May 4, 2014

THE SKED Season Finale Review: “Resurrection”


As bad as it is for a network when it launches a new series and no one shows up, in a way it has to be worse when the series premiere has a huge start–and then viewers drop away in droves once they’ve given it a try.  The first kind of failure may be the fault of bad marketing, a weak cast, or just an unappealing concept, but the other is strictly because people didn’t like what they were seeing.  It’s happened twice to ABC this season, first with Agents of SHIELD, and more recently with RESURRECTION, which in just 7 weeks has lost half its initial audience.

A big part of the problem may be that Resurrection never decided what kind of show it wanted to be.  It wasn’t a horror story, like the hit French series The Returned from which Resurrection, although purportedly based on an unrelated novel, seemed to appropriate many of its details (The Returned, which has been airing in its original language on Sundance, will itself soon be a US series on A&E, proving that no one loves the undead more than a network executive).  It wasn’t an inspirational family story, as the promos seemed to promise.  It never became viable sci-fi, because nothing was explained, and no satisfying mythology was created.  It had little if any sense of humor, and no more than the barest hint of romance.  Episodes followed one another and stories were told, but there was no consistent tone and nothing to become involved with beyond the initial premise:  the long dead were returning, without having aged and as puzzled about it as everyone else, to Arcadia, Missouri.

Tonight’s season finale, written by series creator Aaron Zelman and directed by Dan Attias, upped the scale but not the drama, as purportedly hundreds more of the dead showed up in Arcadia.  (We never saw more than a couple of dozen.)  It played the “big bad government” card, but in a particularly clumsy way, as previously decent town Sheriff Fred Langston (Matt Craven), miffed because his Returned wife had decided to be with the lover she’d had before her death rather than with him, made it his business to turn the Army (which had, it seemed, initially been sympathetic) against the not-dead, so that before long they were being rounded up by violent criminals he’d freed from jail for the purpose.  (The sheriff had hoped the Returned would be sent to internment camps, but apparently Arcadia was going to become one big quarantined area, probably for series budget reasons.)  Potentially interesting plot points, like Rachael (Kathleen Munroe), Returned and then shot to death and then instantly Returned again in a fresh body–and apparently still pregnant with the child of pastor Tom Hale (Mark Hildreth) that she’d been carrying at the time of her original suicide–were left wide open.  A final reveal, telegraphed earlier in the episode, that ICE agent Martin Bellamy (Omar Epps) was, apparently unknowingly, a son of the Returned (and one of the Returned himself?  It wasn’t clear when his parents had died) seemed to be included only because someone had required that the season finale end on a “twist.”

Resurrection has an enticing enough premise, but it’s been solemn and not very much fun, with characters who have no particular complexity.  The show’s central family, now-elderly parents Henry and Lucille Langston (Kurtwood Smith and Frances Fisher), and their re-bonding with Returned son Jacob (Landon Giminez), was heartwarming and little more, and their niece, female lead Dr. Maggie Langston (Devin Kelley) was merely a pleasant presence.  The show became increasingly bland, and despite Sheriff Fred suddenly turning into the show’s version of Big Jim Rennie from Under the Dome (a pulpy, dumb but much more enjoyable fantasy), it doesn’t seem likely to become more compelling.

Despite its sharp ratings decline, Resurrection is still doing better than most ABC series, and the chances are strong that it’ll be back in some form next season.  The show’s writers, one hopes, will use their hiatus to make some strong choices about the stories they want to be telling.

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."