The One Thing From the Movie That The Mist TV Show Can’t Have

By  · Published on September 17th, 2015

Depending on where you’re standing, The Mist TV show would either inherently be far better or far worse than the 2007 film version of Stephen King’s novella. That’s because of a plot element (more specifically, the response to that plot element) unique to Frank Darabont’s movie in which a huge fog descends upon a sleepy Maine town whose citizens hole up in a grocery store deciding how they’ll fight off Lovecraftian beasts.

If you’ve seen the movie, you already know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, here’s your spoiler warning.

In the ending of King’s story, a crew of survivors fleeing the grocery store (after killing the religious zealot who demanded a human sacrifice (like they always do!)) drive for hours through a mist-blanketed New England. They catch a single city’s name through the static of their radio and decide to make that their beacon of hope.

That’s not exactly what happens in the movie.

Instead, the heroic David Drayton (Thomas Jane) mercy kills everyone in their escape vehicle, including his young son, then hops out of the car to discover that the Army has the whole mutant invasion pretty well under control. Had he just waited another minute more…

It was a classically Greek style middle finger that royally pissed off a lot of people – a fact that actually proves the raw power of the ending. Regardless of how you feel about it, the ending demands that you feel strongly.

It’s also something that the television show simply can’t have.

There are a few versions of what it might look like if they tried it and, thanks to the structure of television series, it wouldn’t work in any of them. Force it on a side character? Lose the impact. Force it on a major character? Better be prepared to end your show (and end it on a downer).

They could presumably have the scenario happen to one character, but assuming their goal is to have a successful show that keeps going for several seasons (“Like The Walking Dead, but with tentacles!”), dropping this beautiful tragedy on a core character might hurt, but it wouldn’t resonate as loudly when we roll along into the following season.

Still, it very well could be a “Red Wedding” moment for the show – a trump card shock that leaves everyone talking. Then, again, we’d have the benefit of moving on from it and seeing more of the world.

However, the TV series could end the same way as the film on the final episode if writer Christian Torpe and company 1) are inclined to go that route and 2) know about their cancellation with enough time to make it a reality. The key being that it would have to come at the very end.

One of the reasons the gut punch in the movie is so forceful is because of its finality. The end of our journey with David is at the worst moment of his life. We don’t get to see him drink tea, wrapped in a trauma blanket back at the Army base. We don’t get to see him work through his depression by creating art. We don’t get to see him kill a five-tentacled spider goat in revenge.

We get to see him shoot his own child for want of a little hope/patience, and then never see him again. Like David, we have no closure.

It’s a stunningly smart tragedy. It’s also a clever hammer to the face of the standard American hero story, a send-up of the level-headed can-do spirit who doesn’t see waiting to be saved as a survival option. That’s thanks completely to the altered ending. It’s also probably why backlash against the ending was so furious. The movie refused to give us a hopeful ending where the crew just might make it to a safe haven, and if it had, it would have been a relatively forgettable final chapter to an otherwise tense story about humans and monsters. Riding off into the unsure sunset with a deep-throated final voiceover thought is as common a trope as you’ll get in horror stories like these.

Which is important to keep in mind. Even on the off chance that the TV series wants to utilize that ending, it’s already been done, and done in a fantastically memorable way. That would be a hard act to follow.

Plus, they wouldn’t need to focus group the story concept, because they’ve already seen how many people absolutely hated it in the real world. They would be knowingly writing an ending that will infuriate half the people who see it. That’s pretty cool, but it’s highly unlikely.

Bottom line? There’s almost no chance that The Mist TV show can end like The Mist movie did. Even more than that, I’d be willing to bet that the finale of season one echoes the book more directly.

Granted, this is all theoretical because it’s not like the series is even set up anywhere. The Weinstein Company is developing it, but that doesn’t mean that a network (online or otherwise) will pick it up. So we may be talking about something that never exists. Still, I wanted to consider the potential differences because the idea of turning “The Mist” into a television show is really fascinating. It’s also bursting with potential (and a potentially low budget that doesn’t need to shoot any exteriors that haven’t been bathed in dry ice). There are a thousand ways that a show like this could be engaging, entertaining and scary, even if it can’t share the mic drop of its cinematic predecessor.

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector Podcast@brokenprojector | Writing short stories at Adventitious.