Martin Carr reviews the fourth episode of The Mist…
Moby Dick the mythical white whale from the Herman Melville novel has represented many things over centuries of literary analysis. Ahab the illustrious captain and central protagonist who guides his vessel ‘Pequod’ with monomaniacal fervour, is ultimately undone by an obsession and dragged into the depths. However where showrunners for The Mist drew comparisons from with Melville’s literary epic remains a mystery.
You could look at the blanket mist as an allegorical piece of symbolism representing a vast sea of unknowns, each location merely metaphorical ships manned by numerous crew. Either that or the entire town is one free-floating boat adrift amongst sea fog. Alternatively people may choose to take it on face value as a solid thriller which is building character incrementally, in order to sustain tension and keep audiences interested.
What Spike continue to do with this economical adaptation of the King novel is be sparing. Effects remain minimal, tension is maintained through clever use of incidental music, while character actors are allowed to act. Locations are limited and groups remain tight-knit which adds variety without resorting to expense. Feelings within the mall are still running high, cliques are breaking off from the main group forming factions which threaten to unbalance the situation. Individuals are isolated and metaphorically set adrift with minor provisions and means of protection. Whispers of assault and small town mentalities are creeping into conversations as cabin fever kicks in and suspicions turn to assumptions.
Isiah Whitlock’s Gus Redman remains the voice of reason and balance within this group both stoic and rational alongside Eve Copeland. Meantime the church goers are a bundle of mixed messages, steadfast faith and challenging biblical discussion. Different approaches to religion sit front and centre amongst this mismatched group of lost souls, while outside The Mist ambiguously questions each one. Locked inside their own thoughts with only the self-interest of others to guide them, entertainment comes from watching them slowly unravel. What people do when forced to be heroic in this programme has repercussions. Claustrophobia is an ever-present element which makes every location feel temporary, while logic and reason balance overreaction and melodrama keeping character beats enjoyable.
What writers have done with The Mist is divide and conquer by splitting events between different locations. As we shift our focus between the church, gas station and shopping mall emotions are reduced to bite sized moments. Brevity, drama, contemplation and progress are a difficult balancing act to maintain, but by breaking groups up responses feel less contrived. Intensity under certain circumstances can feel hammy, yet on this occasion it works which continues to make this adaptation watchable and beyond reproach in many respects.