This article for The Resort contains no spoilers.
“Unique,” “mysterious,” “bizarre,” “wild,” and “like nothing you’ve ever seen before”—these are just a few of the phrases the cast of Peacock’s upcoming thriller/mystery/romance series The Resort used to describe the series when speaking to Den of Geek during San Diego Comic-Con. But it’s possible that none of their answers actually go far enough.
Okay, okay, maybe star Cristin Milioti’s declaration that the show “is as if Romancing the Stone and Jurassic Park were combined, but also were about the disappointment of getting older” comes close. But it’s still not quite there.
On the surface, The Resort feels familiar. Or, at the very least, as though it should be familiar. A pair of overworked millennials head to a Mexican resort on the Mayan Riviera to celebrate their tenth anniversary, a trip that seems to primarily involve day drinking and occasional outdoor activities. But by the end of the series’ first episode, the show takes a surprising—and much darker—turn.
Perhaps we shouldn’t have expected anything less from the minds of creator Andy Siara and executive producer Sam Esmail. The Resort often feels like nothing so much as the love child of Siara’s charming time loop rom-com Palm Springs and Esmail’s twisty hacker thriller Mr. Robot, just with a mild existential crisis and some true crime thrown on top.
While on an ATV excursion, Emma (Cristin Milioti) discovers a dirt-encrusted Motorola RAZR in the jungle and becomes subsequently obsessed with a fifteen-year-old mystery involving two teens who disappeared from a neighboring resort. The show then splits into two timelines, one in which we follow Emma and Noah’s (William Jackson Harper) true crime-style investigation and the other in which we watch Sam (Skyler Gisondo) and Violet’s (Nina Bloodgarden)’s 2007 island meet-cute unfold.
It’s clear that Noah, whose interest in the mystery of Sam and Violet’s disappearance is perfunctory at best, is only involving himself in all this chaos on the off chance it will help him and his wife reconnect after drifting apart. But Emma is basically an instant true crime true believer—and Milioti deserves all sorts of credit for the careful way she portrays the increasingly desperate fervor with which she approaches any and all clues.
The dual storylines parallel each other and even intersect in several unexpected and occasionally disturbing ways, repeatedly contrasting the flush, early days of Sam and Violet’s love story with the more jaded, later years of Noah and Emma’s relationship. As scenes from the past and present begin to mirror and even bleed into one another, The Resort manages to turn what might be a simple mystery into something much broader, wrestling with complex ideas about love, loss, and memory. Can your present ever truly live up to how you remember your past? What happens if you’re in a relationship for so long that you start to lose sight of who you used to be? And is it possible to miss a version of yourself that no longer exists?
“[The show] is about how time destroys everything, and also heals everything,” actor Luis Gerardo Mendez, who plays Balthazar, says. And, in many ways, he’s right. Time, of course, is a great equalizer, softening the sharpest edges of our pasts and allowing us to remember only the best versions of ourselves. But it can also leave us longing for a world that perhaps never really existed—at least not the way we thought it did.
This is all fairly heavy subject matter for stars Milioti and Harper, who are best known for their more overtly comedic work in shows like How I Met Your Mother and The Good Place, neither feels that their roles in The Resort mark a significant change for them as performers.
“So much is completely out of your control when you’re an actor, other than your own approach and process and choices,” Milioti says. “[In that way], none of them feel tonally different to me, when I do them. And so all the comedies felt like dramas to me and all the dramas felt like comedies. So it doesn’t necessarily feel markedly different.”
According to Harper, the emotional honesty of the show’s story is more important than trying to pin down the genre that the series exists in.
“I feel very similarly,” he says. “I guess I don’t really think about the tone, [rather] trying to just be in a scene. I like to play it for truth as much as I can. And then let the big brains [behind the scenes] guide me in the right direction. I leave that stuff to them. And then I’m just trying to just be in the playpen and just messing around.”
While the primary mystery of The Resort is focused on solving the disappearance of two teenagers in the aftermath of a once-in-a-generation hurricane, the emotional heart of the story is firmly grounded in the present-day relationship between the couple at its center. Noah and Emma’s history feels lived in and deep, and it’s apparent from their first scenes together that the couple is struggling. (Emma, at one point, does some Googling about how to tell if you are ready to leave your partner.)
“I don’t think they’re happy,” Milioti says. “But I think—and I’m stealing a line directly from Andy here on the panel we just did—they’re also sort of solving the mystery of what happened to them, and why they ended up the way that they have.”
As the couple digs deeper into the mystery of what exactly happened at the Ocean Vista resort and flashbacks to earlier stages of their relationship introduce us to the people Noah and Emma used to be, it becomes easier to understand what drew them together in the first place, and why neither—despite their current struggles—are ready to give up on their love. (Plus, Milioti and Harper are wonderful together, with the sort of quirky endearing chemistry that can cover a multitude of flaws.)
The mystery of Sam and Violet’s disappearance certainly initially seems like a weird thing to bring the young marrieds back to one another, it starts to make a certain amount of sense. After all, it gives the pair a shared goal and allows them to reconnect—to be excited and silly and trust one another during increasingly ridiculous stakes—in a way that their day-to-day lives rarely offer them anymore. (At least not in the way they once did when they were young.)
“At the end of the first episode, hopefully, you’re asking [the question of] ‘if they solve this will it save their marriage?” Siara says. “And I think at the very end of the show—-well, I’ve asked everybody here and for some of us, we have different answers. And I think that [what you think happens]—it says more about you than anything else. The show gives you an answer. It suggests an answer. But I think you can walk away with like an idea in your mind of [what happens next].”
Though Siara seems loath to commit one way or the other about what the season’s ending will mean for the future of Emma and Noah’s relationship (not to mention their general happiness as people), he is firm on one thing: We’ll get to the bottom of what happened to Sam and Violet.
“Yes, you find out,” he confirms. “You find out everything. There’s nothing left on the table.”
This declaration will doubtless be a balm to genre fans who’ve been repeatedly given steadily increasing stakes over the course of a show’s run rather than the answers they were promised, but we’ll have to wait and see exactly how this mystery plays out to be sure.
The first three episodes of The Resort are available to stream on Peacock now. New episodes premiere Thursdays.