Tuesday, September 24, 2019

REVIEW: 'Emergence' - Jo Takes in a Young Child Following a Mysterious Plane Crash on the Beach in 'Pilot'

ABC's Emergence - Episode 1.01 "Pilot"

A police chief takes in a young child she finds near the site of a mysterious accident who has no memory of what has happened. The investigation draws her into a conspiracy larger than she ever imagined, and the child's identity is at the center of it all.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the series premiere of ABC's Emergence.

"Pilot" was written by Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters and directed by Paul McGuigan

It's fairly remarkable just how understated the core drama is in this new series. That doesn't mean things are boring or uninspired though. The tone and mood set early on in this hour showcase a strong sense of craftsmanship that trusts the audience to go along with the story being told. There have been a lot of mythology driven shows produced on the broadcast networks - especially in the wake of Lost. That was a singular success. None of the obvious clones have come close to matching the same quality. Some have made it to second seasons. And yet, there haven't been any that truly did something that captivated a huge swath of the culture. Instead, viewers go to places like Netflix to get that mysterious intrigue now. It may no longer be a formula that the broadcast networks should try. But they still do. They still haven't quite got it right either. It's easy to build a pilot around some mysterious concept. It's much more difficult to maintain that quality moving forward as the audience will slowly start to demand more answers. Most of the time the creative teams throw some melodrama into the proceedings to explain why the main characters' lives are so complicated to the point where they can't get to the heart of the insane things happening to them. That can really drive things down. This show though presents a family that seems completely functional. Sure, Jo and Alex are divorced. But there doesn't seem to be any kind of animosity that threatens to become destructive. It's just a way that families exist now. Their daughter Mia may be eager to stay with her mom now that she has a new sister to care for. But everything functions in a nice, low key way building up to this major mystery being thrown into their lives. The actors are all willing to go on that journey as well. They understand this is just a regular family trying to make their lives work. They are suddenly forced into a world of paranoia and secrets. There are unsettling elements afoot. The cover-ups are just as quick and mysterious. The show absolutely provides the necessary narrative weight in order to make those seemingly impossible moments come to life. It all centers around Piper, a mysterious young girl who manages to go uninjured during several blatant crashes. First, it's a plane that crashes on the local beach. Then a vehicle flips over as if it hit something when it clearly didn't. It's miraculous that Piper emerges without a scratch on her. Of course, it could be frustrating that she doesn't remember anything about who she is or what she may have done that warrants these cryptic individuals to hunt her down. She carries secrets even though she may not fully know what they are. That's the biggest obstacle introduced to the proceedings right off the bat. And yet, that amnesia doesn't present as a hindrance to the proceedings. It just means the Evans family has to give Piper more love and support as she tries to figure out who she is. It's clear that she is drawn to certain household objects. Water appears to send her into some kind of trance. That is a chilling final moment. It's one that does confirm that her skin can break. But it also highlights how people have clearly been monitoring her. This couple who wanted to take her may be eliminated as a threat for now. However, there is clearly much more uncertainty in this world. Jo is committed to helping this young girl no matter what. Sure, it may put her family in danger. However, everyone sees that as the right response in this tragic situation. Everyone being onboard with that upfront can do wonders for the storytelling in the future. This hour may set the show up for a better run. Or it could flame out just as quickly as many other shows like it that didn't quite know where they were going with the mythology. That is fundamentally crucial. A moment like the ending here can't just be something mysterious but empty. There has to be a reason for it that the narrative builds towards resolving throughout the season. The journey has to be satisfying. It should be compelling to see if the show can keep up this tone and mood while still providing those episodic moments of relief.