Dominion Series Premiere Review: “Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)

Dominion - Season 1

From this viewer’s perspective, the political game that’s starting to play out between Houses Riesen and Whele is the most promising part of the show. If the writers make some smart moves with that plot and give Head ample time to chew the scenery, an increased focus on their political showdown could turn Dominion into a better show than it is at this early stage. The romantic subplot between Claire and Alex is unfortunately dull, and the actors don’t share much chemistry, so that’s already weighing the series down, and Wisdom’s Michael is nowhere near as fun to watch as Paul Bettany’s.

At least a significant part of Michael’s time on screen in the pilot finds him battling other archangels, who infiltrate Vega and try to destroy it – episode director Scott Stewart, who also helmed Legion, brings a pleasing style and ferocity to the episode’s battles. There was a lot of unfinished effects work on the screener Syfy provided, so hopefully scenes of the angels soaring over Vega and dodging fire from the city’s defense turrets will look a lot cooler in the finished episode. Otherwise, the production values are surprisingly high. Stewart establishes an otherworldly, almost Underworld-esque vibe within Vega, the digitally recreated city looks great, and the action sequences are highly entertaining.

The problems with Dominion are fairly clear off the bat. Some of the actors are noticeably stiff, including Wisdom’s Michael and McKee’s Claire, which is unfortunate given how essential both are to the show. Additionally, for Dominion to truly succeed, the writers will have to juggle three huge conflicts – between the houses, between Alex and the foes who’ll surely oppose him, and between Vega and all the angels – which is a very tall order. The effects-heavy pilot will also lead many viewers to expect that well-choreographed, visually exciting action will be a constant part of the show, which I doubt.

Outside of those issues, I was pleasantly surprised by Dominion. It held my attention (which is more than I can say for Legion), and the ambitious direction in which the series is heading will keep me coming back to see how the next few episodes hold up. If the writers and, just as importantly, the effects artists can keep delivering the goods and pushing the story forward, Dominion could very quickly develop into a unique and enjoyable viewing experience. It’s not quite there yet – but I have faith.