Doing exactly what a pilot is supposed to, this first episode of ABC’s Emergence teased an intriguing, possibly supernatural mystery and an atypical family dynamic that should keep audiences interested — for now, at least.
This recap of Emergence (ABC) Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot”, contains spoilers.
ABC’s new mystery series isn’t set on an island, but it still feels reminiscent of Lost — perhaps even more reminiscent than Netflix’s recent flagrantly ripped-off tropical escapades in The I-Land, which at least had the decency to descend into gonzo territory to distract from how awful it was. For one thing, Emergence (ABC) features a plane crash. For another, it’s the rare hourlong network show that teases a vaguely supernatural mystery and feels content to assume a returning audience will be patient enough to put the pieces together a bit at a time; it doesn’t feel the need to play its hand straight away, in other words, which is charming, despite how likely it is that people will drift away from it before it gets chance to give its secrets away.
But you never know. In Emergence Episode 1, we’re introduced to Allison Tolman’s small-town police chief Jo, who discovers a young girl (Alexa Swinton) at the site of a mysterious plane crash and swiftly shelters her at the family home. Dubbing the girl “Piper”, Jo introduces her to Bree (Ashley Aufderheide), her daughter, and her ex-firefighter father, Ed (Clancy Brown). Piper can’t remember who she is and nobody else seems to know, but she’s clearly important enough that interested parties are willing to impersonate both her parents and federal agents in order to capture her. And she just might be possessed of powers that either caused the plane crash in the first place or at the very least allowed her to survive it.
This pilot episode includes all the right ingredients to keep an intrigued audience coming back, for a while at least. The family dynamic — which swiftly comes to include Jo’s ex-husband Alex (Donald Faison) — is a really interesting, atypical one; the seemingly random blackouts and interferences make for a good mystery and some nice visuals; and Piper’s true nature — in the final scene she emotionlessly uses a boxcutter to dig out some kind of glowing orb from her neck, tossing her hair to disguise the wound as she practices a lovable smile in the mirror — is the kind of thing that can lead in lots of different directions, including a kind of neutered network horror that’d be a nice surprise.
As ever, it’s too early to tell, especially with a show like this. But Emergence Season 1, Episode 1 was definitely a pilot that does what a pilot is supposed to: It gave us a reason to keep watching.