, after featuring heavily in last week’s “Black Eyes Blue.” Claire (Roxanne McKee) continues with her plan to remove her father, Edward Riesen (Alan Dale) from power by suggesting to fiancé William Whele (Luke Allen-Gale) that they marry within the week. She couches the idea with concern, though her behavior with William seems “off.” I suspect that there’s more to learn about Claire’s plans, and I wonder what William will think when/if he learns the truth of things.

Meanwhile, William is dealing with his own father, David Whele (Anthony Stewart Head). “Something Borrowed” revealed that an 8-Balls attack on the Whele family resulted in the death of everyone except David and then-infant William; for me, this information somewhat explained the strained dynamics between the two. In “Black Eyes Blue,” David realized William’s connection to Gabriel, but their confrontation resulted in the elder man’s unwilling participation in the rib-crushing ceremony.

The public story is that David is battling pneumonia. In actuality, he’s recovering from the physical injuries inflicted by William. David resists his son’s care, but William informs him, “I just want to save you.” According to the younger Whele, he’s ensuring that David will be among the humans saved after “the end” occurs. David sees William’s actions as about revenge; William says that they are about love. has been caring for the older man and informing Vega-at-large that David is sick with pneumonia. David attempts to escape but is thwarted by one of the guards, who escorts him to Sampson the Lion’s cage rather than the garage.

William continues to testify – sort of – to his father, asserting that David is the ouroboros, the snake, and the only way to survive now is to end his “hunger.” Because “Sampson is David Whele’s act of ultimate self-deification,” William presents David with a gun loaded with a single bullet and a choice: shoot Sampson or himself. As David struggles to decide, he tells William, “Your mother would be ashamed.” His son answers, “Yes, she would.” I don’t think that David realizes the meaning of William’s answer; I interpret it as his mother would be ashamed of David, not William.

Dominion [syfy]David tearfully kills his lion, thus ending his hunger in William’s eyes. By the episode’s end, David appears nearly catatonic as his son tenderly spoon-feeds him soup. The dissonance between William’s manner and David’s circumstances is rather disturbing to me. The father/son duo also provides interesting portrayals of faith and faith-driven acts.

The complicated relationship between the Wheles leaves me both intrigued and frustrated. I felt little sympathy for David until we learned about his history with the 8-Balls, but even then, it’s hard to view his treatment of others (like Bixby) without judging him harshly. William isn’t entirely sympathetic either. I dislike qualities in both, even as I find the characters extremely compelling, and I look forward to seeing how they are developed. Is David truly changed by his recent experiences or simply biding his time? How far will William’s faith drive him? Does he consider Claire “saved” already?

I really appreciate the show’s careful world-building, and I have many questions about how its storylines are unfolding. With only one episode left in its all-too-short first season, I’m curious to see what Dominion resolves and what it leaves for the hoped-for season two.

In the mean time, enjoy the sneak peek for this week’s episode“Beware Those Closest To You.”

Other notes:

  • I’m curious to find out what Arika (Shivani Ghai) has been up to.
  • The shower scene reveals just how far down Alex’s tattoos go! While the scene plays off the fact that he and Noma have a past relationship, there are moments that don’t feel entirely organic to me. In context, though, I like how the scene works to later amplify Alex’s shock and hurt over Noma’s secret identity. How will Alex react towards Noma the next time they meet? How will she?
  • The moment when General Riesen encourages Becca to work on her “poker face” makes me wonder what’s coming and how the various political figures will align themselves.
  • Will Ethan learn that Noma is a higher angel? Will his attitude towards angels change?
  • For more information about Dominion’s mythology, peruse The Citizen’s Handbook
  • Dominion showrunner Vaun Wilmott, along with the cast and crew, continue to have fan-friendly, active presences on Twitter. Check out the #Dominion tag to find out show information and behind-the-scenes details.

What did you think of “Ouroboros”? Share your comments below. Dominion airs Thursdays at 9:00 p.m. ET on Syfy.

 

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About Lyda Scott

Lyda Scott is a freelance writer and editor, among other things. A good day is one spent over-analyzing film, television, and literature. Follow her on Twitter @Lyda_Scott.
  • Kate

    Thanks for another great review, Lyda! For me, this show gets better and better the more intricate the character motivations become. I’m so intrigued by who is good and who is bad, and each protagonist has so many layers it’s hard to predict just what we will find out. I also really appreciate the writers’ ability to pull twists I wasn’t expecting at all out of their asses: twists that still retain plausibility, and – despite their unexpectedness – have an organic build-up if you go back and revisit earlier episodes. Everything is so cohesive with this show, and it takes some skill to hold something so complex together.

    I hope so much that Vaun Wilmott will be given the opportunity to further extend his vision in a second, longer season of Dominion. The show has been a real bright spot for me this summer, and the wonderfully friendly cast and showrunner have really set the bar for how shows interact with their fandoms…

    <3

  • Ginger

    I just discovered this show and watched all the episodes to catch up. Like you and Kate, I am enjoying the complicated relationships, the twists and turns, and the cohesive storytelling all the while worldbuilding. I didn’t know it had a short first season. I hope it i picked up for a second season.

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