January 25, 2015

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Resurrection”


Rarely has a TV series crashed as quickly and completely as ABC’s RESURRECTION.  It premiered just 10 months ago with a 3.8 rating in the 18-49 demo, yet last week it managed only an 0.8 (actually up a tenth from the previous week).  In other words, 80% of the audience that was initially enthusiastic about the show was gone within a year.  (In total viewers it crashed from 13.9M to 3.8M, almost as bad.)  Aside from a final shot with enough ambiguity to keep the door open a crack in the event of a true miracle of network renewal, tonight’s finale was a tacit ending for the series.  How did Resurrection squander such a mass of potential fans?

In a way, ABC was the victim of its own effectively ambiguous marketing.  Resurrection managed to sell itself simultaneously to two very different–maybe even opposite–audiences.  There were the Walking Dead genre fans lured by the prospect of another thriller about life beyond the grave, and also the “faith-based” (marketing jargonese for “Christian”) audiences who believed they were getting an inspirational story about miracles.  Once they actually saw the series, though, it became evident Resurrection wasn’t working as either of those things, and viewership steadily dropped.

What’s been unclear all along is what kind of show Resurrection actually is.  Under showrunners Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters (the show’s original creator was Aaron Zelman, working from a preexisting novel), it’s been a soap and a government conspiracy thriller, a family saga and a fable about dealing with the sins of the past.  In Season 2, the garbled plotting seemed to change its focus week by week, possibly in response to network or studio notes.  Military/scientific bureaucrats were introduced, led by an agent played by Donna Murphy, but the troops soon disappeared from Arcadia, Missouri (maybe for budget reasons), and the agent turned out to be a bit of a softie.  Two returnee villains were introduced, one played by Game of Thrones‘s steely Michelle Fairley, but they had little heat.  The Big Twist that hero ICE agent (don’t ask) Martin Bellamy (Omar Epps) turned out to unknowingly to have been risen from the dead himself (don’t ask) had astonishingly little payoff.  About the only action in Season 2 that made any kind of sense was the pulpy storyline that had pregnant returnee Rachael (Kathleen Munroe) taken captive by the widow of the man who’d loved both of them.  Toward the end, the undead took to freezing in identical poses in the middle of the street, like a zombie flash mob.

Some of the disarray was probably caused by the network’s decision not to extend Season 2 beyond 13 episodes, which curtailed some storylines while speeding others up.  In the end, tonight’s finale (written by Nathaniel Halpern and directed by Dan Attias) centered on Rachael and her unborn child, who would shortly be delivered.  The other Season 2 villain, James Goodman (Jim Parrack), who’d been a phony faith healer when alive, became convinced that Rachael’s son would lead to an avalanche of new undead and the end of the world, and he gathered together a group of like-minded returnees to storm the Langston family house and stop the child from being born, in one way or another.  (Perhaps budgetary concerns figured into the fact that most of the finale took place around that single set.)  With Marty and all the show’s other heroes on the pro-baby side, naturally he was born, and a “One Year Later” epilogue informed us that while many more had returned from the grave, they were mostly being reintegrated into society, with Marty heading up a returnee government bureau, and recently dead-then-not Henry Langston (Kurtwood Smith) concerned that Congress might deprive him of his right to vote.  Only the final few seconds suggested that maybe the baby wasn’t as innocent as he seemed.

We’ll never find out, of course, since despite some good acting and effective mood-setting, Resurrection has likely gone (permanently) to that TV schedule in the sky.  Most TV shows fail, it’s the nature of the beast.  But it has to be a particular frustration to all concerned that they actually had a show that millions thought they wanted to watch–but then couldn’t produce a series that would keep them tuning in.


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."