Last year, I was awed, fascinated, and totally spooked by Jason Mott’s novel The Returned, a harrowing tale of mysterious reappearances of long-dead people. While these “returned” folks seemed just as they had been before they had died, the true fright of this story lay in the emotional toll experienced by the loved ones of the previously deceased. While the novel briefly told of several people’s experiences returning from the dead, the main spotlight was on one family, whose eight-year-old son Jacob had returned… almost fifty years after he had drowned. Both Nancy and I were taken by this novel, and you can read our full accounts in the review we co-wrote back in September.
Even before the novel had published, it had been optioned by Brad Pitt’s production company, and the promotional materials for the review copy included the announcement that it would air on ABC under the title “Resurrection.” As soon as I saw an ad for the first time, I set my DVR to record the series.
I’m sure at this point in my reviews on this site, I have established the frustrations that book-to-screen adaptations usually present for me. Sure, some may call me a purist, (ahem, Jennifer), but I try to accept the things that get changed for brevity’s or simplicity’s sake when a story goes from the page to film. What really gives me pause is when the characters themselves get changed, or characteristics of theirs that could easily have remained the same. For a motion picture, this often seems unnecessary to me, but I’m starting to see how this might be more necessary than ever when dealing with a television series.
All that being said, the ABC series “Resurrection” is a bit of a different beast than the novel it is based upon. Yes, the core story is in place, but many differences appear in the details as the story gets told. Young Jacob remains the focus of the series, though in the series he becomes the very first of the returned people, and so far, at least, the story stays in Arcadia, Missouri, rather than the more worldwide view of the novel. While many of the details have changed, the emotional turmoil experienced by the people affected by this growing phenomenon remains consistent with the feelings described in the book.
As the first season nears its finale, I’m all caught up on my recorded episodes and anxiously awaiting an expected cliffhanger. With the story differing from the book at this point, I’m not sure what to expect! I’ve been pleased with the portrayals of some key characters, most especially Omar Epps’ performance as J. Martin Bellamy, the government official trying to make sense of the crazy situation, and Kurtwood Smith’s pitch-perfect depiction as Henry Langston, Jacob’s emotionally-torn father.
The television show seems to be putting the supernatural elements of the story more to the forefront than the novel, though the strong performances highlight the emotions experienced by the main characters, as well. Overall, I found the book to be more thought-provoking and cerebral than the series, which is more formulaic, as television shows tend to be. However, I’m finding myself enjoying the series more and more with each new episode, especially as I try my hardest to limit the comparisons!
“Resurrection” airs on ABC, Sundays at 9 pm (EST), and thanks to a variety of options these days, is available to watch online, if you’re into “binge-watching” a series, like me. If you’re watching this first season, I’d love to hear your take, especially if you also read Jason Mott’s novel.