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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Supernatural drama never gets its wings

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What if it turned out that angels weren't so, well, angelic?

If angels were more like the devils from which, in traditional mythology, they're dispatched to protect us, it's likely we humans would be in quite an unheavenly mess.

That's precisely the scenario proposed by Dominion, a somewhat lacklustre new supernatural drama that premières tonight on Showcase. In the post-apocalyptic world in which this cumbersome story is set, angels -- save one, the archangel Michael (played by Tom Wisdom) -- are focused on destroying humanity rather than protecting or saving it.

The series, based on characters from the 2010 feature film Legion, takes place in a not-so-distant future in which God has abandoned Earth, and his angels, led by the archangel Gabriel (Carl Beukes), have joined forces in a determined effort to eradicate the planet's human population.

It's the year 25 AE (After Extinction), and what remains of humanity has gathered in scattered urban remains that have been turned into fortresses. And in one of them, Vega (formerly Las Vegas), the population has been organized in a strictly ordered caste system in which two families -- the Riesens and the Wheles -- hold all the power.

Vega is also where Michael -- who turned against his own kind to defend humans against the angels' attacks -- has set up his headquarters. Under his leadership, Vega (along with several other reconfigured cities) has managed to repel Gabriel's forces for many years. But as the series opens, that's about to change.

Rogue soldier Alex Lannon (Christopher Egan) has disobeyed a direct order by venturing outside city walls, but the wrath of his superiors is tempered by the value of information he has brought back. There's a new class of evil angel operating in Vega's wild frontier, and this new knowledge prompts General Riesen (Alan Dale) to call for the cancellation of an annual festival and the ramping-up of military preparations for a war that seems inevitable.

Opposing Riesen is David Whele (Anthony Stewart Head), Vega's most powerful civilian official, who secretly plans to use the celebration as an opportunity to scare the city's complacent population back to alertness.

Despite their at-odds relationship, both men see the value in consolidating power by having their children -- Riesen's daughter, Claire (Roxanne McKee), and Whele's son, William (Luke Allen Gale) -- wed.

The only problem with their plan is that Claire is in love with Alex and plans to elope with him at the next possible opportunity.

All of this unfolds in a rather drab manner -- prefaced by one of the most yawn-inducing show-opening narrations in recent memory -- and it's more than halfway through the series opener before anything resembling exciting starts to happen.

As tensions rise both inside and outside Vega's walls, discussions surrounding the existence of a saviour -- the "chosen one" whose arrival is predicted in this post-apocalyptic society's ruling religion -- intensify. And the return of a long-lost warrior named Jeep -- who also happens to be Alex's father -- brings the "chosen one" prophecy into even greater focus.

When the angels-vs.-humans battle is finally joined, the action sequences are fairly standard supernatural-forces stuff, and the series' battle plan is hampered by layers of questionable logic that will probably prompt a few of those who sample Dominion to give up and move on to other viewing opportunities.

Vega's defenders are heavily armed, and it's clear that large-calibre weapons are effective in stopping their winged foes. But the show's writers -- clearly in search of action-sequence opportunities -- continually opt for altercations -- angels vs. humans, and angels vs. angels -- that feature skirmishes with swords and knives or exchanges of martial-arts flurries.

It makes no sense. It's offputting, and for a show that's already so slow to draw in its audience, it might prove to be one distraction too many.

Simply put, these flights of angels might send you searching for another channel.

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @BradOswald

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 3, 2014 C3

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