Welcome back, and thanks again for joining me as I take a look at The Mist Episode 5: The Waiting Room!
I'm a big fan of both Stephen King's work and the 2007 Thomas Jane movie, but since this is a "based on…", I'll be reviewing the television series based on its own merits instead of through comparisons. A lot of details are going to get spoiled, so please keep that in mind as you read this. I'll try to put up some kind of "subtle reminder" when the spoilage is about to start.
As always, my rating system is based on a highly scientific 1-9 (with half-increments) John Cusack scale, with a 10 "Golden Cusack" score reserved only for incredibly rare and special circumstances. Why John Cusack? Because he's my pop-culture spirit animal. And he made High Fidelity. And Grosse Pointe Blank. And Better Off Dead. And One Crazy Summer. There's more if you're interested, but maybe we should move on.
And just because you're the best around and nothing's ever gonna keep you down, this friendly neighborhood reminder:
So here's what we knew about "The Waiting Room" before diving in:
"Kevin and the others reach a hospital where Kevin has an unexpected and painful encounter with his brother Mike."
That's two in a row for The Mist, as the show found a way to not only continue the quality from last week but also build upon it for this week. The Waiting Room is by far the best episode of the season so far. If you've read my previous reviews, then you know that I've had two major issues with this show: Kevin (Morgan Spector) was a little too "perfect" of a father/husband and that made it hard for me to buy into him as "The Hero;" and Eve (Alyssa Sutherland) was too bland of a character for me to care about. This episode took care of the former for me, and made me feel a while lot better about the latter.
I appreciated the fact that the show took a different tactic with this episode, where they kept the majority of the focus on Kevin and "flashback Eve" and limited the side storylines dramatically. I would appreciate it as a viewer who's actually now enjoying the series if they'd continue with this format and highlight specific key characters in each of the remaining episodes. In the span of less that 45 minutes, I learned more about Kevin, Eve, Alex (Gus Birney) and the entire town Bridgton than I did in the first four episodes combined.
We've now reached the point in the series where I feel/hope the creators are now comfortable starting to peel away the surface layers of their characters and show their faults and failings. I believe it started last week with Father Romanov (Dan Butler); and extended to also include Adrian (Russell Posner) and Bryan (Okezie Morro) this week.
Not to say that there still weren't some brain-scratches in between the good stuff: some questionable decision-making, convenient coincidences and setup for possibly uncomfortable scenarios. As you're about to see in my "PRO/CON" rundown, those issues are pretty minor as you'll see when The Waiting Room gets the highest Cusack rating of the season.
PRO: Kevin, Adrian and Mia (Danica Curcic) were able to get Bryan to the hospital while keeping the death-by-mist count unchanged. I appreciated that this Point A/Point B scenario wasn't dragged out and that Bryan was on a gurney within the first five minutes. I also appreciated how they were all yelling conflicting instructions to Kevin as he was driving there: "careful" + "faster" + the mist + guy bleeding out = an impossible combination.
PRO: "Strange. I've never been happier. But I've also never been…less myself. It's the weirdest thing." The flashback scenes between Kevin and Eve are disturbingly bright and sunny in their look, which in an interesting way makes those scenes more foreboding. The writers make it a point of showing us one more example of "perfect Kevin," almost daring the viewer to find him "corny" and "boring" before they start showing us the layers. Eve is torn between the woman she used to be and the woman she is now, trying to reconcile the two into a life that works for her. Kevin is a "savior" in constant need for someone to save, but can he handle being with someone who needs him but doesn't need him to save them?
CON: I completely understand and respect Kevin feeling the need to rest and have a mini-breakdown…but he just so happens to pick the very same room that his brother Mike (Peter Murnik) is in? That's about 9/10 on the "force-a-storyline-along" scale. Until a doctor confirmed that he actually was there later in the episode, I was certain that all of Kevin's conversations with Mike were completely in his head.
PRO: "They said they knew me. They said it was for Ricky Gastavo." Mike adds credence to the theory that the mist is tied directly into the thoughts/fears/nightmares of the individual; but it's still not clear how exactly it attacks.
PRO: "You can't save everyone. God knows you tried." Mike and Kevin are one of the more realistic pairs of brothers on television, even if it does travel down the familiar "tougher-older-brother-sees-younger-brother-as-too-soft" road. We know that there is some "bad blood" in the past between Kevin and Mike over Eve, the kind that has Mike believing that it would be easy for Kevin to put him out of his misery: "You don't like me anyway! It won't be hard! Please! Please!" But Kevin won't let things stand like that between them, reminding Mike of how he used to protect Kevin when they were boys. Their exchanges are genuine — we have an understanding about Mike that allows us to see a line like, "Oh my god, you sloppy piece of pussy!" as the best way he can express any kind of loving emotion towards his brother…and Kevin understand that and accepts it for what it truly is.
PRO: The sex scene between Kevin and Eve was possibly the best way to demonstrate the issues at play for them both as individuals and as a couple. Eve might have been there, but she wasn't there there…and it's probably best that Kevin not ask her what she was thinking about during it. Other observation? That might be the most non-nudity nudity I've ever seen on a basic cable channel show…some inventive camera work and angles there.
PRO: I liked that Mia placed money on the gift shop counter for the stuffed bear she was getting for Bryan, done out of respect for the gift shop worker who took her own life in the shop's backroom. A nice way of showing us a shift in her character without feeling the need to beat us over the head with it.
PRO: Wait…we have two "Bryan Hunts"?!? And our "Bryan Hunt" might actually be a guy named "Jonah Dixon"? Now this just made the mystery a little more interesting…especially when it appears that "Bryan Hunt" didn't know he wasn't "Bryan Hunt", either.
PRO/CON???: Not sure how I feel about the violent start to what I'm assuming might be a growing relationship of some type between Adrian and Tyler (Christopher Gray). I'm reserving full judgment until I see where the writer's are going with Adrian, but I'd be lying if I said I felt comfortable watching him go immediately back to Tyler after that brutal beating he took at Tyler's hands (and feet). There was a brutally realistic rawness to those scenes that both Gray and Posner handled as professionals in every sense of the word…I just hope the writers tread these waters carefully.
CON: "Don't get attached to anyone. They'll just use you for their own good." Mia discovers the whole Bryan Hunt/Jonah Dixon situation and feels like she's being played. Her response? Steal the car keys from Adrian and go driving off into the mist. Yeah…doesn't make any sense and seemed in stark contrast of where her character was at that point. Maybe you could say it was out of anger and hurt…but I just didn't buy it.
PRO: Eve: "It's nothing. Don't worry about it." Kevin: "Funny how that always makes people worry."
PRO: "And then you came along and rescued her. How could I not hate you for that?" Mike and Kevin finally come to terms over Eve: Eve was "loved" by many of the men in the town, men who grew bitter and made her life hell when they couldn't have her. When Kevin married Eve, he inherited the hate that bled out from their jealousy.
CON: I don't know medicine any more than what I read on WebMD, but it does seem like that surgery went a little too quickly considering how much the doctor hyped up Mike's condition.
PRO: Whoah! So Alex isn't Kevin's kid; and he doesn't want to know who the father is and doesn't want Alex to be told. Hmmm…wonder if that's going to come into play at some point…about 108% sure it will.
PRO: Kevin needs one more lesson in understanding that he can't save everyone: even though he performed the surgery successfully, the mist is still too much for Kevin and Mike pays the price in the form of leeches (wondering if they appeared based on what Mike was thinking or on how Kevin viewed him). But Mike can take solace in one thing: by pulling the trigger and putting Mike out of his growing mystery, Kevin proved that he would be willing to do what was necessary for him and his loved ones to survive.
Conclusion: A quality episode that has me excited for the second half of the season and closer to my renewal vote.
The Mist Episode 5 ("The Waiting Room") gets 7-1/2 Cusacks!
So join me back here again next week as I take a look at Episode 6, the optimistically titled The Devil You Know: