With a mystery wrapped up in a character-driven drama, Emergence starts off promisingly enough, despite stark similarities to Stranger Things and some heavy exposition. There’s certainly enough here to keep you coming back for more but whether ABC’s latest drama can shake off the shadow of its clear influences and deliver something wholly original remains to be seen.
In the quiet town of Southall, the people are rocked by a strange blackout in the middle of the night. As alarm clocks blink out and metallic objects fly across the room, police chief Jo Evans heads outside and sees a strange cloud of psychedelic colours on the horizon.
As she arrives at the scene, she finds a young girl hiding out behind a plane wreckage that litters across the beach. Throwing her arms around the officer, she calls for paramedics to take them to hospital. Once there, the young girl refuses to let Jo go so she agrees to stay with her for the time being. Raised voices in the hallway prompt her to head out to see what the commotion is all about, as she finds NTSB agents outside asking to see the girl. When Jo returns to the room, she finds the girl missing, leading to a hospital-wide search to take place. As it happens, Jo finds her hiding in her car.
Returning home, she questions just who was impersonating NTSB before naming the child Piper and driving her actual daughter to school. While she’s gone, Piper sees the TV glitch out as a strange symbol appears on screen.
Back at the crash site, Jo sees the plane wreckage completely cleared up before coming across a man named Benny, who tells her he has sources. Sources that can confirm the news reports will gloss over the plane crash and call it a manned drone wreck. Reluctantly, she agrees to work with him before returning home. Here, Jo opens up to Piper and discusses her past. As they talk, Piper tells her she’s afraid and wants to stay with Jo. After putting her to bed, Jo receives a call from Curtis informing that a couple have come into the station claiming Piper is their child.
Heading to the station to talk to them, Jo becomes suspicious as their shifty story sees both of them shoot nervous glances at one another. Desperate to get to the bottom of what’s going on, Jo asks to see their phone in order to see pictures of them with Piper. Their demeanor changes immediately though, demanding to see Piper as she grabs the mugs and asks Curtis to run prints. When she returns back to the room, she finds the couple gone.
Returning to the safe house, Jo updates the family about what happened at the station. The lights go out soon after as Jo protects the family and creeps around the house looking for the intruders. From above, glass shatters as a slick camera shot sees us pan upstairs and see footsteps creeping across the hallway before heading back down again.
The family hide out in one of the rooms as metal begins bending and tools fly off the shelf. It would appear Piper has powers but in the chaos Jo learns to her horror that she’s been taken. As a car speeds away, Jo chases after them, seeing the car flip upside down in the middle of the road and debris fly everywhere.
Shocked, she examines the wreckage and finds the couple from the station lying unconscious in the car. Piper, however, is alive and well. After embracing the young girl, Jo heads back to the station and asks Curtis to do something illegal before meeting Benny. He tells her she’s unsure who to trust and he proceeds to tell her the black box and the human victims were removed from the crash site. She hands him a strange card and asks him to find out what it is.
As the episode closes out, Piper hallucinates later that evening and sees herself absorbed into a strange veil before she cuts her neck open to find a circular device pulsating, just like the TV screen from before. Dropping it in the sink, she watches it fall down the plug hole before hiding the scar with her hair.
I’m a big fan of mysteries and since LOST’s success it feels like the genre has struggled to capture the same momentum and deliver a similar show in that vein; with plot points to discuss on a weekly basis and a growing conspiratorial plot line. Despite some strong work early on, Emergence’s narrative does feel eerily similar to Stranger Things and it’s hard to dispute that, espeially during the second-half of the pilot episode.
Piper’s backstory and mysterious powers feel similar to that of Eleven’s and the government agents following her share all the same plot beats found in the first season, right down to the car flipping over in the middle of road. Despite this, there’s enough of a mystery to keep you sticking around, even if some of the dialogue is a little clumsy and heavy on the exposition.
Similarites or not, my interest is certainly piqued but whether ABC’s latest drama can shake off its influences and deliver something wholly original though remains to be seen. It’s far too early to cast judgment on this one though but so far Emergence may just emerge as a sleeper hit depending on how its episodes develop over the weeks.