Last night a series that I have been excited about for the better part of six months premiered on ABC.
Resurrection, starring Omar Epps (House, M.D.), Kurtwood Smith (That 70’s Show), and Frances Fisher (Titanic), is thrust along by one single premise: What if someone you lost returned?
Being a seminary grad and one that is deeply rooted in theological and philosophical analysis, topics that bring into question the things that we believe and perceive to be true have always intrigued me. Since that is the case, my excitement for Resurrection came quite naturally. That intrigue, though, was not the sole reason for my excitement about the show’s premiere. I was excited because of the show’s source material.
Contrary to the belief of many viewers, Resurrection is not an adaptation of Les Revenants (The Returned), a French television show acquired by the Sundance Channel and currently in production of it’s second season. Instead, the show is based on Jason Mott’s novel The Returned; one of my favorite books of 2013. And in my opinion, a fairly adept adaptation of the novel thus far.
Both begin in the same way. Eight-year old Jacob Langston (Landon Gimenez) appears, out of thin air, in a rice paddy field just outside of a rural Chinese village. He has no clue where he is, and stumbles into the village where the residents take care of him. Eventually the United States Immigration and Citizenship Enforcement and agent J. Martin Bellamy (Epps) takes on the responsibility of solving the mystery of Jacob’s appearance and where he is from.
This is where things begin to unravel. Jacob informs Bellamy that he is a from Arcadia, a small town in Missouri (a real town by the way). Guided by Jacob, the two arrive at the boy’s home where he is reunited with his parents (Notwood and Fisher). Reunited after being dead for 32 years.
The remainder of the episode focuses on the efforts to determine whether Jacob is actually the Langstons’ son. Naturally his mother does not think twice about it and automatically jumps into gear to take care of her son. His father, on the other hand, has a rather hard time accepting that his eight-year old son has returned 32 years later no different than the day he died.
I won’t say much more as to not ruin the episode for you, but for the most part the show stays rather true to the source material. Even the mood of the show stays true to the writing in the book.
Mott’s prose, in the novel, is strikingly beautiful and strengthens the philosophical undertones of the story. The phrases turned by Mott reel you in like the perfected hook of a Top 40 song and then keep you close like the majesty of a timeless classic.
Not only does the show’s writing attempt to maintain the feeling of Mott’s writing, but so does the director. Of course a camera can never capture the same feeling that great prose creates, the intentional shots and progression of each scene certainly make an effort. Most noticeable is the show’s interpretation of the Langstons and Agent Bellamy, as the adaptation stays true to these characters in the book, except for a few minor changes.
Lucille Langston, as Mott wrote her, quickly returns to being a doting mother simply overjoyed to have her son to take care of again. She does not even question how or why her son has returned. All she cares about is that he is there. Frances Fisher portrays her perfectly as you can feel the love for her son and the joy to see Jacob again sparkle in her eyes.
As for Henry Langston and Agent Bellamy, I must say that the casting of Kurtwood Smith and Omar Epps, respectively, was an excellent job. Henry is a father clearly still hurting even 32 years after his son’s death, but came to accept that Jacob was gone. Accepting that fact seemed to harden Henry over the years; a hard exterior that only begins to fall away piece by piece the more time he spends with his son. Kurtwood Smith while hitting Henry’s hardened heart on the head, also seems to add a softness from the get go. He portrays a man in which the hard exterior seems to be a guise to hide how much he longs for his son. The return of his son simply shakes and confuses him. Should he be scared or rejoice that his dead son has returned?
When we are first introduced to Agent Bellamy in the book, he seems to be slightly aloof and more focused on doing his job; just figure out what is going on and get out of there. He does have a soft spot for children and begins to grow close to the Langstons and becomes a sort of confidant to Henry.
The writers of the show seem to have harkened mostly on the latter aspect of Bellamy’s character. From the onset one can tell that Agent Bellamy is one that cares deeply, and certainly has a soft spot for children. Epps plays perfectly into this. He is not skeptical like others, and readily accepts the possibility that Jacob’s return is some kind of miracle. In fact, throughout the first episode Bellamy becomes the one to remind Henry that perhaps just believing is the best way to approach the situation.
As with all adaptations, the creators and writers did take a bit of creative licensing with the show. Certain characters and relationships were changed. Characters were created just for the show. And some were introduced a little early or added to the town when they weren’t citizens of Arcadia. Fortunately this does not detract from the show’s story arch whatsoever. Loved ones are returning. It really doesn’t matter if a character in the book is slightly different in the show.
Now, I did have one problem with the book that seems to be fixed in the show. In the novel, Mott introduces a lot of characters, many of whom are returning loved ones of other Arcadia citizens or of other people throughout the world. They elude to this in the first episode, so I’m not giving anything away.
Anyways, the first 1/3 of the book can become overwhelming due to this fact. However, this is where adapting the book into a television series adds to the story. The writers can ease into everything that is going on. They can take their time building characters and the eventual chaos that comes out of loved ones returning all throughout the world.
What I am really excited about is how they will develop the answer to how and why people are returning. There is never an explanation in the book. They just appear out of nowhere. No rhyme or reason as to why. I went back and forth between different theories as to why they appeared, but nothing even remotely close to a hint was provided. Hopefully the show can do what Mott couldn’t.
In the end, Resurrection is by no means a perfect show, but I think it will do well. The ratings are already showing that it can. My only concern is the history of bad luck niche shows have had on ABC (see Pushing Daisies and Zero Hour).
Perhaps Resurrection will have better luck. After all, the hope to see a loved one again hits home for many, many people.
It certainly hits home for me.