Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Flipping Channels: Syfy's Death-Dealing Double Dose of Dominion and Defiance

Posted By on Wed, Jun 18, 2014 at 3:04 PM

With so much emphasis in television these days on zombies, vampires, werewolves and other such creatures, Syfy's newest series veers into different territory. Dominion, which debuts 7 p.m. Thursday, is a continuation of the 2010 film Legion, which posits a fight between humanity and archangels.

Legion depicted the battle between the forces of archangel Gabriel and his rival Michael, who sided with humans. Dominion begins 25 years later, with Gabriel's forces still waging war, and various cities having fortified themselves against his armies. But now the resistance is led by new "chosen one" Alex Lannen (Christopher Egan).

He's in charge of the army defending Vega (once known as Las Vegas). Among other things, the show will explore the distinction between angels and demons while providing origin stories for various participants and an intriguing array of mythology and legendary figures.

Also tomorrow night on Syfy, the second season of Defiance (8 p.m.), another futuristic series that pits humans against extraterrestrial species, opens with the fallout from last season's mayoral election. It saw Amanda Rosewater (Julie Benz) lose her re-election bid and Irisa (Stephanie Leonidas), the adopted alien daughter of Defiance's principal cop Joshua Nolan (Grant Bowler), disappear under mysterious circumstances.

It's been nine months since the election. Nolan's gone into the badlands seeking his daughter, while Rosewater tries to handle the emotional aftermath of her loss. What happens to both of them sets the stage for additional events throughout the season, while the town (formerly known as St. Louis) also deals with the reality of aliens in its midst.

Syfy's built a loyal audience for its original shows, although it seldom enjoys a megahit like those on HBO, TNT or Showtime. But these programs have a solid core constituency seeking smart, intelligently written, produced, and acted science-fiction stories. Defiance has reaped some dividends, and the channel hopes the same holds true for Dominion.

Falling Skies returns
Despite a larger-than-normal budget and superior production values, TNT's Falling Skies hasn't really been the dramatic vehicle the cable network anticipated. But this chronicle of another ongoing alien/human conflict has become a ratings success, ranking among basic cable's Top 20 original shows both in terms of total audience and adult demos.

It returns 9 p.m. Sunday with the 2nd Mass Army discovering the victory they won at the end of the third season wasn't quite the triumph they thought. While they destroyed a critical enemy base, all that did was generate a response that's brought to earth even more enemies.

A new Espheni war machine is on the loose, plus there's a different and even more deadly threat that challenges the resilience and will of the human survivors — who've already endured multiple assaults and battles.

While I doubt this show will ever rank that high on the list of producer Steven Spielberg's achievements, it provides reliable, if often predictable, action and adventure for the TNT audience. There's plenty of "Boom!" in every episode.

The Last Ship sails
Another recent TV staple has been the naval action series. JAG laid the foundation, then NCIS and its various spinoffs turned the formula into commercial gold. TNT jumps into this arena 8 p.m. Sunday with Michael Bay's The Last Ship. But this time the principal figure isn't a lawyer or military cop, but the commander of a destroyer on a medical mission.

Captain Mark Sloan (Eric Dane) and his ship are part of a mission assisting paleomicrobiologist Dr. Rachel Scott (Rhonda Mitra). An unknown virus has eliminated much of the world's population, and Sloan's destroyer must help Scott discover some solution to the crisis.

Making matters worse, Sloan and his ship were on a different mission prior to this happening, and were on radio silence. So various crew members are just discovering what happened, and have no clue about the fate of family members.

The show is loosely based on William Brinkley's novel. A San Diego Navy crew allowed Bay's production company the use of a $3 billion guided-missile destroyer, while also providing expertise and tutoring to the cast and crew.

Bay advises those who've seen his films not to expect a slam-bang spectacle or low-budget version of Transformers, for which we should all be grateful.

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