Despite a similar premise, Resurrection hasn't a chance of matching The Returned.
But Resurrection is anything but…
It may be based on a book called The Returned (the source work and author, Jason Mott, have nothing to do with the French series) and it may even be about apparently-dead people returning home, but that’s about where the correlation ends.
The series begins atmospherically enough when an 8 year old boy Jacob (Landon Gimenez) awakens in a field in China. With seemingly no idea how he got there, he wanders through rural China. There’s a dirty big yak, and local Chinese folk wearing peasant costumes and conical rice paddy hats. With such stereotypes Jacob may well have travelled back in time too…
Immigration agent Martin Bellamy (Omar Epps) is assigned the task of bringing the boy home to America. It doesn’t help that Jacob doesn’t say much, but although he responds to questions and conversations, the most he can manage is to write down the word “Arcadia,” his hometown in Missouri. So that’s where Bellamy decides to take him.
A scene that has been heavily-promoted in marketing sees Bellamy knock on the door of retired couple Harold (Kurtwood Smith) and Lucille (Frances Fisher). When Bellamy learns Harold’s son died 32 years earlier, both are stunned when Jacob insists he is the boy, now returned home.
Unable to explain his circumstance, we spend the rest of the episode trying to piece together Jacob’s true identity and backstory. This involves a number of other characters entering the foreground: Harold’s Sheriff brother Fred (Matt Craven), nurse and niece Gail (Devin Kelly), local priest Tom (Mark Hildreth) and assorted townsfolk.
There’s also an ominous, hooded stranger wandering Arcadia and observing Jacob from afar. What, exactly, is his secret and is he part of the solution or the problem?
The investigation leads Bellamy to an incident 32 years ago involving Harold’s son and members of the family, which I won’t spoil here. Despite the fact Jacob is able to speak it seems our trusty Immigration agent would rather trawl through newspapers and town archives than interview him at length. This detours Resurrection towards standard procedural stuff.
Despite some handsome production values and occasionally interesting camerawork, much of the intrigue of Resurrection‘s pilot is packed into the opening sequence. Once it hits Arcadia, also known to audiences as smalltown-USA, the plotting becomes sluggish and the emotive music is layed on thick. Wait until you see the pure-white Church they are lumbered with.
The dialogue spends a lot of time signposting the plot and lacks depth.
-“How the hell did you end up in China?”
-“I told you Feds on the phone you had the wrong kid. You just show up here and start harassing my brother’s family?”
-“Sometimes things happen in the world that are meant to test our faith.”
-“It’s Ray he’s talking crazy and he’s got a gun!”
The performances are earnest and lack subtext. Omar Epps tries his best with some unsubtle material.
The themes of the series, belief, faith and (potentially) reincarnation are given the broad-brushstroke Hollywood treatment here.
I am reminded of other high-concept dramas in recent years: FlashForward and The Event -they promise a lot but fail to deliver as episodic television (despite some frustrating seasons, I don’t dare put the ground-breaking Lost in the same category).
Based on the first episodes of Resurrection, I’m calling this one early. Maybe the English language remake of The Returned (coming from FremantleMedia) will improve. Better yet just go and catch-up on the enigmatic French series.
Resurrection airs 8:30pm Tuesdays on Seven.