I was a huge admirer of Stephen King in my youth and the one piece he wrote that I went back to again and again was his novella “The Mist”.
Often people would ask me about it and as this was back in the days when good Stephen King adaptations were the rule rather than the exception (really, it was that long ago) I would often reply by saying: “I only trust two people to do it right King or Me”.
This was obviously before King adapted his short story Trucks into Maximum Overdrive, so I think my foolish youthful certainty can be overlooked.
Eventually The Mist was made into a film of course, and a surprisingly good one at that, from Frank Darabont who has a long history of producing good versions of King stories. I had to wait the better part of thirty years for this movie so it’s a minor miracle I had anything good to say about it; so I see Darabont as a bit of a miracle worker.
Well a few years passed and a TV series based on the short book was announced, so I waited; not expecting much but hoping all the same.
Generally I have the rule that I don’t read reviews, I often don’t even watch trailers and I like to know as little about a work as I can before going into see it. In this day and age this is getting to be more difficult and I often get caught out by those pop up trailers we see on Amazon or IMDB, sometimes spoilers are unavoidable but with the TV series for The Mist I was lucky.
One day I received an email off Netflix listing the ten episodes of season one and the girlfriend and I settled down one Sunday to work our way through them.
It wasn’t until we watched all ten episodes that I relented and began looking through the reviews.
These I found to range from surprising to mystifying.
The first reviews to hit Netflix were universally terrible and I noticed an odd similarity between these reviews in that many stated that they could get through the first episode, only to then go on and describe things that didn’t happen until mid season. I suppose there was some artistic licence going on and they wanted to drive home their dislike…
The problem for me was that I actually thought the show was pretty good, in places very good indeed. It built characters that were hard to read and didn’t fit easily into stereotypes; or at least not as easily as many reviews implied. Characters I thought were untouchable were taken down dark paths and characters I thought would be certain to be villainous turned out to be anything but.
This is not to say that The Mist is ground breaking in any way, nor is it to say that its a under appreciated masterpiece of any description; what I am saying is that the show creates a web of decent characters each of which serve a purpose within a narrative that is engaging and interesting.
Unlike another show I recently watched on Netflix, namely Stranger Things, The Mist didn’t waste it screen time either and nothing seemed superfluous; to be blunt I didn’t see a lot of padding on display in The Mist.
This is not meant to condemn Stranger Things, though that show had its faults it also did some things outstandingly well; please refer to my review of that show if you’d like to know more.
But… There were things that disappointed me about The Mist, but even here I could see the purpose of the changes to the story. Most notably was the lack of the creatures that stalked the mist in both the book and movie versions of the story. These towering behemoths looked great both in my minds eye and the big screen adaptation but no doubt they cost more than a small production could maintain for an on-going series and budgetary concerns are always first and foremost with any new show.
Starting small is a good plan; they could always introduce monsters later; if there had been a later of course.
There were also significant changes in the over all story, and some characters were changed beyond recognition.
The main family we follow epitomises this.
The father was an artist, and he is now a writer. His son becomes a daughter and the mother, who originally disappears in both book and movie, presumably into the maw of some beast, now makes her way to the shopping mall instead of her husband.
These changes effectively create a new dance out of familiar steps and make the show its own creation and not something tied to Darabont’s movie in any way. This I saw ultimately as a positive move that allowed me as a viewer to not play comparisons between the three (or four if you include the radio drama which I rate quite highly) versions of the tale.
Another notable change, though perhaps change isn’t the right word, is bringing Project Arrowhead more to the front of the story. Arrowhead is a government project situation in the hills near the town and it is implied in both book and film that they are the cause of The Mist. In the TV version of the story the implications are gone and replaced with full on conspiracy that includes a symbiosis of some kind between this shady government think tank and the monster that is the mist.
Because that is what the mist is; it seems it’s a creature in and of itself. Something intelligent and creeps with purpose across the landscape having a relationship of sorts with those is takes into its clammy coils.
What the TV show does is take a relatively simple book and introduce a spiritual twist that pushes far further than King’s short work ever did. Darabont did this as well of course and the series builds somewhat on this premise.
There are many elements of the TV series that begin with the bleakest of beginnings but as the story unfolds it seems that everyone is capable of some kind of redemption and even those who perpetrate the most vicious of crimes have elements of their personality that begs for understanding.
Even as the viewer hates them for their actions, there is sorrow for the person they have become and the understanding that but for a simple change or two things may have ended very different indeed.
No, The Mist is not a masterpiece, it not the movie Darabont surprised us with some years ago and it isn’t anywhere near the best work the book could inspire.
But personally I found the first season engaging and interesting and I’d hoped that the poor initial reviews from people who did not even finish the first episode (by their own admission) would not be held against a show that kept me watching for eight hours and makes me want to watch for another eight at least.
Of course this wasn’t to be as, in a turn of events that seems all too common these days, Netflix decided to axe the show after a single season based on these poor reviews.
It’s a shame that more people would rather trash shows they don’t like rather than support those that they do. Unfortunately all this approach does is narrow the field and make diversity less likely in the resulting choices viewers have.
I don’t know, perhaps The Mist is only worth the one star reviews.
I could be wrong…
If you have Netflix give the show a try and let me know what you think below if you do.
Since I originally watched The Mist the show has been cancelled and I found this a not unexpected but still disappointing development. I looked forward to seeing where the show would go but this is obviously no longer on the cards.
I’m mostly disappointed in the way shows are produced for the modern market. The immediacy of the internet means that we no longer give shows the time to overcome clumsy first seasons or allow room for shows to adjust their approach; now it’s a case of hitting our screens running… or else…
I think of all the shows I have enjoyed over the years and how many of them would not have made it in the modern marketplace if treated in the same manner.
Rather than construct something of lasting appeal modern distributors rely, in my opinion, far too much on the fluctuations of brash opinions posted in hastily and rarely well thought out comments sections.
Would the Original Star Trek have survived? Would have Lost In Space or The Invaders?
I imagine not.
I wonder how many great shows we will be robbed of over the coming years simply because immediate gratification now so outweighs considered thought.