Angels, demons, “The Man” (who appears via meteor) … these feel like dark portends for any show. But with only the pilot available for review, it’s hard to know where The Messengers may fall on the spectrum of CW series. Is it doomed like The Tomorrow People, or will it get steadily better (and build up an audience) like The 100? Though it very closely follows NBC’s Heroes model, is it instead more the heir apparent to Supernatural? To start, The Messengers features a lot of the hallmarks of almost any given CW series — the cast is young and attractive, and there is a superpower/fantasy hook — but it also actually feels a little ambitious in its themes.
Still, this setup may sound achingly familiar: The Messengers follows the story of five individuals whose lives change dramatically after a meteor hits in the desert and sends out a wave of energy that seemingly kills them — but only briefly. As they return to life, they find that they have new powers, and as they struggle to understand their abilities, they also deal with new complications in their lives.
Luckily, they all also live within driving distance of Houston, which is apparently the meeting place for the chosen ones. Vera (Shantal VanSanten), a NASA-level researcher, is the first to witness the meteor impact, and the first to meet the parcel it was carrying: a mysterious figure known as “The Man” (played by Diogo Morgado, who portrayed Jesus in The Bible miniseries; ironic, as he is likely a Lucifer figure here). But, it is Evangelical preacher Joshua (Jon Fletcher) who reveals the first “message” from God. Fire and brimstone are coming, he tells his congregants who are used to hearing messages of hope. Satan walks among us!
This sets up an apocalyptic backdrop for the heroes, who also include young mom Erin (Sofia Black-D’Elia), undercover agent Raul (J.D. Pardo), and high school swimmer Peter (Joel Courtney). As they make their way to Houston by hook or by crook, their lives begin to intersect, as they will (eventually, one presumes) team-up to fight against evil.
Despite the worrying sign of angel wings — which the show thankfully uses sparingly — The Messengers has a vibe to it that’s extremely reminiscent of Heroes, Sleepy Hollow and Supernatural (especially the religious tie-ins). There’s no “save the cheerleader” mandate, but it’s close: “The Man” does tempt Vera to kill a nurse in a coma (Anna Diop) who is obviously important in some way, in order for Vera to get information about her abducted son. Save the nurse!
So far, it’s unclear exactly what the messengers are meant to do, or what their powers may help them achieve, but despite some hokey elements, the series does a decent job of creating an intriguing framework in its pilot. It’s far more grounded — currently, although don’t count on it staying that way — than the over-the-top angel series Dominion on Syfy, but it’s a far, far cry from the beauty and emotional complications of something like Wim Wenders‘ 1987 film Wings of Desire (be as patient and accepting as you like, this is still the CW). But more than anything, The Messengers actually seems like it has something to say. Like the messengers themselves, there’s no way to know if the future (or next episodes) will bring something good, or truly awful. But we’re listening. For now.
Rating: ★★★ Good — Proceed with cautious optimism
The Messengers premieres Friday, April 17th at 9 p.m. on the CW