What would you do if someone you loved returned to you from beyond the grave?
That’s the question posed by the new ABC series “Resurrection,” which premieres Sunday. And the first episode is as compelling as anything you’ll see on TV. If you’re a parent, it will hit you like a sucker punch.
“A woman who has lost her son and he’s back again is an unfathomable experience,” said Frances Fisher, who stars as Lucille Langston.
As the series opens, 8-year-old Jacob Langston (Landon Gimenez) wakes up in a rice paddy in rural China and has absolutely no idea how he got there. Turns out he drowned 32 years ago, and his sudden reappearance is hard for his parents, Lucille and Henry (Kurtwood Smith), to accept.
Well, harder for Henry than for Lucille, who is overjoyed.
“There’s a great mix of emotions because not only does [Henry] get the privilege of having somebody that he lost come back after 30 years,” Smith said, “but it’s complicated by the fact that that tampers with the memory of the child that he’s lost. And it forces him to re-examine what he’s done with his life for the last 30 years.
“So those sorts of things cause a real emotional stew in his life. And then it affects the relationship that he has with his wife because she is so much more immediately accepting of the boy. So his whole life is thrown into chaos.”
We are quickly led to believe that there was more to Jacob’s death than just an accident. His aunt drowned at the same time, and that, too, may not have been an accident.
“This event happens, and the onion starts to peel, and all of our relationships start to fracture,” said Matt Craven, who stars as Sheriff Fred Langston — Jacob’s uncle, whose wife drowned three decades ago. “And we all, to varying degrees, have to deal with that emotionally.
“And each episode reveals something new that just almost makes it unbearable at times.”
There’s a lot left to reveal in the seven episodes that make up the first season of “Resurrection.” The show is about more than just one returned child. More dead people are returning to the same small town in Missouri.
While “Resurrection” bears a strong resemblance to the French miniseries “The Returned,” which aired recently on SundanceTV, it’s actually based on Jason Mott’s book “The Returned.” Mott was inspired by a dream he had in which he and his late mother had a long conversation. And when he woke up, he thought for a moment that his mother had actually returned.
Zelman said that when he began reading Mott’s novel, it seemed “like kind of a sci-fi book.”
“When I got about halfway through the book, it just blew me away because I realized this isn’t a sci-fi book. This is a study in grief, in loss and the bigger questions about life — why we are here, and what does it mean to be here?
“That’s when I was hooked.”
“Resurrection” is also about faith, but not really about religion. Which makes for some tricky writing.
“I think the trick to doing it right is just to approach it honestly,” Zelman said. “What does faith mean to different people? And it means different things to different people [so] you don’t have to discuss any specific religion or worry about offending any specific group if you just approach it from the standpoint of — look, every human being who has ever been born has questions about how we got here and who or what is responsible — if there is someone responsible — for us being here.”
“Resurrection” premieres today, at 8 p.m. on ABC/Ch. 4.