March 10, 2014

THE SKED Pilot Review: “Resurrection”


RESURRECTION:  Sunday 9PM on ABC  – Potential DVR Alert

The restrained tension of RESURRECTION‘s pilot may remind you of early, suburban Spielberg, and of M. Night Shyamalan before he became a punchline.  The premise, based on a novel called “The Returned” by Jason Mott (and also perhaps inspired by the unrelated French miniseries that ran on Sundance Channel earlier this season), is that people who died and were buried decades ago suddenly appear hundreds or thousands of miles away from where they’d lived, very much alive (not zombified), their memories intact, and without having aged a day.

The first of these is Jacob Garland (Landon Giminez), an 8-year old who drowned in Arcadia, Missouri in 1982 and who awakens in the present day outside a village in China, still 8 years old.  At first, the boy is uncommunicative and no one has any idea who he is, but when Jacob asks ICE investigator (and former cop) Matt Bellamy (Omar Epps) to take him to Arcadia, his now-elderly parents Lucille and Harold (Frances Fisher and Kurtwood Smith) are shocked to acknowledge–and DNA tests subsequently confirm–that he is their son.  There are many levels of mystery to this, not just the obvious one of where Jacob came from and how he can even exist, but the mysterious seizures he periodically has and the circumstances of his death.  It had been believed that Jacob’s aunt had died trying to rescue him, but the truth turns out to be more complex, as his uncle Fred (Matt Craven), now the town sheriff, learns.  Jacob’s cousin Gail (Devin Kelley), little more than a baby when he died, is now a town doctor, and his 8-year old best friend Tom (Mark Hildreth) is Arcadia’s pastor, whose faith is strongly shaken by Jacob’s arrival.  The end of the pilot sets up an additional plot that will involve Gail’s best friend Elaine (Samaire Armstrong).

It’s difficult to tell from the pilot where Resurrection plans to go with all this, because the material could take many different directions, from supernatural horror to soap to sci-fi.  It appears that the central story will stay with the Garlands, since they’re series regulars, but Jacob won’t be the only character to return from the dead, and the show might (or might not) be structured around a returnee-of-the-week.  So far, at least, it’s avoiding the cliches of suggesting that the returnees have arrived to save the world, or that they’re being pursued by a shadowy conspiracy.  (Also adding to the uncertainty:  although the pilot is written by Aaron Zelman, whose previous credits include Damages and The Killing, the series showrunners will be Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas, the creators of Reaper, and it’s not clear whether that reflects a change in creative plan.)   The pilot, very effectively directed by Charles McDougall, establishes a tone of warmth undercut with apprehension and dread–a feeling that this miracle is gonna have a downside–and it really grips you.  Epps, as our Everyman representative among the natives of Arcadia, is a strong lead, and Fisher and Smith are notable for their multiplicity of emotions upon discovering that their son is truly with them again.

ABC feels strongly enough about Resurrection that it altered its original plan to air the show in the Sunday 10PM slot and moved it to the anchor 9PM hour, in the hope that it can better sustain the Once Upon A Time audience than Revenge (now at 10PM) has been doing.  Competition isn’t particularly tough–at least on the broadcast networks–on post-football Sundays, with The Good Wife and the as-yet unknown Believe and Cosmos airing against it.  Resurrection may just be an arresting pilot that won’t be able to figure out what to do once it’s in motion, but if the show can stick to its quietly eerie tone while developing a satisfying plot, it has real potential.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."