Emergence: Episode I Review - Not so fast!

532851.jpgRegular readers of my posts for TVMaze understand that I am not a big “network TV” fan. While I grew up on network TV, once I discovered cable television, network TV was never able to achieve the solicitation I once offered at its feet. Accordingly, the initial chatter about ABC’s Emergence was not very persuasive. But then I read an article about how Emergence was the new Fringe. Fringe, in case you need reminding, was one of the better, albeit less popular, network TV “sci-fi” shows of the last decade. As my colleagues Cadence and Tim discuss in their inaugural article for the site, “Emergence looks like an interesting take on the mystery-box genre”. Accordingly, I felt I had a duty to see if Emergence was worthy of both my and others' accolades.

Unfortunately, Emergence suffers from the classic network TV conservatism that generally makes me want to avoid whatever content they disseminate, other than sports and news. For Emergence, this conservatism is not in the visuals, quite the opposite. There are a number of scenes, such as the one that ends the first episode which, quite frankly, are more graphically shocking than what you might expect from a cable TV or streaming TV show.

Rather, the conservatism is expressed in the fact that the show adheres to many of the same tropes that are common to this genre. For example, the story involves a mysterious government agency whose officers always have such offensive attitudes and sketchy practices. Moreover, the show adds on other contemporary elements that seems required for today’s politically correct network TV.

And this gives the viewer an idea of what to expect as the series progress forward. There will be fantastic flights of fancy that, even with the “fantastic” premise of the show, will seem utterly fake and/or staged. For instance, when the police chief, Jo Evans (Allison Tolman), learns that the parents of Piper (Alexa Jacqueline Swinton), the child she found near an airplane crash, had suddenly arrived to pick her up, you just knew that they were not going to be who they said they were. Moreover, while I could be wrong, my guess is that Piper and Police Chief Evans are the same person but just from different time periods. If that is the case, you heard it here first.

It should be noted however, that this is my impression of just one 40+ minute show. Moreover, as my other colleagues mentioned in a review of the trailer, "the premise looks quite interesting." However, I won't be watching any other episodes going forward, as it just was not very interesting and there doesn't seem to be a way to fix this problem; at least in the first season. Indeed, depending on what I see and hear over this season about it, I may try to watch it again. However, I would not recommend it for my readers. Emergence also stars Donald Faison, and Clancy Brown.

What do you think? Have you seen Emergence?

Written by lao.san on Sep 29, 2019


Zlogorek posted 4 days ago

"Government agency officers" are fake here, and this is apparent instantly.

okane posted 25 days ago

I find that there is one unsettling thing per episode, at least the first 3 eps.

1 - Piper cutting herself.

2 - Blood leaking out of the morgue freezer.

3 - The incident with the IV at the hospital which I think of as remote controlled murder.

Episode 4 is a great follow up post-'what Piper is reveal'.

I love the Jo and Benny team up in episode 3.

I really hope Piper is not a kid version of the Terminator.

Gadfly posted a month ago

Plus... form follows function. You've got a single woman, who takes in a kid who is is alone under mysterious circumstances. Either the parents aren't there at all, or there's more than they say there is to them.

You can observe that network TV makes suspense-fodder like that, while non-networks got a little more exotic. But if a non-network did the same story, they'd hit the same beats. That's not a direct trope of network vs. non-network TV: it's a trope of "standard" suspense stories. And drama. The parents have to be more than what they say they are. If the parents were normal and aboveboard, they'd show up, take the kid away, and that's be the end of the series.

JuanArango posted a month ago

I agree with you gislef, this show did nothing for me, I will not continue with it.

Gadfly posted a month ago

In fairness, in most dramas parents are never what they seem and/or have ulterior motives. Practically everyone has ulterior motives and aren't what they seem. That's why they're... dramas. :)

If anything, I'd say that network TV drama tends to level things out. We know that Oliver Queen is basically a good guy, that Mick on DC's Legends grumbles a lot and is a bit of a doofus but will make the right call at the end of the day, that MacGyver and his co-workers are good people. Yeah, we find out that Oliver's father Richard wasn't the good guy he was initially made out to be (although he never really was, dumping The List on Oliver before shooting himself), but then... drama! Network main characters are what they seem, and the secondary characters aren't. Non-network stuff tends to go the opposite way because they have the relative freedom to do so. Let's turn Patsy into a bad guy! Let's turn Luke Cage into a kingpin! Let's have the 60s Alfred Pennyworth do some stonecold killing! Let's make our Superman proxy Homelander a dick! You won't ever see any of that happen to Barry on The Flash.

And shows have to "go fast" because many of them never know when they'll be canceled. Non-network TV isn't safe: just ask Swamp Thing.

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