Can ‘The Messengers’ Put a Fresh Spin on the Apocalypse?

The CW has tackled the supernatural and sci-fi with titles like The Vampire Diaries, Supernatural, and The 100. Now the network is combining both genres with its own apocalypse-oriented series, The Messengers. The show, which is set to premiere on April 17, aims to put a fresh spin on the familiar “end of days” premise. But with so many similarly themed shows currently on the small screen, there’s still the question of whether The Messengers can really stand out.

Created by Eoghan O’Donnell (Teen Wolf), The Messengers follows a group of five strangers who find themselves connected after a mysterious object strikes Earth in a blinding flash. The strangers are all from different walks of life: Vera (Shantal VanSanten) is a scientist; Erin (Sofia Black-D’Elia), a young woman trying to protect her daughter from an abusive ex-husband; Peter (Joel Courtney), a high-school student; Raul (JD Pardo), a federal agent trying to evade an undercover assignment; and Joshua Jr. (Jon Fletcher), a second-generation televangelist. When the explosion hits, they all collapse and their pulses stop. They’re presumed dead — until they suddenly wake up and start experiencing new unexplainable powers, including super strength and telepathy. They soon realize they’ve been deemed responsible for preventing the impending apocalypse.

While not outwardly religious, the show, overseen and executive produced by Trey Callaway (who previously worked on NBC’s Revolution), puts an emphasis on certain biblical elements, from the impending Rapture-like event to the wings that show up in the mirrored reflections of all five strangers after the explosion. There’s also a devil-like character known as “The Man” (Diogo Morgado), who crashes to Earth in a fiery ball. Though the characters never explicitly say that they’re angels or any other kind of otherworldly beings, the angels versus demons theme is obviously implied — too obviously, as some critics have already pointed out.

“The biggest problem is how much the show is clear about. There is no subtlety to be found within the script,” Flavorwire wrote of the pilot. USA Today brought up the same issue, asking, “Are the mysteriously superpowered five angels or devils? Is ‘The Man’ Lucifer or Gabriel? Answers are coming, some of them in the form of effects so cheesy, you wonder if they’re a deliberate throwback. Unfortunately, when they do eventually arrive, the answers all feel too old and too obvious.”

The real challenge that The Messengers faces, though, is finding a way to put a fresh spin on an overfamiliar premise. The superpowered strangers approach sounds is reminiscent of NBC’s former drama Heroes. Meanwhile, the Rapture element has already been covered every which way on TV. Most recently, it served as the basis for the HBO drama The Leftovers, as well as ABC’s well-received comedy Last Man Standing. With so many shows tacking the subject (often, in more original ways), The Messengers has its work cut out for it in attempting to convince viewers to tune in to yet another apocalyptic show. As Variety put it, “For those who sample The Messengers, feeling inspired to stick with it will require a considerable leap of faith, based on a premiere that doesn’t earn its wings.”

For its part, the CW has made great choices when it comes to introducing new shows in recent years. The Flash has quickly become one of the most successful comic book adaptations on TV. Critical darling Jane the Virgin became the first CW show to earn two Golden Globe nods — and one win — earlier this year. Meanwhile, iZombie has been widely praised as helping to bolster the zombie genre. We’ll have to stay tuned to see whether The Messengers can garner quite as positive a response.

The Messengers airs on the CW on Fridays at 9 p.m. ET.

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