Why We're Giving Up on ABC's The Whispers
Last night's episode of The Whispers had its moments, but mostly continued The Whispers' downward spiral. Since the pilot, it has devolved from an eerie, suspenseful sci-fi horror to a melodramatic, cheesy conspiracy thriller that continues to build on all of its worst elements. Here are all the reasons we're giving up on ABC's silly summer show:
Does anyone care who Drill is anymore?
The promos seem to promise that we'll discover who/what Drill is every week, and we're barely closer to discovering Drill's identity than we were in the pilot. Even worse, the few clues that the show is offering aren't even interesting. "What Lies Beneath" finally saw Claire and Wes figure out that Drill is a "what" rather than a "who," something the audience gleaned from the very beginning. But from the ending, it seems we're supposed to think that Drill is... a rock? Blue stuff under a rock? Blue light coming out of a rock? I realize that we'll continue to learn more, but the closer we get to a tangible Drill, and the further we get from the unsettling "whispers" that set these events in motion, the less intimidating Drill becomes. If you're going to drag a reveal out this long, you need to give the audience more than "scary fulgurite."
Ray Bradbury is turning over in his grave
Speaking of the initial premise, The Whispers was at its best when it more closely adhered to its source material, Ray Bradbury's excellent short story, "Zero Hour," and has suffered from its attempts to declare independence. The opening scene of the pilot was by far the best sequence of the show, because it imitated the slow-burning, creepy tone of the short story, and it's all been downhill from there. Drawing on Bradbury's metaphor for the alienation of childhood would have been the best-case scenario, but even failing that, they could have just been a decent horror show rather than devolving into 90's-era sci-fi. "Creepy children have an imaginary friend who tells them to do terrible things" is an elegantly frightening premise, and the writers should have capitalized on it for at least a season before introducing all of this nuclear power-manipulation of electronics-blue light coming out of rocks nonsense.
The characters are paper-thin
Claire Bennigan and Minx are the only characters on the show who are even approaching layered, and much of this is the result of the actresses' respective talents. After five episodes, Wes can still be described as "a mostly decent guy who cheated on his wife," Sean seems to have lost any sign of personality or motivation along with his memories, and the rest of the supporting characters are all ciphers to the point that I can barely remember any of their names. I can see that the writers are at least trying to add depth to Lena, and Kristen Connolly is a capable actress as well, but we still don't understand the basis for her relationship with Wes, why it fell apart, or why we should care. The scene in which Claire told Sean how they met was probably the best scene of the episode, but this is still not a show that anyone should watch for its character or relationship work.
They didn't keep their promises
I was willing to give the show the benefit of the doubt, partially because many shows take about seven episodes to get off the ground, and partially because Barry Sloane promised from the get-go that the show would find its footing starting around the fifth episode. And I can see why he said that, because I do think that the show is hitting its stride, but in the wrong direction. Instead of doubling down on the interesting aspects of the premise- the creepy children, the unseen force, the targeting of troubled families- the show is spinning off into its own weird, mundane, all-too-tangible mythology. So rather than watch the world be taken over by some kind of alien civilization that lives in a rock in the Sahara and somehow controls electronics in Washington DC, I'm giving up. I stuck with Gotham for longer than five episodes, hoping against hope that it would get better, and look how that turned out.