Resurrection, in its first season, had a lot to live up to. The series is based on Les Revenants, the beloved and near brilliant French series that debuted in 2012. While the premise was the same — some of the dead are coming back — both series run along different courses. Unfortunately, in its first season, Resurrection was largely a soap that took too many shortcuts with its concept and characters. Add to that that the scripts were obviously padded (despite the first season having only eight episodes) and you’re left with a show with little actual content.

“Revelation,” the show’s second season premiere, was written by series developer and showrunner Aaron Zelman, and his involvement in the show is something of a surprise to me. Zelman was part of the brain trust behind Damages, one of the best dramas of the aughts. Damages was known for is heavy, dynamic plots and strong characterizations, particularly of their female characters. Unfortunately, Resurrection didn’t show as many shades of that kinetic energy as one would have hoped during its first season. So much of the plot depended on the characters being vague and cryptic for no apparent reason, and often the dialogue would come off as obtuse or trite. Thankfully, much of that has been ejected from the second season premiere. Sure, the dialogue still needs a polish or three, but the plot is showing signs of movement in a much more reasonable way.

The government has become aware of and involved in the situation of the returned. People were taken in the cover of night only to be almost immediately allowed to go back home again. Of course, this really negates the excitement of last season’s cliffhanger, but it does set up a very X-Files-y vibe to the new season, as black helicopters and well-dressed conspirators speak in riddles and promise truth. Much of the action this episode is focused on Agent Bellamy (Omar Epps), and while the twist involving his character is pretty clear from the outset, it will lead, hopefully, to a more interesting direction for his character since he spent most of last season having sexual tension with Maggie (Devin Kelley). He’s also taken a Mulder-like role this season. He’s seen things he cannot deny and he’s become aware of a governmental conspiracy involving the returned. He’s investigating this openly and has been branded as a paranoid whack. That, plus the reveal gives Epps more emotion and pathos to work with, and helps move the hour along much easier.

Meanwhile, the Langston family continues its new normal. Henry and Lucille (Kurtwood Smith and Frances Fisher) have settled into life with their resurrected eight year old. Henry, particularly, now seems to be at peace with it — he’s just glad to have his son back. However, faster than you can say “Paging Dr. Freud!” Henry’s dead mother shows up in the family garden. The mother, Margaret, is played by Michelle Fairley, who always brings credibility to whatever show she’s on (and god knows this one needs it). While Fairley’s American accent is terrible, her sidelong glances and unblinking eyes imbue Margaret with an otherworldliness that’s as eerie as it is welcome. The scene in which she confronts her second son, Fred (Matt Craven), the now dishonored and drunken town sheriff, is bizarre to the point of parody, and while you laugh, you can’t help but do so uncomfortably. Fred refuses to believe this figure is really his mother and Margaret replies by repeatedly slapping him, harder and harder while calmly repeating, “Who am I?” until Fred breaks down crying and admits with a painful smile that she is indeed “Mom.”

It’s clear that she is operating her own agenda and understands more about what’s going on than she says (like everyone else on this show, apparently), and this is where the series takes a familiar turn. There are too many private agendas, too many hints and winks and forced vagary. While the series is trying to streamline this problem, it’s cleaning things up in one corner while creating a new mess in the other—and this is only the second season! If Resurrection wants to continue and at least attempt to tell an engaging story, they need to trim the fat and rework their dialogue.

If nothing else, however, the stories of Bellamy and Margaret should hold us for at least a few more weeks.

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