Mixed Media

Resurrection

On Sunday night, ABC aired the pilot episode of their new TV series “Resurrection.” In it, a small Missouri town confronts a mystery: How is it possible that 8-year-old Jacob Langston has been found in a Chinese rice paddy and returned to his parents in seemingly good health, when he drowned 32 years earlier? Jacob is not offering many answers.

This interesting premise is fraught with religious connotations—and those connotations are not completely ignored in the first episode. It turns out that Jacob’s best friend, Tom, has become a pastor in the intervening years. He is stopped short by his inability to make sense of what seems to be a miracle even as he preaches about miracles to his congregation. This faith vs. doubt theme has potential for a refreshing and open perspective on religious belief, or it could turn belief into something blandly inert. It all depends on the writers.

The reason for the return is not given, and it’s a question that is ignored by the characters. Jacob holds some clues to a possible crime, which takes precedence in the plot. I can only hope the show returns to the more interesting question. “Resurrection” is a remake of sorts of a French series called “The Returned,” which I have not seen. Given the very positive reviews of that show, it sounds as if “Resurrection” might suffer in contrast.

Omar Epps is fine as the immigration official who fields Jacob’s case and brings him home, but Frances Fisher stands out as Jacob’s mother. The small-town motif is pushed to its limit as viewers find out that not only is the pastor Jacob’s old friend, but the sheriff is Jacob’s uncle and the doctor involved is Jacob’s cousin. That’s a character diagram worthy of a soap opera.

I’ll be watching the next episode to see where this goes. It needs to move beyond long, melodramatic reunions of loved ones if it is going to go anywhere. The show might be an exploration of what it would be like to have a person actually resurrected and brought back into the lives of loved ones, but it could just become a supernatural crime story, or a zombie apocalypse, both of which are readily available in other forms. Here’s hoping it brings new life to the screen.

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