Midseason TV replacements are tricky. They often have a significant pilot but then often appear like a “flash in the pan,” disappearing before Johnny Q. Public has had a chance to even consider watching them. But Resurrection, ABC’s eight-episode series based on Jason Mott’s novel The Returned, has been rumored and publicized for over a year. On Sunday night, the hype proved to be backed up by the actual product, and 13.9 million people became believers.
Eight-year-old Jacob Langston (Landon Gimenez) appears in China, thirty-two years after he drowned in Arcadia, Missouri. Immigration and Customs officer J. Martin Bellamy (Omar Epps, House) transports Jacob to his former home in Arcadia, where he meets his parents, Henry (Kurtwood Smith, That ’70s Show) and Lucille (Frances Fisher, The Host, Eureka). Other Arcadia residents, like the pastor (Mark Hildreth) and the sheriff (Matt Craven), are just as surprised by Jacob’s return, and the ripple effects of his coming are abundant.
Several conversations in the course of the first episode captured my attention, and that of several of my parishioners and Facebook friends. Of course, a few of them revolved around the pastor, Tom Hale, who struggles with an actual resurrection from the perspective of a Biblical understanding. “This is what I say I believe!” he utters, incredulous, hopeful, doubtful, and faithfully, all at the same time. But he is reassured that he doesn’t “need to have all the answers,” because his job is to “comfort those who have questions.” It’s an interesting take on my occupation… and a valid one from some perspectives.
Pastor Hale preaches on John, and says that John was given the tools to ask questions, not know all of the answers. He asks his parishioners, “isn’t that what it means to have faith?” Again, that’s a valid question in the context of church: we have Scripture, but none of us currently living are eye-witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection. We have to live in faith because empirical data isn’t forthcoming.
Except in Arcadia, where biological testing proves Jacob to be who he says he is.
So where does that leave a person of faith in the context of Resurrection? The question asked by Bellamy of the elder Langston, “do you want to believe,” is the relevant one for us all. What data would “prove” our faith to be true? Would the dead being raised do it? Would we have to see and touch someone who we also had known and touched while dead? It’s what worked for Doubting Thomas (he just asked what I would have!) in John 20:24-29. But Resurrection pushes past that and says that there are still choices which must be made.
One of my favorite choices so far is Mr. Langston’s decision to tell the truth about something that happened decades ago. It’s the reemergence of his son that takes him there, the way that the resurrection of Jacob pushes him to be who he wants to be/should have been in the present. It’s interesting to see how Jacob’s re-existence changes things, and it’ll be interesting to see where the show takes it from there. Stay tuned.