ABC is adding yet another science fiction series that’s filled with unanswered questions. But will “Emergence” actually give us answers, or will it be the latest in a long line of similar series that leave sci-fi fans hanging?
ABC has a history not finishing what it starts. “Miracles” (2003), “Invasion” (2005-06), “Pushing Daisies” (2007-09), “FlashForward” (2009-10), “V” (2009-11), “Happy Town” (2010), “The River” (2012), “Whispers” (2013), “Resurrection” (2014-15), “Agent Carter” (2015-16) and “The Crossing” (2018) all ended with unresolved cliffhangers, questions about the whole premise, or both.
And “Emergence” certainly fits the mold. In the premiere (Tuesday, Sept. 24, at 9 p.m. on ABC/Channel 4), a plane crashes in a small town. The local police chief, Jo Evans (Allison Tolman, “Fargo”), finds the sole survivor, a young girl, Piper (Alexa Swinton), who has no memory of, well, anything. But she does have some amazing powers. And Jo and Piper quickly bond.
Is she an alien? A mutated human? Oh, and there’s some sort of vast conspiracy.
The pilot is actually good. Tolman is great, and the premise — while hardly original — seems promising. If I thought there was a decent chance that this would run four seasons and give us satisfying answers, I’d recommend “Emergence.” But this is ABC.
ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke insists this time will be different because “Emergence” is “so much bigger than a genre show” — that it’s “really a show about a mother and a child” that “could change that narrative for us.”
Keep in mind that it’s her job to sell ABC’s shows.
Creator/executive producer Tara Butters described “Emergence” as “a strong family story along with the mystery.” She and fellow creator/executive producer Michele Fazekas have some experience with aborted ABC genre series — they were showrunners on “Agent Carter” and “Resurrection,” although they didn’t create either series.
From “Agent Carter,” they learned to “know where you are going, and don’t set up a mystery that you don’t know the answer to,” Fazekas said, because viewers “can smell it.”
And they learned not to duplicate “Resurrection,” a show that Fazekas said “was almost designed to not answer questions. … I get frustrated as a viewer watching a show where you either feel like they don’t know what the answer is, or they know what it is but they are just teasing us with it.”
As a result, they’ve planned out three seasons of “Emergence,” and they know how it will end. “We want to answer questions,” Fazekas said.
How long will we have to wait to find out what Piper is? “Not long at all,” Fazekas said. “Sooner than you think,” added Tolman.
All of which sounds encouraging. But it still doesn’t prevent you from watching the show, getting invested in it and getting frustrated when it’s canceled without a conclusion. If that happens, maybe Butters and Fazekas will at least give us an interview and tell us what they had planned.
(And if you’re interested, ABC has already posted the first nine minutes of the “Emergence” pilot online.)
UNSATISFYING ENDING • In response to a question from yours truly about ABC’s troubled history with “science fictiony” shows, Burke said, “Well, ‘Lost’ was an ongoing, science fictiony thing that lasted a while” and had a conclusion.
Point taken. But, I asserted, it was the “exception that proves the rule.”
And I honestly didn’t mean to be rude when I added that “Lost” didn’t qualify as a show that had a “satisfying conclusion.” Yeah, I’m never going to get over how much I hated the end of “Lost.”