TELEVISION
Review

'The Messengers' brings tidings of great doom

Robert Lloyd
Contact ReporterLos Angeles Times Television Critic
CW's 'The Messengers' might quote the Bible, but it has more in common with vampires, zombies and superheroes

Premiering Friday on the CW, "The Messengers" is an eschatological biblical thriller from the network of "Supernatural," "iZombie," "Arrow" and "The 100."

In the opening scene, two women in scrubs leave a hospital. "I'd almost lost faith until you guys," Woman 1 says to Woman 2, who has become engaged. A man walks up and says, "His name was Death, and Hell followed with him," quoting the Book of Revelation (6:8) on the fourth horseman of the apocalypse, and shoots Woman 2.

We jump ahead seven years, seven being an important number in Revelation and dice, and meet several other characters, not yet acquainted but bound to be.

Shantel VanSanten plays a radio astronomer, fighting for funding, working out at the Very Large Array with a laptop and a van; Jon Fletcher, a budding televangelist; Joel Courtney, a teenager bullied just for seeming gay; JD Pardo, an undercover federal agent coming up for air; Sofia Black-D'Elia, a single mother catching creepy grief from her ex-husband.

Meanwhile, a fiery thing falls from the sky, and if you are thinking, "Revelation 9:1" ("I saw a star fall from heaven unto the Earth, and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit"), I can tell you that verse is quoted right at the top of a "Messengers" press release. Out of the sulfurous crater it creates crawls a handsome, naked man (Diogo Morgado, who played Jesus in the 2013 History miniseries "The Bible," working the other side of the street here).

The impact from the crash sends a magic wave through the humans described above, causing them to drop dead, then return to life with new powers, as when Reed Richards, his wife, Sue, her brother Johnny and their friend Ben passed through a storm of cosmic rays and emerged as the Fantastic Four. (They also have spectral wings, visible in reflections.)

Typical for Revelation-based popular entertainments, the Apocalypse this portends does not seem to be set in stone, but mutable and avoidable, like Scrooge asking the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come whether he's being shown shadows of the things that will be, or shadows of things that may be.

The augustness of the source material notwithstanding, these angels and devil — is that you, Abaddon? — live on the same genre continuum as vampires and zombies. (Eoghan O'Donnell, who wrote the pilot, comes out of MTV's "Teen Wolf.") And for dramatic frisson, one realized prophecy is as good as another, whether it comes out of the Old Testament or was written by a Hollywood screenwriter to be encoded into Jefferson's underwear or the bones of a woolly mammoth.

There is some hokum in the pilot, including the odd B-movie line ("This could be a very important scientific site") and the red glowing eyes that ever signify evil. But it is smartly assembled — Stephen Williams, who directed 26 episodes of "Lost," made the good-looking pilot — and there may be enough gas in these characters to get them somewhere interesting.

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'The Messengers'

Where: KTLA

When: 9 p.m. Friday

Rating: TV-14-V (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14, with an advisory for violence)

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