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WonderCon 2015: ‘The Messengers’ Pilot Review

the messengers

WARNING: SPOILERS FOR PILOT EPISODE OF THE MESSENGERS

Whatever you wanna say about The Messengers, you can’t blame The CW for not being bold enough. This is a show about preventing the Apocalypse, with five seemingly random characters getting hit by a shock-wave from a meteor. These characters all “die,” only to wake up with a start moments later, with new abilities and wings whenever they find themselves in front of a mirror. They are the titular messengers, ostensibly tasked with the responsibility to save the world. It’s certainly an ambitious concept with higher stakes than, say, 2 Broke Girls.

Before any of this happens, however, we meet Rose (Anna Diop), showing off her new ring to her friend outside of the hospital where she works. Then she has a premonition, a “bad feeling,” and goes into some sort of fugue state, before getting shot several times by a random gunman.

The CW isn’t known for subtlety, but it spends much of the first hour obliquely skirting its own concept, before hammering it home. Vera (One Tree Hill‘s Shantel VanSanten), who works for NDSA (a NASA stand-in) with Alan (Craig Frank), finds herself luckily within range of the meteor blast, getting there before even the military can. They shepherd her away, clearly intent on covering it up (the meteor is explained away as a solar flare), but not before Alan has stolen a sample from the blast site.

The kid from Super 8 (Joel Courtney) is Peter, an orphaned H.S. kid who has the kind of awful, evil bullies that only exist on TV, yet he also has a blonde babe totally into him. He has a suicide attempt in his past, which is sad, but that doesn’t excuse this line: “I’m confused about everything, but I know how I feel about you.”

Erin (Project Almanac‘s Sofia Black-D’Elia) is a single mother, driving her adorable daughter Amy to school, when the shock-wave hits her, causing a car accident. Amy nearly dies, and is in a coma. The tragedy brings her ex Ronnie (Prison Break‘s Lane Garrison) back into the picture, who’s the worst. He’s a cop and threatens to claim that she was drinking during the accident.

Raul (Revolution‘s J.D. Pardo) is an oft-shirtless criminal about to get killed in Mexico, first by some gangsters, and then by the guys who save him from said gangsters. He escapes through to the American border, nursing a bullet wound and the subject of a manhunt. Luckily, he bumps into Erin and commandeers their car (don’t ask how Erin and Amy got another car after trashing the first one).

Josh (Jon Fletcher) is a televangelist making his debut, the son of a famous preacherman trying to come out under his father’s shadow. His wife is super pregnant, and after he collapses in the middle of a live performance, he reawakens with new purpose, a fire and brimstone message that goes against his father’s teachings, but (he claims) comes from God. While Raul gains telepathy and Erin can heal people, what happens in this subplot is the craziest, grossest and most uncomfortable/HBO of the entire pilot.

In addition to these five characters, there’s also a visitor (The Bible‘s Diogo Morgado), who arrives, naked and in Terminator pose, along with the meteor. He’s not given a name, and is listed as “The Man,” on IMDb, but by the end, we find out he’s the ultimate villain, Biblically speaking. He pays a visit to Vera, who we find out has a long-lost son named Michael (because all these characters need to have an insane amount of baggage), and offers a trade: kill someone and you’ll get your son back.

For a show about faith and religious end-game scenarios, it’s hilarious that all of these characters and plots are converging in hell Houston, TX, an unfortunate city to play a huge part in the Apocalypse, but one where Rose (Anna Diop) is located, clinging to life, in a hospital bed. There’s nothing special about The Messengers‘ first hour, but it’s undeniably intriguing for a genre fan. I think it suffers from over-stuffing and over-complication, trying to make these characters unique and haunted all at once, with LOST-like back-stories. Unfortunately, none of the actors jump out at me as compelling leads in the first hour aside from The Man, but the show has promise and improved as the pilot wore on, providing optimism for future episodes.

The CW’s The Messengers premieres April 17.