Emergence (ABC)

Adam Lenhardt

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Jo Evans (Allison Tolman), a whip-smart police chief, plunges her family into a deepening mystery when she discovers a young girl (Alexa Swinton) the night of an inexplicable plane crash in the quiet northeastern town and decides to protect her. Who is this child? Where did she come from and what does she know? Benny Gallagher (Owain Yeoman), an investigative reporter, intrudes into Jo’s inquiry with his own take on the shadowy evidence.

Jo must balance her growing, protective relationship with Piper with her love and concern for her own family: her daughter, Mia (Ashley Aufderheide); her father, Ed (Clancy Brown); and her ex-husband, Alex (Donald Faison). As the spellbinding mystery unfolds, the family’s relationships are tested, unexplained events question reality, and everyone chases the shocking answers.

What happens when a regular family is gripped by unimaginable circumstances?
This is almost certainly destined to join the pile of short-lived science fiction dramas on broadcast TV in recent years (see "Time After Time", "Kevin Probably Saves the World", "The Crossing", and "The Passage" for recent examples), but I enjoyed the pilot a lot.

On the surface, the show is a lot like the Duffer Brothers's original pitch for "Stranger Things", back when it was called "Montauk": It's set on Long Island, it's centered around a mysterious young girl with extraordinary abilities but no name taken in by the local police chief, it features shadowy government agents, and the secretive Homeland Security facility on Plum Island appears to be at the center of the mystery.

The execution sets it apart from "Stranger Things", though,

For one thing, Chief Jo Evans is very different person than Chief Jim Hopper. Allison Tolman is great at making Evans feel both like a plausibly small town Long Island woman and like a competent police chief. And her maternal chemistry with the enigmatic young girl at the center of the show is off the charts.

The enigmatic young girl is also a very different person than Eleven. In the scenes with other characters, she seems like a very sweet and innocent girl. But when she's alone, a very disciplined and pragmatic side comes out that makes it clear that she knows a lot more than she's letting on.

The biggest difference between this and "Stranger Things" though is that "Stranger Things" is first and foremost about childhood friendships, whereas this is first and foremost a family drama.

The rest of Evans's family is well cast, as well. Clancy Brown plays her retired firefighter father, who is living with her while he recovers from cancer treatment. Donald Faison plays her ex-husband, who is out of the house but still pretty amicably in her life. Ashley Aufderheide plays their teenage daughter Mia, who is still resentful over her parents' recent divorce, but carries herself with an ease that points to how good both of her parents are.

So far the explicitly science fiction elements include: bizarre power outages that also affect battery-powered devices, strange changes in magnetism, and anxiety-induced telekinesis.
 

Mike Robertson

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Well I also enjoyed the pilot and set my DVR to capture the series. Although when I really like this type of show, that's usually the kiss of death. I was a big Timeless fan and that didn't go well. So I'll stick around and see how it goes. Thanks Adam for you review. I wasn't going to even give it a watch until I read it.
 
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Adam Lenhardt

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The ratings were just OK, but the ratings for new series have been pretty abysmal across the board. And as the networks continue to offer more ways to view their programming, the ratings become less and less important as a measurement of viewership.
 

Robert Crawford

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I recorded the first episode and have the second one scheduled. I'll try to watch the first episode later today or some time tomorrow.
 

Adam Lenhardt

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I liked the pilot quite a bit, but thought the second episode had quite a bit of wheel spinning. And I could feel the writers' hands at work, which is never a good thing.
 

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