As with virtually all Stephen King stories, The Mist, now a 10-part series on Spike, is set in a small town in Maine (surely the state would’ve been evacuated years ago if King’s nightmare visions were anywhere near true, the whole region cordoned off, the skies above patrolled by F-15s), where a mysterious fog swallows a town whole, and people begin to suffer bloody, violent deaths that leave them separated from various body parts.
The eponymous mist wastes little time in claiming its first victim. The series premiere opens on a man dressed in Army fatigues asleep in the woods who is awakened by a spider crawling across his cheek. He sits up to find a German shepherd by his side, but is seriously disoriented, to the point that he checks his wallet to learn his own name, Bryan Hunt (Okezie Morro), before checking the collar of the dog, Rufus. “Are you mine? Please be mine,” he tells the dog. As the strange mist starts creeping across the forest, the dog begins to bark and gives chase to an unseen foe. The man cautiously follows the dog, but soon find himself enveloped, then hears the dog howl, and moments later finds Rufus hanging from a tree, his head a few feet away on the forest floor.
Hunt – it’s unclear if he really is in fact a soldier — makes his way to town and into the police station where he blathers incoherently about the approaching mist, and the cops respond with a lack of compassion and a level of cruelty reminiscent of Reagan Era films. Remember when John Rambo first got picked up by police, and they beat him up for no good reason? Recall how the bad guy in every teen movie back then was a sadistic sociopath? That’s what many of the people in Bridgeville, Maine, are like. Is it the mist that’s causing this agitation? Or is the mist a corrective, a judgement from on high brought down to force people to lighten up, give them common cause, or maybe cull the flock? It’s a chicken/egg conundrum (though the egg clearly came first – this is evolutionary biology 101 — but I digress) that aptly reflects the current climate, where the tenor of what passes for political discourse has reached new depths. Even though The Mist was originally published 37 years ago, and this latest iteration went into production more than two years ago, these things are cyclical, and like any useful piece of social commentary in the guise of pop culture, it becomes relevant again and again.
As the story unfolds, it becomes clear the insects are on the march, and not far behind them are the frogs – are they being chased by the mist or are they the vanguard of its imminent attack? When local gardener/eccentric Natalie Raven (the always great Frances Conroy) notices an army of frogs encroaching on her garden, her husband chalks their behavior up to a minor earthquake.
And at the center of The Mist ensemble is 16-year-old Alex Copeland (Gus Birney), the daughter of an overly protective mother and a disastrously permissive father who falls victim to the high school quarterback, only to find herself trapped with him inside a shopping mall when the mist encroaches. While Alex and her mom take refuge in the mall, her father, Kevin (Morgan Spector), finds himself trapped in the police station with Hunt, a mystery woman in jail for trying to steal her own duffel bag full of money, and a cop who ill-advisedly decided to take a selfie with the mist. How – or if – the Copeland family is reunited is a question for next week.
The Mist premieres at 10pm ET Thursday on Spike; recent episodes will be available next day on-demand.