‘Emergence’ Hits the Air with Lots of Questions, Few Answers


EMERGENCE: 1.01 “The Pilot”

Emergence premiered last night, starting with Revolution-style electricity outages and glowing lights in the sky. In the vein of LostThe Event, and Manifest, it’s another show that begins with some sort of airplane tragedy or shocking event, coupled with a sea of mysteries. While, no, I suppose this isn’t a major airline crash on an island with a smoke monster, a flight that disappears into a flash of light, or a plane that goes missing and reappears five years later, this particular voyage brought with it its own perplexing forces—and a young girl who appears unharmed and has no memory of who she is or how she got there.

On the scene is Jo Evans, police chief, played by Allison Tolman. While I know little about Tolman beyond what I’ve seen of her in I’m Sorry (and if you haven’t watched I’m Sorry, watch it. It’s hilarious), I thought she did a pretty good job of balancing authoritative with shocked and confused throughout the episode. Her dynamic with Alexa Swinton, who plays Piper, was also interesting to watch. And hey, I can never argue with giving Donald Faison (who I’ve never seen in a dramatic role) and Clancy Brown more work. So overall, the cast is compelling enough to make me want to keep watching.

Which is good, because a lot happened in this episode—perhaps a little too much. We start with finding the accident and Piper, then move on to Piper in the hospital and a close call with Mystery Bad Guys (MBGs) there, then there’s the discovery that the original investigators were imposters… We return to the beach to find the plane gone and the crime scene cleaned up and meet an investigative reporter… Then there’s discoveries at the police station which leads Jo to hide the family at a cabin or lake house, only to be found and have to run from MBGs, who knock poor Faison over the head to steal Piper… Who later get in a supernatural car accident and are killed, while Piper remains unscathed. And then we’re back to the police station where we discuss a coverup and then at a coffee shop where our police chief wants to partner with a reporter (of all the crazy, unbelievable things that happen in this episode, this is probably the most so—that or the other cop who’s like, uh, sure, I’ll keep this knowledge to myself, Chief). All the while, we have scenes to get to know Jo’s family, choose Piper’s name, get her acclimated to her home, show how attached she is to Jo, and, oh yeah, give her the opportunity to see crazy messages in the TV, use electromagnetic telekinesis when she’s scared, and finally carve a crazy tech marble out of her neck.

Oh, and Jo’s dad has cancer and was a former fire fighter. Did I miss anything?

Now, I understand series pilots have to stuff in a lot of stuff: exposition, so you understand background, along with enough plot to be compelling. And for shows in the thriller genre, which you could argue this falls, you need enough mystery and action to leave your audience enticed and excited throughout the episode.

But all of these twists and turns just left me scratching my head. For instance, while I love having Faison on my screen, I’m not quite sure why he needed to take the family to the safe house. And how many scrapes has he been in with Jo, given how calm he was the moment that she whipped out her gun and was signaling when it was clear? And while I’m curious to know what Piper knows, I’m not sure we had to know in this episode that Jo’s father has cancer and that his meds aren’t working (I’m predicting his death already. I was actually surprised it didn’t happen the minute he said he’d stay in the basement when they were running from the MBGs).

But probably most of all, I’m left wondering about Piper. Is she good? Is she bad? Does she actually remember things? How else would she know about the tech marble and specifically where it was located in her body? Why wouldn’t she tell Jo about the tech marble? Why is she trying to hide it? Who is trying to get to her, and how are they communicating to her through technology? Is she even human? And will the tech marble cause plumbing issues?

I’m sure these are all the questions the writers want us to ask, but with all that happened, I was hoping I’d have some general idea of a direction. Should I distrust her, since she took out the tech marble and covered it up? Or is she just frightened? We’re we supposed to see that as sinister? It’s walking a fine line, and I can’t quite tell how to interpret it. I’m all for mystery and questions, but I also want to play the game where I’m guessing along. Without breadcrumbs, I have no idea what to think. Give me the opportunity to guess, so I can later see if I’m right, wrong, or way off base.

I know what you’re thinking: You’re not supposed to know the answers yet. That’s the point. And I suppose it is. But if the action is moving that fast, so are my expectations. Give me something to cling onto, so I can start making some hypotheses.

I guess I’ll just have to wait, like everyone else, ‘til next week.