The very worst thing horror can be is lazy. Even the schlockiest, lowest-budget B-movies—the stuff usually found in bargain bins or used as fodder for the Mystery Science Theater crew—have a certain heart and energy that allows you to ignore the obvious seams running up the monster’s back. But man, The Mist’s fourth installment, “Pequod,” was a lazy hour of television. Director T.J. Scott and writer Andrew Wilder knew exactly which beats they wanted to hit, set-pieces they wanted to display, and themes they wanted to get across. But the roads they took to get there were, at best, illogical. At worst, it was genuinely laugh-out-loud funny.
Take, for example, the scene inside The Book End. Without context, it’s terrifying; two children trapped in a confined space with a hulking shadow-monster. But it’s impossible to ignore that the only reason the room is filled with the mist is because it chased Vic through an open backdoor and directly to… behind the counter of a book store? I could maybe even forgive the odd layout—we all know someone who has worked in a mall, they’re basically labyrinths—but the convenience of Vic fleeing through the single populated store is too cheap a setup for the eventual payoff: the death of little Lila DeWitt.
Obviously, this show wants to disturb by breaking all the rules, man. It butchered an adorable dog within its first five minutes, and now sucked the soul out of a small child. Next week someone is probably going to say “I’ll be right back” and survive. But here, the potential shock factor is essentially erased when you notice nobody would open the door for poor Lila—“You can’t! You’ll let it in!” someone screams—and then a moment later Alex casually opens the door and closes it behind her. In that moment, the scene changes from horrifying to hilarious. A gargantuan mist-creature siphoning the life from an 8-year-old should not, in most cases, be hilarious.
And it’s not just the actions that are illogical, but the reactions as well. The Mist deserves credit for pointing out the prevalence of panic attacks within the mall, a small but very realistic note that adds credibility to the claustrophobic atmosphere. But the leap from panic to outright murder is astounding. Because that’s what it is, murder, sending Vic out into a mist that all involved know is lethal. “Anyone who endangers the group is thrown out” makes sense in the case of someone doing something truly dangerous—like, say, a woman who shoots someone and then lies about having a gun—but The Mist essentially had a group of ordinary people near-unanimously sentence a man to death for being dumb.
It’s just shortcut-heavy writing, jumps from A way the hell to Z with no regard for the steps in between, and it’s no different outside the mall with Kevin and co. The run-in at the gas station with devoted father Clay Greyson is a nice enough diversion. With or without the presence of a deadly mist, in a community as small as Bridgeville the mall is still probably about three blocks away. Something has to keep our groups separated. But, again, everything is too tidy; the natural emotional undercurrent of a father desperately searching for his son is weakened by the fact that, in a town seemingly littered with corpses, this crew stumbled upon the one body relevant to its situation.
The survivors holed up inside the church are, at this point, doing the lion’s share of keeping The Mist entertaining, and almost all of that comes down to Frances Conroy as friend-to-the-spiders Nathalie Raven. The outright confidence of her ramblings on nature and Black Springs is the perfect balance of camp and earnestness. The Zen-like idea, insane or not, that you can befriend the mist and receive a type of peace in return—as opposed to murder by monstrous moth—is an intriguing one. Alex is certainly lending credence to that theory at the mall, as is Connor Heisel. “I felt something,” he tells Nathalie, about his time spent in the mist. “I felt that it knew me.”
The scene in which Father Romanov forces Nathalie to kill her newfound pet—shouting earnestly, “I need you to kill the spider! Kill the spider!”—is so strange, so uncomfortably funny yet oddly scary, that it almost singlehandedly saved this episode. This mixture of genuine intrigue and outright craziness is, in a nutshell, what The Mist should ideally strive to be all the time.
“No one is interested,” Father Romanov later says, and then screams, about Nathalie’s preachings. He couldn’t be more wrong.
- This week’s incredibly stilted attempt at a serious moment goes to Alex picking up and throwing back Jay’s football, complete with a “good game, bro” head nod that seemingly indicates those rape allegations are water under the bridge.
- Speaking of, Shelley DeWitt says to Jay, “You’re right. Alex is a liar.” Grieving mother, I understand, but this also equates a frightened high school kid lying for nearly an hour about her brush-up against an actual demon with her shady recollection of the time she got drugged at a party.
- This episode’s title, “Pequod,” is the name of Captain Ahab’s ship from Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, which itself is named after the Pequot tribe of Native Americans. Could this be a reference to Vic’s use of a harpoon gun? A nod to the great respect and awe that Native Americans have for nature? Or maybe just a confirmation that if you choose to fuck with nature—be it whale or moth—it will fuck with you right back?