So Paul took his stand in the open space at the Areopagus and laid it out for them: "I'm here to introduce you to this God.... He doesn't play hide-and-seek with us. He's not remote; he's near. We live and move in him, can't get away from him!" ~Acts 17
The opening of ABC’s Resurrection
is stunning. A dark haired little boy lies on his back in a lush, vibrant green
and water soaked field in rural China—then gasps, sits upright, and looks up at
the sky. He walks into a small village and mumbles, “Is she dead?” just before
collapsing in the midst a crowd of bewildered Chinese villagers.
That is our introduction to eight-year-old Jacob Langston—who
drowned in Arcadia, Missouri, 32 years before while trying to save his aunt.
And he’s not the only one who died in Arcadia who seems to have come back to
was moving yet unsettling and somewhat disturbing—a unique combination that,
among other things, has piqued my interest.
First, I find the Resurrection’s
premise intriguing. Based on The Returned,
a novel by Jason Mott, Resurrection raises
some engaging questions right off the bat: Are these really the dead raised to life? Will they stay alive? Are
they people—or something else? What’s going on? Is it the end of the world? Or
is everyone dead and living in some
sort of Lost in-between-space?
But then there’s that
moment in Matthew’s account when the bodies of many holy people were raised
to life, came out of their tombs and appeared to many people in Jerusalem after
Jesus’ own resurrection. Every time I come across that passage, I ponder
similar questions: What would it be like for their families and those who
witnessed the returns? How would the resurrected live out the rest of their
lives? Were they changed? What were the ripple effects? The relational
This series has the potential to explore questions like these—but
we’ll most likely have to wait for some of the answers. While the series is
based on The Returned, series
creators have said it will depart from the novel. And supposedly, ABC’s series isn’t
related to the acclaimed French series Les
Revenants (which just went on my Netflix queue), so it’s no use going there
for clues either.
In addition to the premise, I’m also intrigued by some of
the images in the premiere. For example, water features prominently, symbolizing
both life and death. Jacob is lying half submerged in water when we first see
him in his resurrected form. Both he and his aunt drowned in a swiftly moving
river. We see Jacob through a water cooler jug that the pastor drinks from just
before encountering him, and it’s raining when another previously dead person is
reunited with his loved ones in Arcadia.
I’m also intrigued by several cinematic shots looking down on
the characters from above. Interestingly, two prominent shots like this frame
the premiere—a shot of Jacob from above in the soaked field in China and a shot
of the other resurrected man embracing his daughter in the rain. Angles like
that suggest there is a something greater at work here.
And I also like how the characters in the story are bumping
up against something that challenges the way they look at and understand the
world—and, while we aren’t encountering people returning from the dead, this is
something with which we resonate. Our world is rapidly changing. Technology is
advancing at a rapid pace and we are discovering new things every day in the physical
and biological sciences. Stories on both the big and small screens—ranging from
films like Terrence Malick’s Tree
of Life to television series like J.J. Abrams’ Lost—ask
us to ponder if there is something greater than us, and who or what that is. All
of this challenges us to constantly examine the way we understand world, ourselves,
each other, and God. A series like this has the potential to shed some light on
how we approach and wrestle with these things.
The premiere did have its weak points. It was uneven, moving
between stunning and clunky. The portrait sketched of Henry Langston (Jacob’s
father played by Kurtwood Smith) felt a bit flat. And the scenes related to
faith and church were, as many critics have pointed out, too heavy handed.
last? That’s a good question—both within the story itself and in terms of the
series’ longevity. For now, there’s enough to keep me tuning in to find out.