Previously on Damien, ‘Temptress’
Now THIS is more like it. Seven episodes in and the conspiracies are in full flight. Everybody is either in on it (whatever “it” is), or they’re directly and indirectly affected by the comings and goings in Damien Thorn’s life. And for the first time this season, Simone gets to be more than just Kellie’s sister.
Following on from last week’s mind-bender of an episode, Damien is adjusting to life in a psych ward. His fellow residents can feel that something’s not right with him – apart from the whole suicide attempt thing – and surround him in the halls and at mealtimes. Flanked on both sides by guys who claim to be the Messiah, you can say that Damien’s got a friend in Jesus. Two of them, actually. His doctor is surprised he survived: he tried the triple whammy of alcohol, morphine, and carbon monoxide and still came out on the other side. It’s nothing short of a miracle, she believes – a theory that crops up later when Ann Rutledge and John Lyons get together. When he’s eventually discharged, the residents give him a guard of honor. This is just one of many unsettling scenes in Abattoir. Damien has at last found its A-game.
Detective Shay’s quest for truth is equally disturbing. Reliving his son’s near death at the hands of the swimming pool from Hell, Shay knows his family are under threat, particularly when Jacob recalls seeing a dog by the pool just before he went under its cover. He decides to follow a couple of leads and ends up at a florist’s, where a former college mate of Damien, Charles Powell, offers the detective an orchid. Shay refuses: “I’d just kill it,” he says. At least he’s honest, which is something you couldn’t accuse Powell of. He’s cagey when asked about an incident in the past, brushing off anything potentially damaging to and about Damien. Another friend is more forthcoming. Cray Marquand recalls how a club ritual left Powell with serious burns. Shay goes back and confronts the florist with this information and eventually Powell tells a disturbing story of how Damien poured butane over Powell’s hands and set them alight. Even here, there’s little in the way of hatred or fear of Damien when Powell tells what happened. I definitely get the impression that Powell remains in awe of his former tormentor.
Damien returns home to find Simone and Amani in his apartment. He’s blunt with both of them, accusing Amani of being in league with Ann Rutledge, and tells them to leave. Simone has Kellie’s laptop and examines the video of Damien and the old woman in Syria, as well as poring over the photos that appear to feature her image, too. But she’s being watched. Sister Greta, part of the Vatican’s Anti-Antichrist Hit Squad, wants her help in finding the truth about Damien. In an especially good scene, well-acted and directed, Greta tells Simone of the 2000-year wait for the Antichrist and of how Damien’s father and the archaeologist Bugenhagen contacted the Vatican about their concerns for the then five-year-old boy. Both Megalyn E.K. and Robin Weigert are great in this scene.
The crux of the episode, however, is Damien’s growing understanding of how much he’s been controlled by the partnership of Ann Rutledge and John Lyons. An expedition to Lyons’ place of residence in particular brings forth much for Damien and the viewer to ponder on. Damien accuses Lyons of being in bed with Ann, while his stroke-ridden wife, Margot, comes alive in Damien’s presence, saying that she loves him and lives to serve him. Leaving him cryptic clues, Damien is directed to what he later calls a slaughterhouse, the abattoir of the title, where he finds a ceremonial axe. This he leaves on Margot’s lap, letting Lyons know he’s on to him. The old man later sacrifices a goat to assuage the Beast.
Lyons is getting antsy. He asks Ann for one of the daggers of Megiddo. He knows she has one, but he feels he now needs protection. Ann isn’t having any of his crap and is content to let him sweat it out. Instead, she brings it to Damien himself, saying that if he’s really serious about killing himself, only a dagger of Megiddo will do the job properly. But there’s a caveat. (There always is.) If Damien were to die, someone else would take his place as the Antichrist. He then takes the knife and places it over his heart, clasping the hilt with both his and Ann’s hands. In a duel of Who’s Nerve Is Going To Crack First, Damien stares out Ann, and eventually releases the knife. This move seems to sway Ann further. She’s now humbler. “I am here to serve,” she proclaims to Damien. Is he closer to accepting his destiny, we wonder?
The climactic scene is straight out of The Weirdness Drawer. Florist Charles, body horribly scarred by Damien’s college ritual, stabs Yuppie Cray to death with a pair of scissors. Before he cuts his tongue out, he whispers in the dying man’s ear: “You should have kept your bloody mouth shut.” It’s the only death scene in this seventh episode, and it’s a brutal one, featuring characters that we were only just introduced to. Frankly, what Detective Shay is going to make of this latest murder is anyone’s guess.
The endgame is approaching. Ann and Lyons’ manipulations are coming together, finally. Damien is at once paranoid and understanding. He doesn’t trust anyone, not even himself. But the look he gives Ann as he briefly contemplates suicide once more is the beginning, I feel, of the end of Damien’s old life. Abattoir sets up the remaining three episodes of season one in an exemplary way. The ominous overtones, the bringing together of the supporting cast, the music, the directing, and – finally – the writing: everything is fusing together nicely, and I’m seriously stoked for episode eight. Hellfire can’t be too far behind.
PLOT: Damien’s coming to a head at exactly the right time. The head of steam that the writing team have been building up over the last few weeks is at pressure point. Good job, people.
ACTION: From the opening scene in the psych ward, right through the one in the church between Simone and Greta, and ending with a spectacularly violent death in a shower, the pace never let up.
PERFORMANCES: Everyone, and I mean everyone, was up for this one, let me tell you. But kudos to Bradley James and Barbara Hershey (again) for the scene with the Megiddo Dagger. A shout out to Megalyn E.K. and Robin Weigert, whom I’ve already mentioned.
DIALOGUE: Darker than usual, with Shay getting some of the better lines. An improvement over previous episodes, that’s for sure.