If you know me (and you probably don’t), you know I love pre-, peri-, post-apocalyptic stories. I watched all of Outbreak last night, even though the bottom third was cut off on the TV Guide channel and I had work early in the morning; I’ve read the Left Behind series twice; heck, I even enjoyed the five minutes I watched of Zoo (but, really, don’t watch Zoo, it is terrible). So, I was stoked to check out The Messengers (2015).
It starts off really strong, within the first minute and a half, we’re introduced to one of our main characters. It is actually a decently subtle scene, we glide down from a well CGI’ed shot of the cosmos, through the night sky, past the entrance for the fictional Houston Memorial Hospital, and land on Rose and her friend as they walk out in scrubs. Right off the bat, we know the hospital is going to be important and that Rose is a standup human who heals the sick. Rose is immediately framed as even more sympathetic, as her friend asks after her recent engagement. During this exchange, Rose nearly faints, mentions “a bad feeling”, and *BLAM!* a stranger in a hoodie comes out of nowhere, spouts some nonsense about a personified Death, and shoots her. This is the first 75 seconds of the show.
Then we are treated to one of my least favorite techniques, cyber lettering (complete with computer noises) that resolves into “7 Years Later.” We are also treated to the short-sighted, aggressive female astrophysicist who will persist in skepticism despite directly experiencing odd phenomena. As she and her partner receive a comet proximity alert (and I am silently screaming, “That is not how science works!”), we hard cut-
to people shouting Spanish in Juarez, complete with crooked DEA agents. It is exactly as racist and awful as it sounds. Somehow, I am still clinging to hope. Then –
It is a young attractive mom (Yam from now on) and her adorably precocious daughter! A threat is introduced in the form of a silent phone call from “Arny.” Yam reacts with custody denials and we-
Now on the set of the Church of the Eternal Redeemer, we are introduced to an incredibly attractive, young televangelist and his bouffanted, incredibly pregnant wife. Her southern belle accent comes and goes in sudden peaks of twang. She reassures him that he is “just as good as his father.” (We’ll return to that line later.) She gently prods him onto the stage and then exchanges significant looks with the father. Preacher, (I’m not going to bother with most character’s names) gets up with a message of love and acceptance. I’m really excited at this point. There is subtle background drama building and a televangelist with a positive message. Way to go, show! I was worried that you were going to lean on tired troupe after tired troupe, but you broke away from that. A little late, as we are.. oh, 6 minutes in? Wow. We have introduced a crazy number of characters. Are you sure you want to do that? It is going to be hard to keep track of so many moving pieces, and you have to make them fully fleshed out people who will stand on their own and-
Hard cut! Ominous shot of the comet.
We watch school letting out (in that orderly fashion which only exists on TV and in the movies) and our next main character is the only one to notice the gigantic comet streaking across the sky. Not only is he the only one to look up at it, but the cute girl who approaches him doesn’t follow his gaze. Okay, at this point, I’m going to give up on realism in this show. They chat, he gets bullied, a party later is established.
Lady scientist and her colleague are tracking the comet. She leaves their parked satellite van to pursue it on foot and watches the impact. The shock wave causes her to wobble her head up and down as a wave of special effects hits her. She then awkwardly collapses and, you guessed it-
Back to racism! Our Latinx friend is the only one to see the CG shockwave and he wobbles and goes down as it hits him.
Yam is driving and briefly discussing with her daughter the absent, abusive husband we are all guessing called earlier. Yam see the shockwave, head bobbles, and we are treated to squealing tires before our next-
Bullied teen leaps into a pool. Seconds later, the shock wave hits, and he is out for the count.
Preacher senses a disturbance in the force, pauses in his good work, and starts head bobbling before the CG wave is close enough to obscure how very, very ridiculous it looks. (kind of like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hdIwGcOL9o ) He goes down.
Hard cut to the now dead scientist, who we learn is named Vera.
Hard cut to the impact crater and (another new character) the naked man in the center.
Hard cut to Preacher’s wife trying to revive him.
Hard cut to Juarez and the now dead informant.
Hard cut back to Vera who revives shouting, “Michael!”
Hard cut to Yam being extracted, dead, from her thrashed SUV and reviving in time to hear her daughter is in critical condition.
Hard cut to swimmer teen receiving CPR from a way too muscled lifeguard. Swimmer coughs out a mouthful of water and sits up, resurrected.
Hard cut to Juarez and our sexy informant standing up like a creature-feature villain. He starts hearing the nefarious thoughts of the DEA agents, sustains a bullet to the arm and runs off.
Hard cut to Preacher resurrecting and demanding air time as soon as possible. The father responds with glee in his eyes that they have to share their miracle with the world.
Hard cut to Yam asking for her daughter in the hospital and being threatened by her asshole cop ex.
Hard cut to Naked Guy from the comet approaching a convenient tow guy in the desert. This is one of the best interactions of the show. Tow truck dude looks up, shakes his head and says, “Definitely calling the cops, bro.” It is beautiful.
Hard cut back to our meteor tracking scientists. They drive past No Longer Naked Guy, who is now wearing the tow truck driver’s coveralls. His name was Johnny. I’ll miss him. I am so into this show now, it hurts.
Sexy informant has removed his shirt in order to cross a river. I am pleased by the visual, less pleased by the racism.
Vera and co. discover that the ‘meteor’ landed directly on the Trinity atomic test site. They smell sulfur and I die a little inside.
Preacher talks of his resurrection and we start intercutting between scenes in even more rapid succession.
Yam visiting her comatose daughter. She begins to cry.
Swimmer boy approaches the aforementioned party and is violently beaten by the earlier bully. ( I do mean ‘violently’, it is one of the more brutal scenes I’ve watched.)
Yam’s tears fall onto her daughter’s face.
Meanwhile, the preacher’s voice pervades each scene, now speaking about end times and a wrathful god. He wraps up perfectly just as his sermon is prematurely taken off the air by announcing that he is a messenger of god. (Get it? Messenger? It is the title of the show, folks, we just heard the title of the show.) This is our turning point.
Swimmer stands and beats his bully. Yam’s daughter’s wounds heal and she wakes up. Swimmer throws the bully. As she kidnaps her daughter, we see Yam has glowing wings only visible in the hospital security mirror. Swimmer sees his ephemeral wings in the reflection of a car window.
Swimmer wanders the kegger with a beaten in face, admits to murder, kisses the girl, and runs off into the night. It is appropriately melodramatic, both for a teenager and for everything I see this show becoming.
The preacher’s father accuses him of sacrilege and threatens that his ‘new message’ will topple their tele-empire. It is a wonderful exchange. The father tells him to get back in line or, “you won’t be welcome in my church.” Preacher takes his hand, makes eye contact, and states, “It is not your church, it’s God church.” I squee at the scene, despite how obvious the course of the conversation was. In the camera’s viewfinder, we see Preacher’s wings.
And then we come to my least favorite scene and the whole thing slows way down. No Longer Naked Guy is in Vera’s home. He starts talking about exchanging her kidnapped son, Michael (gasp!), for the teensy tiny favor of murder. She is waving a gun around and generally acting stupid. Vera is shockingly easy to persuade, though the scene feels interminable.
However, we hard cut to my absolute favorite scene, maybe ever. Preacher’s wife is crying in the father’s office; Preacher walks into the family meeting; and the little lady tries to explain, “You were on retreat and I was weak and he tried to comfort me.” As the father puts a creepily possessive arm around the incredibly pregnant wife, he drops the best line I have ever heard, ever, “Whether the baby is your son or your brother, he is still family.” HOLY MOLY!!! THIS SHOW IS BONKERS! I can just imagine being in the writers’ room when this was developed. I bet there were high fives all around that table. There is nowhere to go from here but further and further into crazy town. I cannot wait to see the rest of this ride.
Latinx carjacks/kidnaps Yam and daughter headed to Houston. Swimmer bums a ride with a trucker, also to Houston. Vera is pushed to murder a woman in Houston. Preacher has a vision of Rose in a coma in Houston. Maybe there is something happening in Houston? No Longer Naked Guy is sitting in Rose’s hospital room and is revealed through a rebroadcast voiceover of Preacher’s earlier sermon to be the Devil. He direct to camera flashes red glowing Terminator eyes.
Hard cut to black! Hot damn, what an amazing pilot! There were some stumbles, as should be expected in any pilot, and some characters (Vera) who I will hate, but we’ve got our whole cast coming together to fight the Devil and prevent the apocalypse. Now that the establishing work is out of the way, it is going to be an action-packed adventure, full of ethical quandaries and soul saving and I am so stoked!
And then I watched the second episode.