Reviewed by: Chief Couch Potato Kylie
Who: “Resurrection,” aired on network TV, specifically on ABC, from 2014-2015.
What: “Resurrection,” a fantasy drama in which long-deceased individuals find themselves alive again in the small town of Arcadia, Missouri, and watch as their families adjust to this news and, in some cases, try to solve the mystery of how these people received literally new leases on life.
J. Martin Bellamy (Omar Epps), an INS agent, is sent to recover a small boy who has been discovered in a rural province in China. He is clearly American, has no idea where he is or how he got there, and won’t talk to anyone, though he woke up in marshlands, confused and scared. After he is shipped back to the US, Martin is able to coax the child into revealing his origins: a small town in Missouri called Arcadia. In fact, Jacob is able to point out his house. Martin knocks on the door of Henry and Lucille Langston’s home (Smith/Fisher) to reveal that their son has been found, but they react with disbelief: after all, according to the grief-stricken couple, Jacob has been dead for 32 years, believed to be drowned in a nearby river. When Lucille espies the perfect carbon copy of her boy in the backseat of Martin’s car, who has not aged a day, she reacts with caution and elation all at once, while her husband recoils in fear and suspicion. What’s more, Martin is reluctant to turn the boy over to federal custody upon the discovery of this information and convinces his boss to allow him to monitor Jacob and Arcadia, as other long deceased persons start to reappear. Martin, along with key members of the small Missouri town, work together to try to ascertain why this might be happening, while affected loved ones react with a veritable gamut of emotions, ranging from pure joy to unadulterated fear and suspicion at the return of the resurrected.
When: Season Two aired on ABC, Sundays, from September 28, 2014, until January 25, 2015. Resurrection was canceled in May 2015, resulting in the season two finale airing as the series finale.
Where: The show is set in a small town, specifically Arcadia, Missouri.
Why: The premise for the show was fairly interesting, since some of the revived characters have been dead for decades. It’s also executive produced by Brad Pitt, among others, and happened to air between Once Upon a Time and Revenge, both of which I watch/ed. Plus, Red Foreman (i.e. Kurtwood Smith) and Rose’s mean mother from Titanic (i.e. Frances Fisher) are two of the featured performers.
How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)
When last CPU! checked in with Resurrection, the show enjoyed decent ratings and was green-lit for season renewal. Since that time, ABC aired a thirteen-episode second season that suffered from steadily declining ratings and dropped the cancellation axe a few months after the season finale bowed. The show’s fate was not surprising; at the same time, the second season finale ended on a cliffhanger, and there were many unanswered questions spurred on by what would become that final episode. If nothing else, the show’s central mystery was endlessly intriguing, even if needlessly drawn out over the course of its two seasons.
If you read this viewer’s prior reviews, you will note a common theme: Resurrection was painfully slow-paced, and this trend lasted for the life of the show. Granted, tuning into this drama, one could not possibly expect to see a lot of action or twists–after all, an expected twist is an oxymoron–but the challenge of television, and why CPU! exists as a blog and podcast in the first place, stems from whether or not the storytellers can make their story enticing when meted out over several 30 or 60 minute episodes, over several years, rather than in two to three hour chunks, as in a film or staged play.
Resurrection was based on a novel, which I have never read. I think the mistake for this show was not the serialized nature of the storytelling, as some TV pundits have posited, but was, in fact, the decision to pace it at a speed similar to that of reading a book. The show suffered because it became too mired in the emotional reactions of all the characters, at an imbalance to how fast story revelations occurred. The impulse to hold back revelations is understandable — if they come too fast, a show’s excitement factor can burn out too quickly, and the story itself can equally become boring or lose cohesion after the main story tensions are relaxed or exhausted. Watching this show, however, left this viewer feeling that such an impulse was observed too strictly and to a fault, particularly when the show’s life was bubble-worthy at best.
After all, it is not without logic that being confronted by the seemingly living, breathing being of a loved one long thought dead might stir up some feelings. And the first season, in its eight episode exploration of the return of Jacob, Caleb, Rachael, and eventually the influx of Returned in the first season finale, centered on those feelings almost exclusively, without providing true answers, or even clues, as to what might be happening in Arcadia, not until the season finale, that is. When this viewer previously reviewed the first season and that finale, I was most preoccupied with the last thirty seconds of the finale, particularly the discovery of Martin’s birthmark, which I theorized was most certainly an indicator that he was also a Returned being. When I sat down to watch season two, after the cancellation axe had already been swung, this was the only moment I remembered in any great detail from the first season. I think that’s significant; if the story is going well, I tend to remember quite a bit of the show no matter how much time has passed. If the show had any other memorable moments, they would have stuck. Resurrection’s first season had a few significant moments but few that could truly be labeled memorable, beyond that final thirty seconds, a fact that, to this viewer’s line of thinking, prognosticated the show’s demise.
The second season served to reward the viewer a bit more with some answers, and the pacing was a bit better, but the incremental increase in either element was probably not enough to retain viewers. A television show, even a drama with such a weighty premise, cannot saturate the viewers in emotions, in “feels,” without providing more in the way of intellectual payoffs. In my previous review, I suggested that the writers and episode directors ought to pick up the storytelling pace to maintain interest, because season one felt entirely like exposition. I wanted the story to shift into the next gear. Arguably, the Resurrection production team got to that next gear in season two but did so, again, slowly, in awkward, clumsy lurches, and did not fully achieve that “next level” until near the end of the season. It is this viewer’s belief that the writers and producers did not reward the audience in the correct way or at the correct pace; therefore, all of those but the most loyal were alienated, and the ratings declined.
That’s not to say that Resurrection’s central mystery did not entice or inspire or puzzle, or that the audience did not get some answers or clues as to what was happening as the second season progressed. As with all shows of this nature, though, it appeared that as answers were provided, new questions were formed, especially since most provided answers did not satisfy. The biggest question, why, as in why the Returned ultimately returned, was never answered and will never be answered, which is a shame. The production team can be forgiven for this unanswered lingering question, particularly if that was the point of the mystery, but some of the other loose plot threads, the strands woven into the story particularly in season two, easily fray the narrative when pulled with minimal effort. The writers created too many story gaps without planning for the possibility that they might have to end the story ahead of schedule. The result is reflected in the following recap, which is more true to recap form; however, given the nature of the story of Resurrection, the CPU! recap will particularly focus on story revelations. After all, this story is a mystery above all, and the mystery, I suspect, is why people watched in the first place. It’s certainly why this viewer watched it.
WARNING: Major spoilers ahead.
Season Two’s Revelations and Recap
Despite the fact that, when the viewer last saw Martin Bellamy (Epps), he was attempting to flee Arcadia with Jacob (Landon Gimenez) in tow, facing down ominous, hovering helicopters of the military and the national guard, the season premiere opens with Martin, waking alone and in the outskirts of Arcadia. After reading recaps at the time of viewing, it’s notable that Bellamy is surrounded by dead bugs, which, as I sit here typing this, I now believe to be an Easter egg or a foreshadowing symbol; I’ll get to that in a minute. Bellamy remembers being confronted by the military but does not remember how he ended up where he is. He begins a frantic search for Jacob, only to find the boy nonchalantly hanging out at home. Henry (Smith) and Lucille (Fisher) Langston inform Martin that he was missing for a week, and that the military let Returned with loved ones in Arcadia stay but shipped the rest off in buses. We later learn that there is a government facility run by a mysterious woman, who we later learn is named Angela, who has been aware of the Returned phenomenon for some time.
In the premiere, Martin eventually experiences a flashback to his missing week, in which he remembers being shot while in an interrogation room! This confirms that Martin is at least once Returned; however, events and reveals later in the season confirm he is actually three times Returned!
Also in the premiere, Margaret Langston (Michelle Fairley, Game of Thrones) Returns (the capital R at the beginning of the word shall now represent anyone who used to be dead). She is Henry and Sheriff Fred’s (Matt Craven) mother, and she is all business, a true and extremely off-putting matriarch with a fiery resolve. She instantly alienates Lucille, bonds with Jacob in a somewhat manipulative way, and obsesses over the fact that the Langston furniture factory in town was allowed to go defunct by Henry, who had no business ambition after the (initial) death of his son. She spends much of the season attempting to force Henry to reopen the factory, and it’s clear that she holds an uncommon control over her sons, though less so over Fred. She also appears to know more than she is letting on about being Returned.
Somewhat early in the season, the Returned start getting sick. What’s more, those who get sick and deteriorate completely seem to disappear permanently. What is not clear is how they started becoming sick, and the show presents two possibilities. In the second episode, Martin and Fred discover a Returned soul in the abandoned Langston factory named Arthur. While they don’t discover him in great shape, when they take him to see Maggie Langston (Devin Kelley), local doctor extraordinaire and Fred’s daughter (and Margaret’s granddaughter), his progress takes a sharp turn downward after a visit by Margaret, who seems to know him from her previous life. What’s more, this sickness spreads to other Returned, implying that it is contagious, to the point that Martin and Maggie are forced to seek out a vaccine or cure for it. The show seems to suggest that either a) the sickness is the condition of being Returned and has affected past others who have Returned or b) Margaret, who seems to have greater import and/or knowledge than other Returned, caused the sickness.
Elsewhere in Arcadia, Pastor Tom Hale (Mark Hildreth) is caught between his former wife Rachael (Kathleen Munroe), who is alive again and pregnant with his child as she was before she drowned herself some years earlier, and his new wife Janine (Lori Beth Sikes). At first, the situation is uncomfortable at best, particularly when Tom offers his home to Rachael. Yet, Janine understandably fights for her husband; though he pushes Janine away, unwilling to abandon Rachael to the hard cruel world she reentered, Janine maneuvers her way into makeup sex, so that she can appear, awoken and refreshed for Rachael to see the following morning. Tom, further, is ousted from the church and decides to start his own congregation for those who are Returned or related to the Returned, which is met with support by Janine at first; however, she becomes increasingly scary and disturbing as the season progresses. Initially, she seems interested in allowing Rachael to stay in her marital home for the purpose of making the best of a bad situation, but it quickly becomes clear that she is interested in Rachael’s baby – in fact, it becomes apparent that she is looking to adopt this baby for herself. The baby, however, has an unusual effect on the town and the Returned, as described below; it may be that the baby has an unusual effect on everyone, including the living.
Have I mentioned that not only is Margaret extremely unhappy about the closing of the factory (she even slaps Fred at one point and tells Henry to just get over everyone’s death, hers included), she goes to the abandoned factory with Henry, tells him off for letting depression impede his furniture work, and then secretly unearths human bones from deep inside the factory? Then, more bones are discovered in the river flowing through Arcadia when Pastor Tom baptizes Barbara, Fred’s Returned estranged wife (and Maggie’s mother), for his new church. Maggie’s expert medical technique dates the bones back to the 1930s, further confirming that Jacob is not the first Returned, and that others have predated him. Fred’s investigation into these bones leads him via clues back to the Langston factory, where he finds the bones previously dug up by his mother.
In the third episode, we also meet Sheriff Deputy Carl’s older brother, Mikey, who happens to be a sadistic bully that orders Carl around, forces him to make food, and generally humiliates him. This Carl/Mikey subplot distracts from a few episodes but, altogether, bears little fruit in the plot development department over the whole season. What we do learn from this subplot is that, when Carl has decided he’s had enough of Mikey’s generally demeaning behavior toward him, Carl shoots Mikey multiple times, only to find Mikey walking through his front door some hours later. So, the viewer sees that the Returned can re-Return, provided that they don’t get sick.
We also learn that the Returned exist apart from their bodies. When Martin finds himself unable to deal with his existence as a potentially evolving dead person, he consults Pastor Tom, who tells him that he found comfort in seeking Rachael’s original body. The problem is, the government is in possession of Martin’s body, and Angela is not willing to cough up the corpse without a little intel in exchange. Martin, therefore, agrees to act as an informant, which even leads to the government usurping the river bones, in exchange for a glimpse of his body.
Have I also mentioned, as the season progresses, that we learn that Rachael’s baby is growing at twice the rate than a baby normally should? When Janine softens to Rachael, and even helps her pick out prenatal vitamins at the grocery store, Rachael collapses. Maggie’s medical checkup discovers that Rachael’s baby is no ordinary baby. Then again, she was pregnant with said baby when she initially died, so her fetus is Returned as well.
As Martin investigates the bones that were confiscated by the government by using information recorded by Maggie, he further discovers that Arthur likely died in the thirties, when the Langston factory underwent a fire. Fred asks his mother if she knew Arthur; she lies and says she did not, but Maggie knows for a fact that Margaret visited Arthur in her office and tells her dad what he already suspects: that she’s a great big scary liar.
In the fourth episode, Henry also takes it upon himself to invite Barbara to a family dinner — this would be the Barbara that was married to Fred but cheated on him. When she Returns in the first season, she starts living with the man with whom she cheated. Henry believes that inviting Barbara to this ultimately awkward dinner will allow Jacob a chance to apologize for, essentially, luring Barbara to the river, where she drowned trying to save him. The ensuing tension is palpable. Though Lucille and Margaret have chafed readily as they vie for matriarchal dominance within the household, they bond over a mutual dislike for Barbara, but the elephant in the room cannot be ignored. As Lucille descends into wine-induced vitriol, she joins her mother-in-law in bullying Barbara, flatly accusing Barbara of causing Jacob’s death because she was at the river to meet her lover, enticing her nephew toward the river. The dinner’s aggression causes Barbara to run out into the night; Fred chooses to follow her and seemingly forgives her after the disdain showed to her by the female members of her family.
We also learn in this episode, from the shadier and shadier Margaret as she speaks in story and metaphor to Jacob who is upset by the events of the dinner, that she has been aware of the Returned for some time, and that she and her father (Henry and Fred’s grandfather) used to murder the Returned. So, Margaret confirms for the viewer that the Returned have been around for some decades. She also intimates that only she knows how to get rid of the Returned for good, furthering the possibility that she caused the sickness that affects the present-day Arcadia Returned.
The sickness affecting the Returned also affects Rachael and Carl’s brother Mikey. Carl figures out what is going on and happily allows Mikey to disappear after the sickness consumes him. Barbara decides to alleviate some of her sorrows by working at the local bar with Elaine (Samaire Armstrong), who is besties with Maggie. Elaine then entices Maggie to the bar, who is able to capitalize on the opportunity to get to know her mom. We’re reminded in this interchange that Barbara actually died younger than Maggie currently is, which brings an interesting perspective into the proceedings and reminds the viewer of the weirdness of the whole Returned phenomenon.
This reunion leaves Barbara feeling good enough to seduce her ex-husband Fred, resulting in an awkward morning-after for Maggie, who finds her parents, in their varying age-states, preparing to make chili, but she sees her parents’ happiness and is resigned to it. Margaret, on the other hand: not so much. Livid that her precious son should reunite with the woman who stepped out on him, Margaret visits her younger son’s household and entices Barbara out for a nighttime stroll. Though she starts sickly sweet in that way that signifies she wants something else potentially devious, in the end, she convinces her one-time daughter-in-law to “let go.” What this means exactly is unclear, but if a Returned can inwardly “let go, without thinking” they seem to disappear forever. Resurrection seems to imply in this moment that this world is as much a transition to the afterlife as anything, though how or why that is, we may never know. Barbara, consumed by the manipulative strands of guilt and regret that Margaret expertly feeds her, disappears into the night.
Fred subsequently confesses to Bellamy that the bones in the river washed down from his family’s factory. In the meantime, Bellamy, who is growing closer to Maggie all the time, confesses that he turned the river bones over to the government faction. He hesitates, however, to tell her that he is Returned, even as he begs Angela for help for the Returned. Angela is not willing to play ball, and though Maggie is mad about the reasoning for releasing the bones, she and Bellamy make amends. The problem is, Bellamy is also affected by the mysterious sickness.
Martin eventually decides, begrudgingly, to seek help from Angela for his new affliction, at which point he learns about a vaccine that suppresses symptoms but does not cure the mysterious sickness. When her back is turned, he learns a bunch of information from files he snoops though in her office:
- That he was initially born in 1934 but died at 6 months old.
- That he was the baby belonging to the African American family, the Thompsons, that he found in the woods in the first season finale.
- That he Returned first in 1972.
- That his parents disappeared due to the sickness, but their daughter, his sister, still lived. In fact, Martin forms a relationship with his sister (Jenny) and promises to take care of her and not to leave her in the government facility.
We also learn that Angela was the victim of a plane crash, and that her research revolves around that plane crash. This connection implies heavily that Angela is also Returned but is hiding that fact for some reason.
Margaret, when confronted, denies causing Barbara to disappear to everyone (including Elaine, who saw it happen, and Maggie, when Elaine told her what happened) but Jacob. She also informs Jacob that when it is their time to go, she’ll “help” him through it.
Another plot thread that starts in the sixth episode is Elaine’s brother Ray starting a group called the “True Living,” which is basically the white supremacist version of anti-Returned folks. This group even commits hate crimes against Pastor Tom’s new church as the season progresses. Further, Henry talks with investors about buying up and reopening the Langston factory; they have the last name Addison and inspire some strange reactions from Margaret, though she feigns forgetfulness. It turns out that Mr. Addison is the grandson of one of the factory fire victims, who is seeking revenge against the Langstons, as Margaret’s father was considered a ruthless financier.
Also, Martin supplies the medicine to Maggie and tells her to be in charge of distributing it; however, he continues to not admit his Returned status to her, despite the fact that he, himself, needs the vaccine to survive. When Rachael’s condition deteriorates, Rachael, sensitive to the pain she is causing Tom and Janine and plagued by fear of what might be with her baby, opts not to take the medicine. Bellamy is convinced, however, that Rachael’s baby may hold some sort of salvation for the Returned and attempts to apply the medicine over Maggie’s protests. Only at this time does he admit to Maggie that he is Returned. Before receiving the medicine, however, Janine visits the unconscious Rachael in a most creepy manner, rubs her belly and talks to the unborn baby inside. Shortly thereafter, as if by some miracle, Rachael awakes from her slumber and is symptom free. The takeaway from this is unclear to this day, but Rachael’s improved condition resolves the tension between Maggie and Martin. Tom, on the other hand, is leery of his wife’s motivations.
In the seventh episode, Ray, the leader of the “True Living,” somehow contracts the virus that heretofore only affected the Returned. Though Martin appeals to Angela for more of the medicine, she assures him that the medicine does not work on the living, implying that the government was aware that the virus could affect more than just the formerly dead. This spurs the True Living movement to commit their first mass hate crime: painting upside down red crosses on every Arcadian residence housing a Returned soul.
What’s more, the viewer also learns that Rachael has the ability, as Returned, to enter into the dreams or, even, the memories of other Returned, and her first trip has her witnessing one of Margaret’s memories about her childhood exploits with the Returned. Margaret hadn’t met Rachael before this encounter and was surprised to learn that she was Returned to Arcadia in the present. Margaret also goes on a date with the Addison seeking to reopen the factory for the purpose of pumping him for more information, but she learns that his grandfather was one of the factory fire victims and one of the Returned repeatedly murdered by Margaret and her father. Suddenly, the investment deal does not seem too promising.
Though Lucille tries to make amends with Maggie over the dinner ambush fueled by wine and her dastardly mother-in-law, her niece is reticent but then feels bad for reacting poorly. While half of the Langstons are dealing with the Barbara aftermath, Henry learns that his mother torpedoed the reopening of the factory. Further digging leads him to the identity of Addison’s grandpa, William Kirk, and some of the truth Margaret was attempting to hide. Instead of any violent revenge on either part, however, Henry and Kirk agree to forage ahead with the investment deal, though Henry’s part requires him to refinance his home for the capital. This is when the viewer learns that he inherited stubbornness from his fiery mother.
Ray’s deterioration causes Fred and Bellamy to sniff out the True Living group, though they are accompanied by Deputy Carl, who is secretly a member after the horrors of living with Mikey. Confronting this group and their hate spew spurs Martin into confessing to all that he is one of the Returned, which shocks them all, Fred included, to the core. Bellamy’s confession also incites an unidentified member of the True Living into a change of heart, and he tells Fred in secret that Pastor Tom’s church is a target for the next attack by the group.
Tom, however, is distracted by the miracle recovery of his former wife. Maggie reasons that Rachael’s recovery could have been augmented by the rapidly developing stem cells of her unborn child and asks permission to extract them for testing. Janine becomes rapidly more panicked by the idea that she may be excluded from raising the child, as Tom and Rachael have clearly reformed their connection; in fact, Janine ascribes some sort of Rapture/Messiah figure to Rachael and her baby. As a result, she manipulates Rachael into believing that Tom wants her to move out and to stay at her sister’s; however, Janine keeps her captive there. In the meantime, Tom finds Janine’s journal, which includes brainstorms for baby names and increasingly cohesion-lacking entries gushing over the impending baby. Rachael senses Janine’s instability and calls Tom for help; Tom realizes, as he stands in his church, that he is only in love with Rachael. Tear gas then comes through the windows, as the True Living make their move. In an effort to save those inside, as he agreed to shelter wayward Returned, Tom rushes outside to help clear the gas but meets Deputy Carl’s truck head-on. Tom’s a goner; the only question left at the end of the eighth episode is whether he will Return.
Subsequently, the use of Rachael’s unborn baby’s stem cells leads to a cure breakthrough, and Ray recovers. Unfortunately, Maggie is out of the vaccine, and Bellamy now needs it, or he risks succumbing to the sickness. When they try to contact the shady government agency, they are unable to reach Angela. Angela implies that the vaccine has run out; however, somehow, Martin concludes that Rachael, like himself, is twice Returned, and that her body is in the government facility (when did she die the second time? Was it in the first season?). They beg Angela for stem cells from that Rachael body, as the Rachael in Arcadia is currently kidnapped by Janine. While Angela explicitly tells them no, she apparently believes in Bellamy’s cause and sneaks a vial of stem cells into Martin’s bag.
Speaking of Rachael, she tells Janine that she wants to return to Arcadia; however, Janine tells Rachael that Tom is dead. By the way, Janine also confiscates Rachael’s phone and locks her doors. When Rachael wants to return to Arcadia to mourn with loved ones, Janine starts rubbing her belly and praying/chanting amid tears again. Rachael, realizing the crazy with which she is cooped up, clocks Janine unawares with a teakettle, though we next find her in a parked car on train tracks, seemingly re-contemplating her initial road to her first death.
Lucille and Margaret have a disagreement about whether to tell Jacob that Tom, who was Jacob’s best friend as a child (that is, when Tom was a child, before Jacob died) had died in the True Living attack. Margaret wants Jacob to know the truth, but Lucille reminds her mother-in-law that Jacob is only a child. In the end, Jacob is not given to grief by Tom’s loss, noting that Tom was a grown-up and not the friend he knew, which hits Lucille hard.
In the meantime, Margaret learns that Henry resurrected (ahem) the deal with Addison and Kirk and enlists Fred’s help to stop his older brother’s risky goals. Though Fred is loathe to help his mother, particularly as she shows and has always shown a sense of preference for Henry, he is able to convince Addison to give Henry his money back. He’s also able to convince Henry of Margaret’s shady past and of the fact that, basically, she destroyed the Langston family with her machinations. Henry finally believes his estranged brother and boots Margaret from his house.
Fred’s new backbone doesn’t end there. When the town holds a memorial for Pastor Tom, and the True Living show up with the aim to “silently protest” the sympathizer of the dead, Fred gets in their faces, having already figured out that Deputy Carl killed Tom and having incarcerated Carl earlier. Henry intercedes on his brother’s behalf but gets thrown to the ground by a surly True Living member. Jacob, watching all of this, confesses to Margaret that he believes the Returned have caused all this strife, and that it is time for him to “let go.” Jacob and Margaret then disappear into the crowd.
Lucille and Henry (along with Martin and Fred), panicked by the disappearance of their son, go in search of Jacob. At the same time, a mysterious stranger emerges from the Arcadia woods, professing that he is looking for a little boy. He has a tattoo of a tree on his back. Henry, Fred, and Martin confront the stranger at Elaine’s bar but decide he is of no help; they instead seek Margaret at a family cabin, which was a good instinct, as she and Jacob are indeed hiding there. While there, Margaret confesses to her grandson that her father was ordered to murder the Returned by the Langston patriarch, and that her marriage to Mr. Langston was arranged against her wishes, as the Langstons were the wealthiest family in town. Her sons and Martin find them, remove Jacob (quite involuntarily) from the scene, and then confront their mother. At this point, she spills that she hated her husband and hates both her children for bearing the name of the family that caused her so much grief. Fred is unmoved by this confession, feeling that his mother never really loved him, and arranges for her to take a bus trip straight toward the government facility. She attempts to seek his sympathy. She also tells Fred how she learned the secret to permanent disappearance of the Returned and acknowledges her role in Barbara’s disappearance. She also indicates that she intended to comply with Jacob’s wish to let go but couldn’t do so because she loves her grandson (apparently in spite of everything, including his name). Fred has a change of heart and offers to hide Margaret from the government – possibly still seeking that approval he so craves – but Margaret refuses, deciding her removal from the town may be the best course of action after all.
Martin’s sister Jenny is allowed by Angela and her superiors to come live with him, and she’s apparently able to wrap her head around the fact that Bellamy was her baby brother Robert. She also knows the mysterious stranger with the tree tattoo as Pastor James (Jim Parrack, True Blood), who was alive when her family originally lived.
We also learn, upon Jacob’s return to Lucille, that Lucille ultimately blames herself for Jacob’s death. Apparently, Lucille was studying for her master’s degree in biology and fell asleep on the couch, reading her textbooks, at around the same time that Jacob followed his adulterous aunt to the river. This resurfaced guilt causes her to lash out at Henry, blaming him for allowing Margaret to ruin their lives. Henry does not react well, so Lucille boots him from their home. He elects to stay with Fred, as the brothers have bonded over the duplicitousness of their mom.
Pastor James, meanwhile, has an unusual effect on Martin. They have a shared vision of a swarm of bugs bursting from the earth (remember the bugs that Returned Bellamy awoke in the middle of in the premiere?). Martin, thereafter, keeps dreaming about the pastor. After prodding by Maggie, Martin confronts the pastor only to learn that the pastor believes he and Marty have a higher purpose, but one he never clearly defines before the season’s end. Jenny informs Martin that Pastor James performed “miracles” back in her initial years of being alive, and he and the Langstons see the pastor performing similar miracles in the town square. It appears that the good pastor was something of a flimflam man, conning money from true believers back in the day. Martin believes he is up to his old tricks, but the Pastor’s power goes beyond simple cons and tricks. He is apparently able to awaken Returned souls, though no one can quite bring themselves to believe this at first. I can, but no one on the show does, I mean.
In the meantime, Fred induces his brother to see the error of his ways and to make amends with Lucille. Martin is simultaneously lying down for a nap and has a dream vision of Henry, who visits Martin in the dream to thank him for his help with Jacob and then disappears. Martin awakens shakily and rushes to find Henry. With Fred, they espy Henry in his car, having died from a heart attack on his way back to his wife. Though they inform Lucille of this news, she is undeterred; after seeing what she saw in the town square, she believes Pastor James can bring him back.
Pastor James agrees to help Return Henry, for free even, as long as Martin agrees to help. Spooked but ultimately hoping the pastor has the power, Martin acquiesces and accompanies the pastor to an empty gravesite dug in the middle of a field. The pastor instructs Martin to shoot him dead into the receiving grave. He explains that he must be able to go where the dead are in order to bring Henry back. Martin refuses to pull the trigger, but Fred, riddled with guilt by the ups and downs affecting his relationship with his brother, does the deed. Though the pastor assured them that he would be back “in an hour,” after some hours of not reappearing, Martin and Fred go in vain search for Henry and Pastor James. They give up and manage to tell Lucille of their lack of success just as the pastor appears on the Langston doorstep, Henry in tow. Martin is finally convinced that Pastor James isn’t just a con artist from way back, and Pastor James reveals that he attempted to save Marty, as baby Robert, from drowning, though he failed and died himself in the process.
Rachael, in the meantime, alive and not in suicidal mode (and calling Janine “Crazy Bitch” no less) finds Maggie. With Elaine’s help, they arrange for Rachael to stay in Elaine’s spare room over the bar; Rachael agrees to wait tables in return for the lodging. Elaine and Rachael visit Pastor Tom’s grave, but as they walk through the cemetery, Rachael sees Pastor James’ grave and has a subtle but strange reaction to it.
Margaret, not forgotten by this show, shows up to the government facility. First, she scares the other Returned, as they all believe she will make them disappear without provocation. Second, she uses her influence to rally them – rights for the Returned! This only becomes important in the twelfth episode.
In the penultimate episode of the series, Rachael’s baby is born, but not without weirdly associated consequences. The episode starts with all of the Returned in Arcadia, walking trance-like and parking outside of Elaine’s bar in the middle of the street, staring up at the window where Rachael lies, bedridden. The crowd outside includes Pastor James, Henry, and Jacob, but Rachael is immune to the trance. She, instead, suffers from severe abdominal pains, while Fred tries to fire a gun to awaken the unshakable mass in the street. This move works, and those Returned standing in the street are panicked by the loss of control and memory of how they got there. Jacob tells Pastor James that Margaret knows how to make the Returned disappear – as it turns out, many of the Returned in the government facility have been convinced by Margaret to take that “letting go” road because Angela and her compatriots have been conducting tests on them like lab rats. James is fascinated by this information and wants to know the secret himself; he wheedles Martin into taking him to the facility, so that he can use his influence to calm the masses. The viewer, however, knows that James had a vision in Pastor Tom’s old church and called out to his “Lord.” Who this Lord is, be it God or some other influence, we never find out.
When James arrives with Martin to the government facility, Angela believes his cock and bull story about only being their to administer communion to the Returned in the facility. He delivers communion wine to the Returned, but the wine is poisoned. The Returned within the facility die only to reawaken in the Arcadia woods.
James doesn’t stop there. He tells his legion in the woods that Rachael’s baby is the Antichrist, as the book of Revelations suggests, and that everyone must seek to destroy Rachael and her baby – which the book of Revelations says nothing about, mind you. Margaret is alarmed by this edict and extricates herself from this force. She finds her grandson alone in his backyard, who confesses that Rachael is hiding in the Langston home. This is distressing to him because being around Rachael is causing Jacob pain, specifically severe headaches. This news alarms Margaret more, so she runs right back over to the Pastor and informs James of Rachael’s whereabouts like the dirty traitor she is. Martin shows up and tries to arrest James, but his legion is prepared to defend their leader. The whole thing feels like a cult but a dangerous one, as we don’t know who this Pastor James has been speaking to in his dreams.
Angela also informs Martin that the Mass Returned in Arcadia in the first season finale was not the only larger influx of Returned. She calculates that significantly larger influxes have occurred throughout the centuries, and that the Earth is due for a colossally global influx any minute.
In what becomes the series finale, the following events happen:
- Margaret sneaks her way back into her son’s home for the purpose of trying to convince Rachael to “let go,” with the sake of Jacob on her mind. Fred finds his duplicitous mom and throws her out, so James rejoins his efforts to convince Margaret of sharing the “letting go” secret.
- James somehow convinces the True Living to overtake the police station to prevent police backup from intervening as he storms the Langston front porch with his army of followers. How he manages to cajole the hate group into suddenly supporting Returned efforts: unclear.
- Martin and Maggie kiss.
- James’ followers breach the Langston threshold, as Martin, Henry, and Fred attempt to defend their not-quite-a-fortress. James is able to make it to Rachael and attempts to convince her that letting go and reuniting with Tom is the best for her and the baby, though he doesn’t explain his feelings about the child being the Antichrist at the outset. Martin finds them and shouts that James is a fraud, which he doesn’t bother denying. He decries the unborn child and attempts to kill Rachael with scissors; Martin shoots him. The hullabaloo causes Rachael to have her baby and the melee to cease suddenly, without clear cause or explanation other than the birth of Rachael’s child.
- Everyone in the household crowds around the television, as the news reports say that millions of Returned have cropped up around the globe.
Awkwardly, and possibly because the show’s producers had forewarning that Resurrection would be canceled, a postscript or epilogue is included. A year later, Martin is the head of the Federal Bureau of the Returned, he and Maggie are a couple, and everyone gathers for a happy dinner without Margaret (who Henry is not speaking to) at the Langston home. The last scene of the show finds Rachael singing her baby, Nathaniel, to sleep when hundreds of what appear to be locusts self-destruct at her window.
The End of Resurrection
As this viewer alluded to earlier, this program seemed to reach its higher gear but did so in awkward, clumsy lurches via the introduction of story threads and questions that were abandoned by the end of the season. While the premise for this show likely necessitated an overarching mythology, in this viewer’s opinion, the writers and producers failed to pace this mythology in a way that would entice viewers to keep watching, rather than confuse. In fact, even as I write this recap, I struggle to understand what Resurrection was all about in the end: was it the emotional turmoil caused by confronting what were thought to be long-deceased loved ones? Was it something with religious significance, given the references to Revelations, the symbolism and heavy incorporation of church, and the locusts? Was there something more nefarious at work?
Also, the show sprinkled some seemingly meaty questions into the story in the last relative moments without offering possible clues as to the answers, much less the answers themselves: where did Janine go? Why was Jacob suffering from headaches near the unborn baby? Was he still suffering from headaches after the baby was born? Where was Margaret in the end? Why did Angela’s plane crash or her possible Returned status not get revisited? So – there are millions of Returned? So what? Is Nathaniel the Antichrist? What is the significance of the tree on Pastor James’ back, which Martin also saw in his dreams? Would Pastor James have Returned again? What is the significance of Bellamy’s birthmark, apart from it being an identifier?
To the writers’ and producers’ credit, risks were taken in the second season; the plot itself was both heady and complicated. Yet, it may be that the complicated, heady risk-taking created something too big for this team to handle, and the show faltered before the end. Despite the intrigue, there was also frustration, and the last episodes, particularly the finale, were sloppy in execution. I remember thinking upon finishing that while I wished I knew what was coming, including the why of all of these events, I was also dissatisfied enough that I would not have been excited by a cliffhanger. There was relief in the thought that the show had ended, which is never a good sign, at least for this viewer.
In the end, the ratings spoke for themselves, and ABC has a track record of sure ratings successes as of late, so the move to cancel was unsurprising. Did you watch Resurrection? What did you think? Would you have kept watching, or did the show lose you along the way? Because this viewer wanted to know the answers to those lingering questions, I probably would have kept watching, even though the writing and pacing issues barely improved over two seasons. As such, to do so would have likely been something of a chore, sadly enough. If network executives were watching, maybe they felt the same way. In any event, Resurrection has ended, never to Return.
Yup. I went there.
In the meantime, though CPU! will stop covering this canceled show, we are still blogging and podcasting about other shows. You may have noticed that, two weeks ago, we released the first part of a two part series in which we say goodbye to Downton Abbey. The second part will be published in May; in that discussion, we will be looking back at the beloved British series as a whole in one of our Looking Back episodes. Our next new podcast episode will be released one week from today! Several panelists are (still) undergoing huge life changes: new jobs, having babies, taking trips, but we have a host of new offerings on our plate, including revisits for How to Get Away with Murder and the X-Files miniseries and new panels in the works for Broadchurch, Marvel’s Jessica Jones, and the DC Television Universe. You won’t want to miss them!
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Questions, Impressions, and Lingering Thoughts
Old Questions with Lingering Questions Included
1) Is Martin a returned deceased person like the hundreds in the finale?! If he is, what era is he really from? Who found him? When was he found? How did he grow up? Will the other resurrected ones age? Why didn’t he recognize his mother/father? There are 100 questions around him alone – that birthmark reveal was the money pot for this season.
ANSWER: It was confirmed that Martin is, indeed, one of the Returned and may be one of the first in Arcadia but certainly not in history; he’s also the only one who seems to have both returned and aged to adulthood. Like his parents, who were, in fact, the African American couple with the little girl that he discovered walking out of the forest, the Thompsons – and Jenny – he is from the segregation-era South. In fact, we learn that Martin was really their young baby son Robert, who drowned when six months old, which may explain why he didn’t recognize his parents when they first emerged from the woods. While we never learn who found Martin at first, when he was found, or how he grew up, we do learn that Martin has three times returned, and others have too, such as Rachael and Pastor James, though we never learn exactly how or why; this is one of the lingering questions from the series, never to be answered, given the series cancellation. The implication is that Martin is somehow special; Pastor James informs him of his higher purpose but never reveals what that purpose is, and Martin shoots James in the series finale. Why Martin is special we don’t know. Whether James would have Returned again if the show had been renewed, we also don’t know.
2) Why was Jacob first, and why and how can he sense the others? Was he really first? If Martin is another resurrected one, were there others even before him, or at least before Jacob?
ANSWER: Jacob was the first Returned the audience meets, but he was not the first to Return overall; in fact, government agent Angela suggests that the Returned phenomenon has been occurring for centuries. While Jacob’s sensitivity to other Returned is never fully explained, the audience is able to infer that many of the Returned, especially those we’ve met who are connected to the live residents of Arcadia that we initially meet and follow through the series, have special abilities and sensitivities. Jacob’s ability to sense others may be his gift. Rachael can enter dreams. Martin has visions. Pastor James can call forth the dead to Return.
We are also told in season two, by Angela, that there have been incidents of other Returned in decades past. In fact, she is hired to mathematically predict when Returned might be expected to appear, but what she informs Martin is that the events in Arcadia herald the most significant influx of Returned in history, though neither she nor anyone else knows why. In fact, as season two ended, several Returned cropped up all over the globe; we’ll never know why they appear or how they got there.
3) Will we get to meet some of the other Returned from the other time periods?
ANSWER: Other Returned cropped up in Arcadia, but none of them appeared to be from centuries other than the twentieth.
4) What’s the military going to do?
ANSWER: The military was brought in by Sheriff Fred to keep control of Arcadia, as tensions swelled and fear mixed with violence as living Arcadian residents watched the influx of Returned souls with trepidation and horror. Sheriff Langston was particularly criticized for getting them involved. When the season opens, the military have disappeared, apparently having forged an agreement with Fred and the town leaders to allow those Returned with loved ones in Arcadia to stay in the town while the other Returned were shipped off to the secret government facility.
5) How is the Sheriff going to fix what he did? And who is more sympathetic at this point: him or his estranged wife? She mentioned that he was “cruel,” and his brother made that reference to what their dad used to say about him. The Sheriff clearly has a dark side, but just how dark are we talking here? What has he done in the past, and why is he moved to act so harshly against all rather than merely his wife?
ANSWER: Fred worked to seek redemption with each member of his family this season, and by season’s end had achieved forgiveness from everyone, including his domineering mother Margaret. Arguably, both he and Barbara were sympathetic in the drama around her affair and death; in any event, they reunited shortly before Margaret convinced Barbara to “let go.” As it turns out, Fred is prone to anger, which he apparently inherited from his father. I’m not sure the show answered why Barbara was motivated to cheat on Fred, except to imply that he was both controlling and possessive, which mirrored the behaviors of his father. The whole backstory here is mired in vague assertions and little facts.
6) What happened to the Richards clan? What happened to Caleb? Did I miss that?
ANSWER: Caleb apparently disappeared for good. Did he let go? Did he get sick? The show never answered that question, and Caleb did not return or Return in season two. Elaine helped out her friend Maggie, and Ray joined the True Living supremacy group, until he was affected by the sickness that infected the Returned. He was cured, though.
7) Most importantly, why is this happening, and what does it all mean?!
ANSWER: Still a question. We’ll never know. You may direct your blame and angst toward the show runners and toward the network, as noted above.
The writers and producers of Resurrection crafted an intriguing albeit slowly unfolding mystery with larger philosophical and certainly emotional undercurrents at play; however, they lost their way, particularly in season two’s final three episodes (though, the pace, at least, was amped up in those episodes). It’s hard to say whether this viewer could, in all conscience, recommend Resurrection to a casual viewer on the strength of its only two seasons. I might, but I would caution that the story is sometimes painfully slow and ends with a lot of unanswered questions. If you don’t mind these types of qualities in your television viewing, by all means…watch at your own risk.
THE FUTURE OF THE SHOW
Canceled! ABC canceled Resurrection in spring 2015; thus, CPU!’s coverage of the series ends with this blog entry recap/review. The full series is available to stream on Hulu Plus. Again, with the bevy of unanswered questions created by both of the show’s seasons, this viewer cautions watching them at your own risk.