By letting its protagonists interact and giving the audience some explanation of these angels’ purpose, The Messengers improves in its second episode. It’s still an insane, trope-filled show about angels with superpowers, but at least we have more of an idea about what kind of ride we’re on whereas, at the end of the pilot, it was still largely unclear what direction this show was heading in.
So, here’s the deal: six people died and came back to life as angels with a mission to save the world. Though we met Joshua the preacher, Raul the undercover drug agent, Peter the foster kid, Erin the single mom, and Vera the scientist in the first episode, it wasn’t until the second episode that they met each other. I wrote last week that the pilot failed in telling a compelling, self-contained story and, in watching the opening act of this episode in which all of our protagonists find their way to the same Houston hospital chapel to meet and discuss their angel-ness, it is even more obvious how little the pilot told us.
Luckily, recently-awoken coma patient Rose is on hand to explain the premise of the show for everyone involved. She is the sixth angel and has been gifted with the superpower of understanding — or, as it appears within the larger context of the show, the superpower of exposition. Seriously, she is like a walking, talking manifestation of Tell, Don’t Show and it is kind of awesome how little The Messengers cares about subtlety in this regard. Weirdly, Rose is also the only angel who doesn’t get her own non-angel storyline, only popping up in scenes where all of the angels are together. Sure, she has an apparently fickle fiance who only visited her six months into her coma, but he’s yet to actually show up in person. Sorry, Rose. Can’t endanger your role as The Expositioner with any personal drama of your own.
Rose explains to the others that they will be tasked with stopping the four horsemen of the apocalypse and preventing The Rapture. (Finally, Ichabod and Abbie get some help.) That would be war, pestilence, famine, and death, for those keeping track at home, and — like the angels — they are just ordinary people. Until The Man tempts them into doing evil, that is. How will The Messengers go about stopping this? That is less clear. Apparently, they will just hang out together and angel-y stuff will happen?
Joshua’s visions will no doubt help show them the way — though, his first attempt to follow the road map given through one of his painful premonitions is foiled by Vera’s skepticism. Though Vera is considering killing Rose at the beginning of this episode because The Man tells her he can help her find her son (who was stolen as a baby seven years prior), she rejects the possibility that Joshua might know what he’s talking about when he makes the same claim. It’s a bit like hanging out with Scully after the first few seasons of The X-Files when Scully should really have started believing in the existence of all things supernatural, but totally doesn’t. Sadly, we do not have the same level of affection built up yet for Vera, so it just comes off as annoying that she is a skeptic to such a degree given all that she has seen in the last few days. That being said, it seems underhanded for Joshua (and the show) to imply that the death of a disabled veteran, brought about by The Man’s manipulations, is Vera’s fault for not going along with Joshua on his vision quest.
This show definitely picks up some energy now that these characters have met and are hanging out together, but there’s still a clunky unevenness to it. The exploration of these angel’s personal lives can feel shoehorned into the larger plot. This week, we meet Raul’s niece and learn that his brother has been kidnapped (and possibly killed) by the same people who tried to take Raul out. But, like other attempts at fleshing out the personal lives of these protagonists, the storyline doesn’t get enough time. The show is too unfocused, trying to do too much with too little efficiency or ambition.
And what of the logistics of this world? Are The Messengers dead? Will they age? If they succeed in averting the apocalypse, will they be able to live in the world they have saved? Who is the seventh angel Rose promises will eventually show him or herself? What are the extents of their respective abilities? These all seem like questions The Messengers should be asking themselves. Instead, they’re either too caught up in their ill-defined personal dramas to really care as is the case with Vera, Raul, Peter and Erin or are seemingly an automatic convert as is the case with Rose and Joshua. The Messengers would benefit from some protagonists who exist somewhere in the middle of that spectrum — if only so they could get some more of our questions about this show answered for us.