The Messengers, the CW’s new show premiering April 17th, already had two strikes against it for me.
The first strike was because I already watch a show on the CW about angels. It’s called Supernatural.
The second strike was because I’m an atheist. I tend to lean more towards the agnostic end of the spectrum, but I didn’t grow up in a religious family, and faith in a higher power has never been something I’ve had. I started questioning pastors when I was 14 years-old and being disappointed by their answers, so, it’s been two decades of wanting to be persuaded and never having been.
However, my lack of faith doesn’t mean I’m dismissive of all things religious. I like to think of myself as being open-minded, which was why I went to the screening and press room for The Messengers being held at WonderCon.
The pilot itself was a mixed bag for me. It’s not a bad pilot. The actors are clearly talented and give the serious story the weight it needs without pushing too far into melodrama. I was reminded of NBC’s Heroes, with the idea of people in different parts of the world being drawn together through a force greater than themselves, albeit in this instance, the mysterious force is one described in religious texts and not superhero comics. There was also clearly a concerted effort to represent hispanic/latinx/chicanx populations both in the background and in the main cast, and with the show’s main setting being in Houston, Texas, I expect that effort to carry on throughout. However, I raised an eyebrow at the lack of black faces at the Little Rock public high school and the violent act committed against a black woman in the opening minute, and as a result, I came out of the screening thinking it hadn’t been as bad as it could have been, but not yet persuaded into watching.
Then came the press room.
I was seated at the far table, and we were brought the producers first, so I got to hear their spiel before meeting with the actors. The impression I got from the producers was a desire to be accurate–perhaps more accurate than previous attempts to deal with the apocalypse on television. There was mention of the biblical number seven, as well as how the 13-episode half-season worked in terms of numbers, and I noted that Trey Callaway, Executive Producer, mentioned the Book of Revelation, and not the colloquial Revelations (my grad school Christian roommate had informed me that it is not plural, despite the use of the plural in popular culture). But accuracy for someone like me, who is not at all invested in the adaptation, is actually a warning bell that this story is not for me. Even the fact that two of the main characters are scientists, and one–the one charged with becoming a Messenger–is actually an atheist, did not leave me feeling like I would be able to watch this show without feeling alienated by its content.
But after the producers came the actors, and the actors are who sold this series for me, and who could, I believe, sell the series for others. Again and again the actors emphasized that the story is focused on the characters, grounding the story in reality, and answering questions such as: What would happen if this really happened today? How would someone react to the apocalypse when they still have bills to pay? As the interviews went on, I began formulating a question in my mind:
What kind of genre show is this?
During the last press table, I hit upon the answer.
“So it’s not a genre show–it’s a character show set in a genre?” I asked Diogo Morgado, who plays a mysterious character known as “The Man.”
“Say that again?” he asked. I repeated my premise, and he nodded. “Yes! High five! Can I use that?” he asked me. So I did what anyone would do when an attractive and charming Portuguese man asks you to high five him: I high fived him and told him that of course he could steal that.
For some, that clarification may not make sense, but for me, that clarification makes all the difference. It places The Messengers in the same category of not-genre shows like Battlestar Galactica and In the Flesh–a sci-fi show and a zombie show, respectively–who were from the very start, never really about robots or zombies, but the ways in which people react to the situations they find themselves in.
Fittingly, it’s that message from the producers and cast of The Messengers that makes me optimistic for the show itself, and why I’ve decided to watch. You have 12 more episodes to impress me, show. I’m putting my faith in the genre of the not-genre show. Don’t let me down.