Ever since Lost brought the network an average of 15.69 million viewers at the show’s peak, ABC has been trying to find their next mystery/supernatural/sci-fi powerhouse. Actually, every network tried to copy Lost’s success, with plenty trying to hire that series’ co-creator, J.J. Abrams, to concoct another hit. Fringe, Alcatraz, Revolution, and Almost Human have all ranged from moderate successes to complete duds, but television is desperately trying to find the next high-concept drama. Enter Resurrection, ABC’s new supernatural mystery about deceased people from a small town returning to their loved ones years after the fact, based on the novel The Returned and the French drama of the same name. The show is set to go head to head against a new Abrams program on NBC, Believe, but the shows appear to have dissimilar feels. Instead of opting for cheap, high octane thrills, Resurrection offers something weightier, more quiet, and intriguing.
Resurrection, which is shot very sharply by director Charles McDougall, jumps starts with an eight-year-old boy, Jacob, awaking in a rice paddy in China. The anomaly of the boy’s appearance, without identification, passport, or any record of his existence, gets immigration agent Marty Bellamy involved. Bellamy is portrayed by Omar Epps, last seen on TV on Fox’s House. Epps isn’t given much to do except seem perplexed, but he seems fine enough as the show’s lead, though he does spout off a few eye rolling attempts at one-liners. Maybe it’s Epps’ delivery, or the fact that the attempts at humor feel so disingenuous on a show that is clearly taking itself very seriously.
That serious vibe sets in the minute that Jacob reveals that he is from Arcadia, Missouri, and Agent Bellamy escorts the boy home. When they arrive, they find Jacob’s aging parents, absolutely floored and confused by the sight of their son who died, along with his aunt, in a drowning accident 32 years prior. Kurtwood Smith, of RoboCop and That ’70s Show fame, as Jacob’s father Henry, is the show’s immediate strength. He portrays Henry with an understated mixture of bewilderment, anger, and frightened disbelief. He isnt alone in his disbelief, his brother, Sheriff Frank, who lost his wife along with Jacob, is immediately hostile at the suggestion that Jacob is who he says he is. But after DNA testing, performed by curious cousin and Frank’s daughter Maggie, reveals that Jacob is biologically who he says, Bellamy and Maggie begin digging into the details of Jacob and Maggie’s mother Barbara’s deaths.
What they find, through photo evidence and Jacob’ testimony, is that Barbara was drowning and Jacob attempted to save her, which was believed to have happened the other way around. Things get really interesting when Jacob reveals that another man was there, a man he identifies through a picture in his family’s home. That man, Henry reveals, was having an affair with Barbara, and Henry has the difficult task of revealing the information to Frank so many years after the fact. Another person struggling with questions is Pastor Tom, a childhood friend of Jacob, who begins questioning his faith and the miracle himself upon seeing his old buddy in the flesh. The major mystery of Jacob’s return is set up quite nicely, but he isn’t the only one who’s back.
The rest of the episode we see a mysterious man in a red ball cap skulking around Arcadia. Initially we’re led to believe he has some connection to Jacob, but at the end of the episode we discover the man is actually the father of Maggie’s friend Elaine, another man who was believed to have been deceased. His arrival at the end of the episode is an emotional moment for Elaine and her brother Ray, and will surely provide a secondary plot for the show as it moves forward, but there’s no telling just how many “returned” characters we will meet this season.
Overall, Resurrection is a sturdy pilot that’s intriguing enough to hook a viewer in for at least another showing. The tone is serious, but plenty of the actors, especially Smith, keep it from seeming overly emotional or hokey. ABC is hoping that the same audience that made their supernatural drama Lost a hit will “return” for their new output.