SPOILER ALERTS: As always.
When Desperate Housewives closed their curtains in May of 2012, ABC’s Sunday night broadcast future was murky. After a slew of cancelled shows in 2013, ABC’s 2014 was an important one.
Enter Resurrection, the surprisingly intriguing sci-fi mystery based on Jason Mott’s The Returned novel.
Along with NBC’s The Blacklist, Resurrection was the only freshman series to make the Demo Top Ten List for the 2013-2014 TV Season. It was also the 11th highest-watched primetime show on television with 12.96 million viewers averaged per week, which is no small feat considering it plays opposite NBC’s Sunday Night Football — the reigning primetime juggernaut at 21.53 million viewers per week —as well as CBS’ The Good Wife. Resurrection’s March 9, 2014 premiere garnered a 3.8 in the 18-49 Rating, a 10 in the 18-49 Share, and premiered to 13.9 million viewers. In total viewers, Resurrection was ABC’s most-watched Sunday drama debut in seven and a half years (Brothers & Sisters premiere).
Though the Season Two premiere was down to 8.4 million viewers, that number is skewed, taking into consideration the crossover premieres of Frozen-meets-Storybrook on Once Upon a Time and The Griffins-meet-The Simpsons on Family Guy. The Family Guy premiere, as quipped by Brian mid-episode, was a “one shot deal” and Once Upon a Time is parlaying Disney’s Frozen mega-success into primetime Sunday night viewers. Once Resurrection gets into the bulk of this season—which looks to be soon—the viewers will, no pun intended, return.
Speaking of…let’s get to the premiere.
If you aren’t familiar with the show, the premise is that the deceased residents of Arcadia, Missouri are coming back to life, but not in the Walking Dead sense; the dead (of many generations) are simply living again, as if they had gone into a deep sleep the night before.
The pilot begins with a young boy named Jacob (played by Landon Jimenez) waking up in a rice paddy in China. An immigration agent named J. Martin (referred to as “Marty”) Bellamy (Omar Epps, House) takes an interest and disobeys orders to bring Jacob home to his parents, Henry and Lucille (played by Kurtwood Smith, That 70’s Show, and Frances Fisher, Titanic, respectively). Henry and Lucille don’t understand because their son died in 1982. But lo and behold, Jacob emerges, clutching his bewildered father around the waist, as fresh-faced and spritely as he was the day he died three decades earlier. All over town, the beloved deceased are sprouting up and, though they are mostly peaceful, their presence is—understandably—unwelcomed. Town Sheriff and recovering alcoholic Fred Langston (Matt Craven, NCIS)—brother of Henry—is not a fan of “The Returned,” as they come to be known and doesn’t believe they are actually people’s loved ones. As it is revealed gradually in Season One, Fred’s wife died—the same day as Jacob—down by the river, while the man she was having an affair with watched helplessly. She does return, setting off Fred’s ire.
A main plot point of Season One was the return of Caleb Richards (Sam Halzedine, The Raven), who seemed to have more of a grasp on his existence than the average “Returned” did; while incarcerated, Caleb vanishes into thin air under the eye of a security camera. Caleb’s daughter, Elaine (Samaire Armstrong, The O.C.), is left sorting out the evils Caleb committed during his life and afterlife. Elaine and her best friend Dr. Maggie Langston (Devin Kelley, The Chicago Code), daughter of Fred, commiserate over how the deceased are throwing life into chaos. There is also the married Pastor Tom Hale (Mark Hildreth, V), who was best friends with Jacob when they were both eight, who discovers that his former girlfriend Rachael (Kathleen Munroe, Beautiful People)—who committed suicide by driving off a bridge decades ago—is not only “Returned” but is still pregnant with his child, leading him to question his marriage and faith. In the season finale, a fed up Sheriff Fred called the military and the “Returned” were rounded up like cattle; the scene faded to black as Marty held tight to Jacob while military helicopters descended. As the first season was only eight episodes long, the fast pace was welcomed for a show heavy on mystery. The question of how much should be revealed and when in mysteries of this magnitude is vital to the success of the show; only time will tell if Resurrection is more Lost than Heroes (though, even if they give answers as Heroes did, let’s hope the quality is more enticing).
Resurrection Season One is high on not only action and mystery, but it raises intriguing questions about faith, death, and family: If your loved ones were to return from the dead, would your first reaction be to cringe, or wrap them up in a bear hug? Does their “Returning” shatter the grieving process? Is one’s faith irrevocably damaged if death doesn’t bring an afterlife, or is God’s true gift in giving the deceased a second chance? Or…taking a completely different approach…are the “Returned” warning signs of some sort of Rapture or alien invasion? The truth is, while we start to get answers with Season Two’s premiere, we’re still a long way from anything definite.
And truthfully, it’s okay.
Season Two begins right where Season One left off: with Marty waking up in the muddy marshes of Arcadia, echoing Jacob’s return in the Season One premiere, without Jacob at his side. Marty sprints to the Langston house as fragmented memories of the military invasion return to his consciousness. A gasping Marty, supported by Henry and Lucille, explains that Jacob was taken from him just as Jacob comes down the stairs. Marty learns that he’s been gone for a week and not a night. Marty also learns that all of “The Returned” who had a loved one in Arcadia were allowed to stay, but the rest—as, by the end of the season, the numbers had grown and weren’t restricted to having relatives living in Arcadia—are gone, kept somewhere in secret by the government. It’s a bit too convenient to the plot, this explanation; I could picture the military, amid their raid on Arcadia, asking each “Returned”: “Do you have a relative that’s a main or ancillary character? If so, you can stay. If not, we’re using this plot device to rid some onscreen clutter.” It’s a small complaint to have, but still, that was hokey.
Meanwhile, outside Arcadia, the rest of civilization believes the town fell for a zombie hoax, an interesting comment on the spin doctor media. When Marty calls his boss, he comes in contact with the woman who abducted him from Arcadia. This game of cat and mouse between Marty and the woman will play out over the course of the rest of the season it seems, but we get a huge answer at the end of the premiere. Spoiling it would be unfair, so get watching.
Rachael and Pastor Hale learn that their child is still alive and well. However, they find some startling news: their baby is growing at an alarming rate, almost double. Fred also faces the backlash of bringing the military to Arcadia, and relapses.
One night, Jacob can’t sleep so he walks down to the graveyard—surely, as any eight-year-old would—to find his grandmother, or Henry’s mother, Margaret (Michelle Fairley, Game of Thrones) has “Returned.” How Margaret’s presence will alter Sheriff Fred’s understanding of “The Returned” seems to be a theme that will shape at least some part of the rest of the season, especially after she stops his suicide attempt.
The premiere not only expands on the mystery and intrigue of Season One without alienating viewers hungry for answers, but seamlessly introduces new plotlines and threads. That is the mark of a quality show: a show that keeps you coming back each week, keeps you caring about the characters, and answers questions when it counts. Resurrection is certainly that type of show—though it’s high-risk, with a plot composed of secrets and mysteries—and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out, for better or worse.