Everything You Need to Know About ABC's The Whispers

Monday, 01 June 2015 - 11:31AM
The Whispers
Monday, 01 June 2015 - 11:31AM
Everything You Need to Know About ABC's The Whispers
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The Whispers premieres tonight at 10pm, and we're excited to see what the pilot has in store for us. Part mystery, part conspiracy thriller, part sci-fi horror, it seems to have something for every fan of the genre. Here's everything you need to know about ABC's newest offering, from its Spielberg pedigree to a full video of the first five minutes to the exact episode that the central mystery will be solved:

The premise

The Whispers follows an FBI agent who is called upon to investigate a series of disturbing occurrences involving children. The children claim to be playing a "game" with an "imaginary friend" named Drill, who exhorts them to perform malevolent acts and is likely not so imaginary. Here's the official synopsis:

We love to play games with our children. But what happens when someone else starts to play with them, too? Someone we don't know. Can't see. Can't hear. In "The Whispers" someone – or something – is manipulating the ones we love most to commit the unthinkable. In the country's center of political power, Washington D.C., several kids have been talking about their imaginary friend, Drill. What the parents don't know is that this friend is not as imaginary as they think. And when the mysterious games Drill convinces them to play turn dangerous, FBI child specialist Claire Bennigan is called in to investigate. What is it that Drill wants, and why does he – or it – only communicate with children? As the clock counts down, a suspenseful race will begin to save not only their families, but the world. Before it's too late.

The pedigree

Everything You Need to Know About ABC's The Whispers

The creative forces behind the show read like a who's who of geek culture. The show was created by Soo Hugh, known for her work on The Killing and Under the Dome, while Steven Spielberg serves as executive producer, with many reviewers noting similarities to some of the director's classic works. The cast includes American Horror Story's Lily Rabe, Revenge's Barry Sloane, Heroes and Gotham's Milo Ventimiglia, Cabin in the Woods's Kristen Connolly, and E.T.'s Dee Wallace. 

But most importantly to the substance of the show, it's based on Zero Hour, an acclaimed short story by Ray Bradbury that, incidentally, appeared in the same collection as the classic "The Veldt," which served as the inspiration for the Disney Channel Original Movie, Smart House.

Creepy little children are creepy

The show is classified as sci-fi, but the tone is very similar to a horror movie, especially the "creepy little kid" trope which, let's face it, never gets old. The first five minutes can be seen above, and critics have praised the opening scene as extremely well-done and completely harrowing. In the scene, a little girl acting under Drill's influence lures her unsuspecting mother to a tree house in order to play a "game," and- well, you can watch it for the rest, or wait until tonight if you want to remain completely unspoiled.

It's getting good reviews

Everything You Need to Know About ABC's The Whispers
Not "great," not "rave," but "good" describes the response to the first few episodes provided to critics. Reviewers tended to agree that the show was well-acted, particularly by star Lily Rabe, and that the writing was addictive, fun, and full of potential. Some detractors felt that the mystery was dragged out too much, and that this occasionally necessitated the characters being much less intelligent than their audience. But according to the creators and stars, this problem will likely be ironed out after the first few episodes:

It's mysterious, but not too mysterious

Everything You Need to Know About ABC's The Whispers

After the original unaired pilot received a lukewarm reception with critics last year, it was significantly "rejiggered," rendering the current version of the pilot much more mysterious. Now, Drill's identity remains a mystery at the end of the first three episodes, and the overarching mystery is a much slower burn. But the creators and stars have insisted in interviews that The Whispers is not another iteration of Lost, and in fact, the central mystery will be solved for the viewer within the first five episodes.

Hugh told Salt Lake Tribune that Drill's identity became "more of a season-long question," after the pilot was retooled, but also stated, "We don't want to play coy with the audience. We don't want to schmuck-bait the audience." ("Schmuck-bait" refers to a cinematic trope in which characters do ridiculously stupid things that no normal human would ever do, like pushing a big red button with warning signs all over it.)

Star Barry Sloane went so far as to reveal exactly when the mystery would be solved: "By the end of Episode 4, you'll know exactly what it is we're dealing with," Sloane told TVLine. "We don't drag [the mystery] out for 13 episodes. You're learning as the characters are learning, and the whole thing takes place in nine days."

Sloane also told Variety, "I think the show really sparks to life around episode five and becomes something quite special, as far as I'm concerned. Some of the performances and the stories and the interactions from that point on I'm incredibly proud of."

The moral of the story? If, like the critics, you like the show but find that it takes a little while to really get started, you might want to give it a chance for at least five episodes.

There could be more seasons

Everything You Need to Know About ABC's The Whispers

Although they don't drag out the central mystery for the entire season, the writers set up enough secondary mysteries to sustain future seasons, if the show is renewed. "We close a lot of doors," said Hugh. "And like any good show, we leave one door halfway open for possible more seasons."

The child stars are phenomenal

It already seems that the child stars are incredibly talented from the footage in the trailers, but if that wasn't convincing, the adult stars of the show have sung the children's praises every chance they get in interviews. The funniest anecdote came from an interview with Hitfix, in which Lily Rabe, Milo Ventimiglia, and Barry Sloane called their little co-stars consummate professionals, and recalled that they were off-book by the first table-read, unlike their adult counterparts.

"They like to make us look bad," Rabe joked.

A few educated guesses - possible spoilers!

1) Since it's termed "sci-fi" rather than fantasy, the "threat to humanity" is an alien invasion.
2) Based on the plot of "Zero Hour," the aliens aim to eliminate all humans over the age of ten.
3) Milo Ventimiglia's character is the physical manifestation of Drill, which will be the "big reveal" at the end of the fourth episode.
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The Whispers