Arcadia seems like a nice place, what with its quaint downtown, friendly neighborhoods and deep roots. The little Missouri town is quintessential Middle America, really, a place where you sometimes forget to lock your doors and where time seems to slow down to accomodate the pace. It's the sort of place where you'd want to live forever.
Good thing. You might not have a choice.
You see, while the Arcadia in ABC's Resurrection may look like your normal Midwestern hamlet, there's something a little … off. Like, for instance, how long-dead residents are suddenly turning up alive and trying to pick up where they left off when death so callously intervened.
Jacob is the first.
The 8-year-old boy drowned 32 years ago. His parents placed him in their family crypt and went through three decades of grieving and mourning, fighting for a sense of normalcy. Then, without so much as a phone call, the kid shows up at the front door—still 8 years old, still wearing the same shirt he drowned in.
Soon long-lost friends and relatives begin popping up everywhere. They don't shamble like zombies or moan like ghosts. They seem to be exactly who they used to be, the same ages and with the same predilections and personality they had before they—well, you know. And while this inexplicable happening is both wonderful and a little creepy, immigration agent J. Martin Bellamy is determined to find out just what, exactly, is happening.
Resurrection feels like The X-Files meets Lost meets Mayberry R.F.D., an unsettling, sometimes touching drama predicated on a head-scratching premise. It's the sort of show that seems likely to spark scads of questions in both the characters and their audience: Have they really come back to life, or did someone keep them in a deep freeze somewhere? Why are these people coming back and not those people? Is it all part of a government conspiracy? Is it a miracle from God? And just how would I handle it if my Grandma Beezelkins showed up at my door after all these years? Should I keep her favorite snack foods in the pantry, just in case?
It's all quite provocative and, I think, promising. I like it when a television show dares to ask some of life's bigger questions, and what happens after death is one of the biggest. I don't think ABC intends for Resurrection to be solely a philosophical think piece (they do still have to sell advertising, after all), but neither do the show's producers seem to be dodging the big themes lurking in the corners, either. This is a story built on mystery, one that appears to be a flat-out miracle. As such, it mulls how such a thing might impact how we think about those who've returned from the dead, about ourselves and about God—treating all of them with import and honesty.
"I've been preaching the miracles of God for 10 years," says Pastor Tom Hale, Jacob's now-grown childhood friend. "Now one happens right in front of me, and I won't believe?"
All these emotional and spiritual musings are wrapped in a show with relatively few content concerns. We don't have Sawyer and Kate wrestling tongues as we did in Lost. And while violence and death are a part of the show's premise, we don't have returnees needing to be dispatched by messy headshots as in The Walking Dead. It's hard to say where, exactly, a freaky sci-fi program like this might go, of course. But for now, except for some language concerns, cautions for families are surprisingly light.
That doesn't automatically make Resurrection a family show, of course. We can't say whether the series will follow a nice, comfortable, evangelical Christian template when it spools out its eventual answers. It may very well challenge religious faith as much as—or perhaps even more than—it confirms it. But it can still qualify for some serious conversation.
A boy wakes up in a rice field in China. The U.S. government doesn't know who he is, but the boy, Jacob, tells immigration agent J. Martin Bellamy that he lives in Arcadia, Mo. Bellamy takes him to the address he calls home, where he hugs his father—who tells Bellamy that their little boy, Jacob, died 32 years before.
Jacob's death was shrouded in mystery. Records indicate that his Aunt Barbara dove into the river to save him (and also died). But Jacob recalls that he tried to save Barbara—and there was another mysterious man at the scene, too. We see autopsy photos of Barbara that show her head, bare shoulders and arms, all of which are badly bruised and cut. In a flashback, Barbara's shown clinging to a branch (which someone forces her to let go of), and Jacob falls in and hits his head on a rock underwater.
One character utters "g‑‑d‑‑n," and others say "d‑‑n" and "heck." God's name is misused twice. We hear a joke about a frog in a blender. There's talk of an extramarital affair. People drink wine and beer. One guzzles whiskey in front of a statue—perhaps of Mary and Jesus—and gently touches the sculpture before smashing the whiskey bottle on its face. A pastor struggles with how to respond to the apparent miracles in Arcadia. He eventually tells his flock about the Apostle John striving to understand Jesus' own nature. "He was human," the pastor says of John. "And like us, he was given the tools to ask the questions, not know the answers. Isn't that what it means to have faith?"