Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Review: The Whispers

Every season there's that one show.  That show you heard hints of in ads or on the radio and in spite of yourself it catches your interest and you end up watching it, and liking it, and then it's gone.

The Whispers was that show for me last season and I have mixed feelings, because I'm actually kind of happy it only lasted a season, for probably all the wrong reasons, according to production studios.

What is the show?
The Whispers is a single season show telling the story of various children who all seem to have the same imaginary friend named Drill.  And Drill is telling them to do things that children really shouldn't be doing.  Lily Rabe plays Claire Bennigan, a child psychologist who steps forward to look into these strange cases and has a son of her own.

What really intrigued me and caught me from the start, was the small ads I saw for the show while on vacation in Atlanta.  I thought it was going to be a ghost story, something that rarely shows up as a thing beyond the CW and teen romance series.  So I was interested - especially with the twist of imaginary friends.

The show itself is well written and unfolds like a novel, letting you meet and come to like all of the characters.  All the questions you have about Drill are slowly answered, but only in ways that bring more questions, so the show hooks you from the beginning and really doesn't let go.  All of the characters seem very human and likable, in spite of their flaws.  Especially Claire and her family.  I was pleasantly surprised to see her portrayed as a strong and yet very human woman, who was allowed a range of emotions without turning into a wibbling mess that needed to cower against one man or another.  I was also incredibly impressed by all of the child actors in this show.  At times I swear they were almost too good and the force of Drill working with them was made that much creepier.

So, without spoilers (those are below the next image) I will say that you should watch this series.  It was obviously made to go on for more then one season, but the place they ended it actually works quite well and leaves you wondering just enough that you can dream up your own scenario.  (I'll go into that more below.)

The Whispers is an interesting and adventurous ride.  I'm sure if I had children it would creep me out even more, because every child has an imaginary friend and somewhere in the back of your head, you might wonder what it would be like if that friend weren't quite so imaginary.


I loved this show, and I'm not ashamed to say the first reason was because it tricked the hell out of me.  In seeing the ads, I was under the impression the show was about ghosts, just like I said above.  But it's not, in fact, it's about an alien invasion.  So why didn't I mention that above?

Firstly, I'm not a fan of aliens.  It's not that I don't believe there might not be something out there - I actually do.  But I am very tired of seeing them in media, because something about how they've always been portrayed in media just feels off to me.  And had I known this was about aliens, I never would have watched it.  But this show did it perfectly.  At no point do you ever see the aliens.  Instead you only hear about Drill and not even the children can see him.  You get a glimpse of their ships at the end, but that's it.  In this the drama of the children and their parents trying to find out what is going on is made front and center and while the aliens are a big part, the show doesn't focus on them because it can't - and I felt that really helped the story line progress in an interesting way.

Even the ending is left incredibly ambiguous because there is a cliffhanger in the children disappearing along with Claire in the alien's hands.  But the story I was left wanting to know more about wasn't the aliens... it was actually the humans on earth.  Yes, I cared that Claire was gone along with the other children, but as the show ended I was more curious about what the heck all the parents were going to do now with their children gone.  Because realistically there was no way for them to go after the aliens and no way to recover their children - instead the characters would have been forced to deal with their abduction and the lack of hope of them ever coming back.  That idea intrigues me and I know it would never make a good tv series, but it might make one hell of a novel with the correct writer.

It was only after the series was over that I read a bit more into it and found that it was based on the short story "Zero Hour" by Ray Bradbury.  But again, like the series, the story ends with the aliens arriving, so not much expansion available there.  Which I'm ultimately ok with, because I'm not sure that any part of mainstream media would be interested in that much of a character story where it would have to be about recovery and loss, and never about the hope of getting them back.

The one nagging thing I wasn't too happy about is the story surrounding Claire's husband, Milo Ventimiglia as Sean Bennigan.  In the beginning we're told he died during a military mission, only to see him later alive and with no memory of what's going on and being led around like a puppet by Drill.  The problem is that the show establishes that Drill can only talk to children, and it's never explained why Sean can hear him through the lights.  The viewer of the show might guess that it has something to do with his amnesia and touching the meteor that Drill seemed to arrive on, but this is never confirmed and it's never touched again as the story progresses.  Even later, when grownups do appear that Drill can communicate with, it's not hinted at that Sean might have also been one of these.  Instead it's a loose thread that is never wrapped up or explained, and it could have easily been.  I'm also not convinsed it was the amnesia that caused it, as when Drill was completely taking over in the final stages he didn't try and duplicate the affect with other grownups, which he could have easily done with drugs and coma victims.  So that loose thread was left hanging and very disappointing.

But really, that's my only grip.  In the end this show was masterful written, had amazing children actors (and adult ones too) and created a very interesting and coherent world.  I'm sad there's not more, but at the same time I'm happy because I liked the open ending.  Because the show was never really about the aliens or the whispers the children heard.  Instead it's about grownups not listening to their children and taking them seriously.  Because maybe we should, before someone else does.

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