Review: The Messengers 1×1 (US: The CW)

Holy Captain Planet

The Messengers

In the US: Fridays, 9/8c, The CW
In the UK: Not yet acquired

If I had to pin down a new trend in US TV, it would be “Bible stuff”. Time was, “Bible stuff” was pretty sporadic. A Highway to Heaven here, a Touched By An Angel there, but otherwise it was pretty sporadic.

The History Channel changed that with the appropriately named The Bible and ever since then, it’s been all the rage, although there have been some pretty obvious misses along the way. Right now, apart from the numerous “they came backs/went away” of Resurrection, The Returned, The Leftovers et al, we’ve got A.D. The Bible Continues on NBC (apparently The Bible left something out. Not The Bible. The Bible), Dig’s twaddling along on USA, Syfy’s had futuristic angels over on “world’s worst TV programme” Dominion and there’s a barrel load of pilots and new series heading our way just brimming with fire and brimstone, including a TV version of The Omen called Damien.

Now, turning up on our doorsteps like a bolt from Heaven is The Messengers, in which a meteor(ite)* falls to Earth unleashing an energy wave that gives a bunch of disparate strangers angelic powers – and wings – that might come in helpful for them as they come together to prevent the Apocalypse. Which might be coming a tad sooner than suspected, because that meteor(ite)* might well have been Lucifer himself… and he has a plan.

And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the earth and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.” (Revelation 9:1)

In the white-hot sun of the New Mexico desert, scientist Vera Buckley watches in fascination as a mysterious object plummets to Earth and explodes in a blinding flash, sending out a shock wave that briefly stops Vera’s heart and panics her techie coworker, Alan Harris. Vera is not the only one affected by the blast; she is instantly and mysteriously connected to four other strangers, who also collapse only to miraculously come back to life: Erin Calder, a young mother desperate to protect her 7-year-old daughter from an abusive ex-husband; Peter Moore, a troubled high school student who finally lashes out to end the constant bullying he can no longer endure; Raul Garcia, a federal agent looking to escape his undercover assignment in a violent Mexican drug cartel; and Joshua Silburn, Jr., a charismatic second-generation televangelist following in his father’s footsteps – all awaken after the blast with extraordinary gifts, from inexplicable strength to the ability to heal others.

Most mysterious of all is the figure known only as The Man, who offers Vera the one thing she wants most in life – to be reunited with her kidnapped son – if she will help him with one morally complicated task. That task puts Vera on a collision course with nurse Rose Arvale who, after a seemingly random act of violence left her in a coma for seven years, suddenly begins to stir. As Joshua Jr. prophesied, the wheels of Revelation have begun to turn, and these five newly christened Angels of the Apocalypse may be the only hope for preventing the impending Rapture.

The series stars Shantel VanSanten (“Gang Related,” “One Tree Hill”) as Vera Buckley, Jon Fletcher (“City of Dreams”) as Joshua Silburn, Jr., Sofia Black-D’Elia (“Betrayal,” “Gossip Girl”) as Erin Calder, JD Pardo (“Revolution”) as Raul Garcia, Joel Courtney (“Super 8”) as Peter Moore, Anna Diop (“Everybody Hates Chris”) as Rose Arvale, Craig Frank (“Mixology”) as Alan Harris, and Diogo Morgado (“Son of God,” “Sol de Inverno”) as The Man.

THE MESSENGERS is produced by CBS Television Studios and Warner Bros. Entertainment, in association with Thunder Road Pictures with executive producers Trey Callaway (“Revolution,” “CSI: NY”), Basil Iwanyk (“The Town,” “The Expendables” film franchise, “Clash of the Titans” film franchise) and co-executive producers Eoghan O’Donnell (“Teen Wolf”), Kent Kubena (the upcoming “Gods of Egypt,” “Turistas”) and Ava Jamshidi.

Is it any good?
You know, in contrast to iZombie, it sounds a lot worse than it actually is. You’ll have seen it done before in some form or other from The Prophecy to Supernatural, but unlike Dominion, you won’t feel like you’ve been scrubbed down with razor blade-soap after watching it.

The show begins with little, badly written vignettes designed to introduce us to the characters. There’s a scientist, a single mother (nope, don’t know what her other job is), a high school student, an undercover cop and a televangelist, all of whom are American and pretty enough to have been blessed by the God of The CW.

When the meteor(ite)* hits and unleashes a wibbly wobbly special effect, they mostly each get some appropriate super power: high school student gets superstrength, single mother gets healing tears, undercover cop gets telepathy and televangelist gets a direct line to God. I’m not quite sure what the scientist got: ability to fill in grant applications really quickly, maybe?

Anyway, at the centre of the meteor(ite) is an angel. This is odd, since everyone says the angel is Lucifer/the Devil. But Lucifer’s already fallen, obvs, so is this some other newly fallen angel? Or is Hell really Heaven, we’ve got everything literally upside down and Lucifer’s fallen again (something wrong with gravity in Hell)?

Certainly, at the very least, ‘The Man’ as the writers prefer to call him seems like a bad angel: he nicks people’s clothes, maybe killing them in the process, breaks into houses, urges people to go on killing sprees, has glowing red eyes and – this is the clincher – has a foreign accent. But if he is, how come he’s giving all these other people angelic powers? Or is God’s plan really to send down special powers to the chosen at the same time as new angel falls in a sort of ‘twofer’?

I’m not sure. I’m not sure the writer’s are sure, either. Oh me of little faith.

Anyway, as in Heroes and Captain Planet, it looks like all these strangers are going to have to come together somehow. So far, two of them have bumped into one another, but that’s not gone too well, what with the kidnapping and all; and ‘Lucifer’ (aka The Man) seems to know all about them, too, and is already trying to recruit at least one of them.

Next week, we’ll see what happens if they bring their superpowers together. I’m assuming they’ll have to deal with the Whore of Babylon at some point, though, since the whole thing seems really, really Biblically accurate. Honest.

Interspersed throughout the first episode are attempts to make us care for these Messengers, with single mum having to deal with an abusive cop ex-husband, undercover cop on the run from corrupt cops, high school kid dealing with bullies and televangelist finding out daddy televangelist has probably got his wife up the duff. This doesn’t really work and you’ll mostly hate them or find it all laughable, although scientist comes out of it reasonably well. Annoyingly, the boys get all the manly things to do, while the girls get to worry about their kids a lot.

Yet for all the depth of an understanding the show demonstrates, it’s engaging enough. It’s just competent enough that you won’t switch off. There are sufficient questions raised in the first episode that maybe you’ll want to watch the second. And you’ll get neither the Biblical pedantry of Dig nor the angel twatting matches of Dominion.

Initial Barrometer rating: 3

* Such is the level of both Biblical and scientific knowledge in the show that everyone refers to ‘the meteor’, even though any meteor that hits the ground is a meteorite. I spent the whole episode mentally completing the word every time I heard it


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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