An unexplained asteroid crashes to earth, bringing what appear to be supernal, angelic powers to a small chosen group. Simultaneously, an unnamed but highly sinister man emerges from the smoking space rock.
I love apocalyptic stuff. From Buffy to Supernatural, if the world's ending, I want to watch. The Messengers promises to address some of these issues, while bringing in angels and the Devil in a big hunk of burning meteor rock. My interest was piqued.
The first scenes are interesting and in some cases horrific - the episode opens with two friends outside a hospital, one engaged to be married. The happy sentiments are interrupted by a premonition, and like many premonitions, it comes too late to be any good. (I argue many premonitions are low-grade local psychic events; you know something's bad not because you see the future, but because the future is walking towards you, and getting closer. Which explains why they come too late–but I digress.) The engaged friend is shot to death by a man raving about Death, using biblical language.
After this we begin getting introduced to an ensemble cast which makes me cautiously lower some barriers I didn't realize I was going to have. I was worried we were going to have stock characters with uninteresting backgrounds, and we do seem to have some clichés - the blonde astronomer lady? (Is she a cliché yet?) The single mother (Sofia d'Elia) taking her genius child running from an abusive father? The government that has a secret to hide? But there's also the promising preacher boy (Jon Fletcher) betrayed by his wife and family, the agent suddenly turned telepathic (JD Pardo, definitely the hottie of the show) left alone to get back to safety and loved ones, and the aforementioned shooting victim. Or the overly-emotional teenage boy (Joel Courtney).
There's not a lot of story being told - we learn a little about each person, but there's so many people each only gets a few minutes of screen time. Houston appears to be ground zero. Or maybe it's the meteor site. We'll see. In their search, each for different things, characters appear to be headed there. In the end there's so many characters I don't think I remember any of their names. Lost did something like this, but introduced us to each character one by one... here the exposition felt overwhelming.
The meteor landing sends an invisible wave of energy through the planet. As it strikes each character, they pass out. One by one each character is infused with undefined powers and begin to deal with the immediate aftermath–which includes car accidents, interrupted drug deals, and television shows. Then they begin to wake... but slightly different. The powers manifest variously, with some painful accidents. Throughout the ep the goodness/likability of the characters slowly builds contrast with the menacing, unstoppable force of the Devil, played by Diogo Mordago. Unfortunately, he's not scaring me that much, and he seems to come off as another iteration of Randall Flagg from The Stand - another apocalyptic event with a somewhat disappointing climax.
By the end of the episode we still don't really know what's going on. The Preacher Boy warns of the Devil coming. Evil's here, evil is going to tempt us, and good is only starting to marshal its response.
Bits and Pieces
When the meteor lands, bringing the Devil, it also brings a shock wave that makes people bear angelic "wings" visible in reflections. Is there a unique origin for both these things? And what does that mean?
When the "wings" arrive, the characters chosen dilate their pupils and apparently die for several minutes, then come back to life. It's a nice and simple but effective bit of fx.
Another nice bit of fx - the wings that appear variously throughout the episode.
This episode works best when it's focusing on the characters and when it avoids trying to set too many themes for the future. I don't know that the characters and the opposition are original enough for me to get into. Some great heroes and villains take cliché and build it into something original. This opening episode doesn't have enough meat for me yet, but that might be because the cast is still too spread out for stories to begin to intersect. A good pilot needs a center to pull in audiences, and this pilot doesn't have that center. Not sure how long I'll keep watching.
Two out of four devil-bearing meteors.