Bad news for Mandalay Bay and the Luxor: Both resorts are crumbling ruins during the angel-led apocalypse depicted in Syfy’s Dominion series, which premiered June 19. The protective wall that surrounds the haven city of Vega appears to start right at Tropicana Avenue and guard everything north.
The good news is that the Stratosphere is moving on up in the world, as sort of an aerie for the archangel Michael. So, nice job, Strat. He probably went up there trying to get good Pin-Up tickets and decided to stick around.
Dominion is set after the events of the 2010 flick Legion, which is like Christmas for the tens of Legion fanboys. For the rest of you, thrown into its mythos and world-building, don’t bother trying to catch up with a quick Wikipedia brush-up. There’s little enough carryover that it’s more expedient to just sit back and enjoy the ride. The clunky, chintzy, couldn’t-be-any-more-Syfy ride.
Here’s the short version: God disappeared from Heaven sometime around 2013, so the archangel Gabriel decided humans were the problem and came to Earth to wage a war for extinction. Michael intervened as a champion of mankind and after a long war that saw 6 billion people die, General Edward Riesen (played by Alan Dale, a poor man’s Anthony Hopkins) led a last-ditch effort that defeated Gabriel’s army. He sets up the perimeter around Vega as a refugee camp, with hotels turning into large-scale dorms for the last of humanity.
Dominion’s definitely got more of a budget than most Syfy fare (lookin’ at you, Blast Vegas). It’s just that that budget clearly runs out about 45 minutes into the hour-long premiere. Models of the hotels look flimsy, and the rubber armor some of the angels wear would get laughed out of Comic-Con. At least they bought their clichés in bulk and saved money there. (“Everything has a price” and “You are the chosen one” in one episode? Hell of a two-for-one sale.)
The city runs on a strict caste system, of which Alex Lannen (played by poor-man’s Matt Damon, Christopher Egan) is in the second-lowest category as a soldier of the—we’re not making this up—Archangel Corps. He’s in love with Riesen’s daughter, Claire, played by Game of Thrones’ Roxanne McKee.
Which is convenient, because Dominion really, really wants to be Game of Thrones with more angels and less commitment to the subtleties of realpolitik. Riesen is the Lord Commander of Vega, and the head of House Riesen. His chief political nemesis is David Whele (Anthony Head), who leads House Whele. They took as their symbols the Caesars Palace wreath and MGM lion, respectively. Really. There are probably more houses, but frankly, none of them featured Peter Dinklage, so who cares?
Just like in Thrones, the political in-fighting ignores the more disastrous, supernatural threat. But instead of Stannis Baratheon keeping his eye on the prize in the North, we get Michael (played by poor-man’s Keanu Reeves, Tom Wisdom), ready to rumble with any angels of ill intent who cross the threshold into Vega. Like the one who suicide-bombs the town’s nuclear reactor.
And if nukes, apocalypses and Las Vegas all sound vaguely familiar to you, it’s because this was ground trod in 1978 by Stephen King in The Stand. In that end-times showdown, the bad guys held Vegas instead.
So what is it that makes Las Vegas such a key ingredient in your eschatological stew? Is it just the well-trod metaphorical ground of an opulent city in a harsh landscape? Is it the party-while-the-world burns ethos? (If the cave hippies of The Matrix Reloaded could have feasibly made it above ground, there’s no way they would have spelunked to their dance-like-no-murder-robots-are-watching rave.)Is it the way it the apocalypse brings out people’s basest instincts, and no other city has base covered like a bottle full of lye?
Nah. What makes Las Vegas such a natural post-apocalyptic setting is simple: It’s the Dawn of the Dead playbook. You pick the smallest area with the most practical resources that’s easiest to defend. As long as you can keep the power on and the water pumping, the Strip is like America’s Costco during a zombie outbreak. You go a block out to include the gun ranges? You’re set for as long as it takes society to rebuild. You think you could do that in Chicago? Way too much territory to patrol with all sorts of points of entry. It may as well be Stalingrad for vampires, mummies or angry, people-hating angels.
Dominion might drop the ball on a lot, but it got that part absolutely right. Now if they could just get a full episode’s worth of budget.