The Mist might not be Stephen King's best known work, but it has achieved a small degree of fame. A novella written in 1980, the material was first adapted to the screen by Frank Darabont in a 2007 film of the same name. Starring Thomas Jane, Laurie Holden, and Marcia Gay Harden, the film is most famous for a twist ending that has left audiences divided to this day; despite the film being ten years old, King himself insists that anyone who spoils those final few minutes should be "hung by the neck until dead." King himself put the stamp of approval on the shocking ending, which is a far cry from his original text's conclusion.
Which brings us to the new TV adaptation, which premiered last week on Spike (you can watch the first three episodes on Spike.com). The Mist is being promoted as being more timely than ever - a nightmarish fable about fear, loss of hope, and the lengths men and women will go to survive and protect what is theirs. The adaptation plays fast and loose with the source material, far looser than Darabont's grim vision, but the thematic core is still the same. The pilot of the show is tension-filled, the color palette grim and gray as doom slowly envelops the town; despite the relative normalcy of the pilot, the viewers know what's coming and it fills each scene with an added sense of danger.
It's hard to fully judge how the show stacks up to the book and film with only a handful of episodes released, but here are the biggest differences so far and why they work in terms of adapting the source material into a television show.
One of the most famous elements of King's original work and Darabont's film adaptation was that it was set in only one location: the town's grocery store. The mundane setting proves to be both creepy and and claustrophobic, as the survivors huddled there become more and more desperate. While that setting might work for a miniseries or a film adaptation, one set doesn't necessarily lend itself to a full season of a television show. As a result, there are multiple locations where characters are gathered: a mall, a police station, and a church.
The mall will most likely be the closest in spirit to the grocery store of the book. A large group of people, some of whom already have tensions with each other, trapped in the bottle episode from hell, will provide a great deal of drama. A mall is also a more dynamic setting than a grocery store, with stores and different locations to provide a great deal of drama. It also doesn't have the same supplies as a grocery store does, which will no doubt prove to be another source of drama. The setting change is reminiscent of Dawn of the Dead, another famed work dealing with people and the crimes they will commit in order to survive.
The police station serves as another interesting source of drama, especially considering two of the leads trapped there have both been arrested for different reasons. There are weapons there, which will no doubt come in handy for the monsters lurking in the mist, but will also prove to be a danger for the people wielding them should the group run into personal conflicts. The church, which is the least explored in the pilot, will also provide a great deal of drama. One of the major plot points in the novel and film was the religious fervor that drove the survivors to try and sacrifice a child in order to find God's mercy. The church will probably be where the religious fanaticism element, should it be explored in the show, will be most explored.
Fans who were expecting to see heroic David Drayton and evil Mrs. Carmody in the series will be disappointed, though a Mrs. Carmody does appear in the pilot. The series is populated with entirely original characters. Morgan Spector and Alyssa Sutherland star as Kevin Copeland and Eve Cunningham, a married couple with a daughter (Alex, played by Gus Birney) who are separated due to the mist settling over the town; Kevin is stuck in the police station while Eve and Alex are both trapped inside the mall. Frances Conroy will most likely be playing the new Mrs. Carmody as Nathalie, a woman who loses her husband in the immediate chaos and is trapped inside the church. Other characters include Brian (Okezie Morro), a military man with no memory of who he is; Mia (Danica Curcic), a drug addict who commits a horrible crime in the pilot; and the Heisel family, patriarch Connor (Darren Petitte) and football star Jay (Luke Cosgrove).
These characters aren't the same archetypes as the ones present in the novel and film, but rather fill out new roles. Kevin and Eve are both upstanding citizens, though Eve has gotten into trouble with the town due to her more liberal minded ways. Alex is a good girl who wants to break out from her parents' protective world, and Jay is the typical jock with a dark secret. Brian and Mia are wild cards, while Connor is the macho authority figure. The characters are familiar enough that we don't need to spend much time developing them before the mist strikes, and yet the majority of the pilot is spent moving the characters into place before disaster occurs.
This is also a departure from the book and the film, which spend minimal time setting up characters and conflicts; both just have the characters setting off to the grocery store following a storm the night before. The pilot actually wants you to care about the characters before the mist rolls in, and therefore spends more time in civilization with them. Whether that works or not is up to the viewer — personally, the characters are too stereotypical to make much of an impression — but at least the showrunners want you to at least nominally care about the characters before they face monsters and themselves.