This week’s The Mist S01E05, The Waiting Room limped along at its usual dullard pace but at least tried a couple of daring character arcs and more ambitious storytelling. Neither worked.
In amongst all the confusion caused by bad writing, I was happy to see the introduction of flashbacks for the first time. That should help clear the mist up… or so I thought!
After Kevin, Adrian and Mia arrive at a hospital with injured Bryan, Kevin finds his mouth-breathing brother, Mike pleading with him to euthanise him on account of the rebar sticking out of his liver and the hospital having run out of every medicine, ever. Obviously.
After several approximate ten year flashbacks, Mike begins to tell a story from his hospital bed. He reminisces about the time, as kids, when he and brother Kevin met a crazy man in the woods – a man straight out of a Stephen King novel who creepily wanted to become blood brothers with the two young lads.
Here, I thought, we were going to get a real flashback to explain why these brothers hate each other… only, it never came. In the one moment begging out for a flashback, we didn’t get one! Instead, The Mist once again told (not shown.)
Ever since Alain Resnais perfected the technique in his 1959 film about memory, Hiroshima mon amour, flashbacks have been a staple of film and TV. I love a good flashback because they can really add another dimension to story and/or character. “Come on, then…” I thought; let’s see what drives these people…
The flashbacks of Mike acting weird at Eve and Kevin’s new lakeside home and subsequent lame (but projected as rough) sex scene only existed to set up the reveal that Mike is actually Alex’s father (not Kevin). Problem is, it was so lazily set up, I didn’t even realise it was a thing, let alone see it coming…
I tend to split flashbacks into two categories, Plot Flashbacks and Character Flashbacks – of course, the two often intermingle but they should be used to convey one of (but not limited to) the following:
- To reveal a vital new piece of information to the audience, i.e. a “switcheroo” as I call them “Haha! I switched the suitcases at the last moment, Fuck you, Inch High Private Eye!”
- As a choice of narrative structure – Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan and, to a certain extent, Citizen Kane are all examples of bookending flashbacks.
- To reveal a new perspective after a vital piece of information as in Rashomon. That amazing reveal in The Sixth Sense is also demonstrated via flashback.
- To reveal a pertinent memory that has a significant bearing on the plot.
- To show how things used to be, and how much relationships have changed like in Better Call Saul’s season three finalé “Lantern”.
- To demonstrate how the character became who they are (often in childhood or formative years) as done weekly in Arrow.
- To show a character has either learnt from a previous mistake or stayed the same à la Lost.
So, after badly setting up the storyline that sees Mike being Alex’s father, Eve then reveals this information to Kevin DURING A FUCKING FLASHBACK!
No! No! A thousand times no!
Writers – Mike must reveal to Kevin that he is the father in the present, not in flashback. Not only does this waste a really fucking valuable and interesting potential storyline when Kevin does eventually catch up with his wife and daughter but this information is Mike’s last resort, his coup de grace to get Kevin to shoot him – not some garbled, meaningless choice about Kevin “doing anything for Eve” (even though she’s an absolute bitch) Besides, she’s miles away in the mall so there was no real choice or sacrifice anyway.
The final scenes of The Waiting Room saw Kevin wheel brother Mike through the mist-covered hospital east wing to perform surgery with the doctor talking him through it via walkie talkie. I must admit this was an incredibly well-executed and tense scene which deserves props.
As does the final scene in which this show tried its very first flashback parallelism; here, pacifist, coward Kevin eventually grew enough of a pair to shoot his leech-covered, dying brother. What he said he would do in the past, he did in the present. Well done, The Mist, you are learning!
In other news, the writers seem to think the best way for homosexual emo-kid Adrian to respond to having the shit kicked out of him after trying to kiss a jock is… to immediately try it again… and it working!
And, while Adrian is having sex with aforementioned jock, Mia discovers that her new found beau Bryan Hunt isn’t who he says he is and therefore must have stolen the real Bryan Hunt’s wallet and army clothes.
When I said The Mist mist try harder, it seems Christian Torpe was listening.
I wish Bob and Harvey Weinstein would give me my own show where I could try hard to learn to write television.
The Mist continues on Wednesday 26th July on Spike.