Previously on Damien, ‘The Number of a Man’
This is strangest episode of Damien’s debut season by far. There is so much imagery, so much surrealism, but little in the way of direct action. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, by the way; but I can see casual viewers beginning to lose both interest and patience in what appears to be a set-up for a longer game. If the forces for Good and Evil are going to duke it out, it may take some time before that happens. That said, there is a lot going on under the hood, so to speak.
Much is being made of the inner workings of Damien Thorn’s psyche. We saw last week that he’s tired of all the death that surrounds him, going so far as to threaten to slit Ann Rutledge’s throat if she continues to make his life a living “hell”, and he’s not above lying to his friends now to keep them out of harm’s way. Contrary to what people might have expected, this fledgling Antichrist isn’t prepared to embrace his inner Satan any time soon. Ann’s rudimentary plan to send a couple of boys around to his apartment and rough him up a little bit doesn’t hit the spot – he’s not there, but a scared witless Simone is, hiding under a table – so they overturn a few tables in a fit of balaclava-clad petulance.
Damien spends most of the episode at the local VA hospital. His plan is to see a doctor there who specializes in PTSD, and perhaps work through a lot of what’s been going on with him. Kellie’s death especially seems to be hitting him hard. He’s kept waiting and it looks like he’s missed out on meeting the doctor, but chance is a fine thing: he bumps into the mother of the child he saved from certain death on the subway in episode two. Her husband Alex is an Iraq War veteran, paralyzed from the waist down, and Damien is invited to photograph his torment and, eventually, his suicide. Damien initially balks at the idea of covering Alex’s death, as he’s already up to his neck in it. He’s had his fill and can’t take any more. I can see his point, frankly.
After emailing what photographs he took to Amani, Damien changes in his car and returns to the hospital, ending up in the basement. And this is where shit gets really – well – surreal. His wanderings take him to some very dark places – and I’m not just talking about corridors and corners. There are veterans dealing in drugs, playing board games, bleeding out, and in a disturbing scene, he sees Simone undergoing brain surgery. All very frightening. But the piece-de-resistance is when Damien walks in what looks like a support group for battle-scarred and traumatized war veterans. They quote Revelations to him, calling him “Son of Night” and giving him “authority over the Earth.” This unsettling experience leads him to two decisions: he will photograph Alex’s suicide, and then he’ll take his own life.
After surprising Simone with a phone call (she has stolen the keys to his apartment from Amani and seen the photos of the old woman from episode one) and telling her that he’s going away for awhile, Damien lands back where it all started: the family home. Passing an old family portrait, featuring Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, and Harvey Stephens (the original Damien), he seals himself in the garage, dopes himself up, and lets a car engine run. Death would’ve come peacefully if it wasn’t for those pesky Hellhounds. They rescue their ward before he shuffles off this mortal coil.
In other important business, Sister Greta, the exorcist from the second episode, is in the Vatican City and plans to take one of the daggers to New York with her, and deal with the Antichrist Situation personally. Her boss, the Monsignor, urges her to wait for the right time, and indeed comes close to replacing her before she begs forgiveness and ask for Confession. It’s all very Catholic.
Bradley James is really good in this episode. He’s given more to work with in Seven Curses, coming into his own as the show moves forward. His is the main thrust of this installment. Ann Rutledge just has the one scene. John Lyons (Scott Wilson) and Detective Shay aren’t featured. Amani and Simone share the one scene, where they disagree in interpreting recent events. Amani deals with being shrugged off by getting involved with the mystery lady from last week (who we now know or think is Ann’s “daughter”). What Seven Curses lacks in visceral thrills is more than made up in psychological horror, particularly the scenes in the hospital basement. The Freaky Little Girl makes a couple of appearances, too, for good measure.
We’re halfway through the season now and we should be at the point where each side knows where it stands. But Damien isn’t quite there yet. Seven Curses is another bold step in the right direction, and I do like the idea of a reluctant Destroyer. This premise has potential, and I’m intrigued how Ann and John will treat Damien’s attempted suicide. But saying that, there are five more episodes left of this season, and I’d really like to see some hellfire soon. Please.
PLOT: A strong episode, bolstered by some biblical shenanigans. The story moves forth, albeit at a slower pace than I’d initially expected.
ACTION: None really, but every scene in the VA hospital was made to count for something. The attempted burglary of Damien’s apartment was too random, I thought, to be suspenseful in any meaningful way.
DIALOGUE: Better than previous weeks, with the back-and-forth between Damien and Alex particularly noteworthy.
PERFORMANCES: Bradley James and co-star Jose Pablo Cantillo (as Alex) shouldered this episode splendidly. It’s nice to see the show’s main attraction grab the spotlight away from Barbara Hershey for a change.