Three episodes were provided for reviewing purposes prior to broadcast.
With Fox’s Lost-inspired summer offering Wayward Pines off to a dizzyingly fun start, ABC is jumping into the fray with The Whispers, a new drama series based off Ray Bradbury’s short story “Zero Hour.” It focuses on a group of apparently disconnected children under the influence of an invisible entity they refer only to as “Drill.” After a few fatal accidents or two, a mysteriously downed fighter jet in Africa, and an amnesiac covered with tattoos all begin setting off blips on the FBI’s radar, an FBI child specialist Claire Bennigan (Lily Rabe) races to connect the dots of the seemingly disconnected events.
The big problem with The Whispers, especially in comparison with Wayward Pines, is where the latter uses inspiration from classic shows to build off and grow into its own product, The Whispers feels constantly tethered down by the overbearing sameness of the series. It’s got a few interesting ideas – its source material all but guarantees at least that – but in everything from the individual plotting of episodes to the basic visual style and production design of the show, it’s easier to be reminded less of Lost and more of sci-fi babble duds like Flash Forward and (sigh) The Event.
Good news: that’s kind of the extent of the show’s problems. Although the pilot remains the strongest of the first three hours, the show’s basic interweaving structure is maybe its best asset. Starting off with a malicious attack by six-year-old Harper (another one of the show’s hidden weapons in Abby Ryder Fortson), a string of children are shown to be communicating with air, which leads to malicious and downright conspiratorial tasks that push them into the classic horror “I didn’t do it” scenario. It’s not as eye-rolling as it sounds, however, because as more and more characters are introduced in a sprawling cast – Revenge‘s Barry Sloane, Cabin in the Woods‘ Kristen Connolly, Heroes‘ Milo Ventimiglia – the show teases and hints at a sort of six degrees of separation present in each one.
And it doesn’t take long to begin cementing those teases as reality, or in providing hints at the “big” question – who are the whispers? – in the pilot alone. That’s the reason behind that African subplot where Wes Lawrence (Sloane) discovers an unusual sight awaiting him in the form of a downed military aircraft thought to be lost somewhere in the arctic circle. The show doesn’t say the “A” word, but periphery hints at political intrigue surrounding the malicious attacks by the children, and the show’s Washington, D.C. setting, may prove that a more terrestrial and (in this day and age of invasion stories) far more interesting threat could be at work behind the curtain.