'Damien' on A&E Is Already A Better Antichrist Than Neil Gaiman's 'Lucifer'

'The Omen' tie-in makes a lot of good choices right out of the gate(s) of Hell.

It’s been a big year for The Devil because he’s trying to inch his way back onto primetime TV.

Yeah, some interpretations are better than others, and a lot of our high hopes for Lucifer were dashed within minutes. Showrunners realized they over-super-powered their demonic protagonist and had to reel him in, but the damage was already done. Honestly, how do we keep making Pure Evil so boring?

Then, outta nowhere, we got Damien. The network that brought us Bates Motel (which you should be watching for one reason or another) thought, “Hey, let’s make more horror children backstories.” They grabbed the second-best property in all of evil-childhood lore. Rather than doing a prequel like on Bates, they’ve framed Damien around an infamous kid, and shifted the focus into his adulthood. It works. It really works.

Damien follows an adult Damien Thorn, who is now a thirty-year-old war photographer, trying to change the world for the better. As a sequel to the events of The Omen 2, this storyline presumes that Damien has forgotten his Satanic upbringing — and the breadth of his powers. Without warning, terrible tragedies befall the “good” people in his life, and Damien has to make peace with who he is. And what his fate might become.

This isn’t the first time we’ve peeped a pop-culture vision of adult Damien. In the franchise’s third entry, he’s played by a young Sam Neill (in an evil role on par with his Dr. Weir in Event Horizon), who moves from Lex Luthor-ish CEO to political figure, and ushers in the apocalypse.

In The Final Conflict, Damien is 32. But our 30-year-old version carries the weight of his desire to be good, and it’s more engaging than it probably should be. After all, it’s tricky to have a protagonist who has superpowers he’s forgotten how to use. Once he figures out how to control minds, we can skip a lot of these problems, but yeah — maybe that doesn’t make for engaging TV on the same level.

Showrunner Glen Mazzara comes from The Walking Dead and The Shield, so he knows how to craft a compelling arc that keeps one coming back for more. Bradley James does a terrific job with the title character — of keeping him shocked but never over-acting, the way most actors would respond to finding out they are The Devil.

People are dying, evil is alive (and decidedly un-boring), and there’s a path to darkness here that seems worth your time. This is a lot more than we can say for any other Satanic endeavors thus far in 2016. Let’s see where it takes us.

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