Every time I think I’ve reached my limit on time travel mystery shows, I see another trailer for a series like The Resort and think to myself, “Man, that shit is right up my alley!” I’m a sucker. Even when, like The Resort, said show is less sci-fi on the time travel thing and more… spiritual? More vague? Less science-y. Because this series, my friend, is not Primer. It’s not Dark. It’s not… my god, I watch a lot of films and TV shows that involve varying degrees of time travel stuff. Several in 2022 alone. The Resort uses it at first as more of a metaphor than it does a plot device, but then it does. Though unlike a Tenet or Interstellar, where explaining how the time bending works is core to the plot, this series doesn’t really bother explaining why or how anything happens and just expects you to kind of trust the vibe and go with it. Which would normally drive me insane. But, here? I’ll let it go because the series is more about atmosphere and relationships than time travel. They’re related, of course, but the mechanics are such that it just doesn’t matter as much.
I can’t help but be reminded of the M. Night stinker Old when I fired this up. A couple — in this case, Noah (William Jackson Harper) and Emma (Cristin Milioti) — go on a Mexican beach vacation in the throws of what seems like a relationship crisis. It’s not quite clear up front why Emma is so pissy and bitter, but it’s clear Noah has maybe, possibly done something wrong. It’s awkward and not particularly fun. In fact, the show itself is also not very much fun for the first few episodes. I really like Milioti, but grouchy, jerky Milioti isn’t something I’m that into. And, honestly, Jackson Harper is so likable as an actor that it’s really difficult to imagine he’s done anything wrong. The dude is clearly not a cheater, or abusive in any way. He’s not dumb. He’s not boring. What could be the issue?
But before we can get to any of this, Emma crashes her ATV on a jungle ride and finds an old Razer phone that has clearly been sitting there for a very long time. She keeps her discovery a secret and starts to do research to figure out whose phone it could possibly be. All of this makes sense in the context of her character, who is clearly missing something in her life and finds in this detective work something fulfilling and worthwhile. All the while Noah continues to reach out to try to get through to her, but to no avail. Until he snoops, finds the phone in her purse and she reluctantly brings him in to her investigation. Which, in essence, brings some excitement back into their marriage. But still seems like it can’t be the panacea to what ails it. Because pure boredom and dissatisfaction wasn’t what was troubling them, was it?
It turns out the phone belonged to a young dude who disappeared from a nearby resort fifteen years earlier. A dude who disappeared along with another young woman right before a hurricane destroyed that resort, along with all evidence of what could have happened to them. The phone, complete with photos and some video, holds clues to what the deal was. Through Noah and Emma’s investigations and partnering with some other locals, along with flashbacks of the young couple, Sam (Skyler Gisondo) and Violet (Nina Bloomgarden), we are brought through all of the machinations of their disappearance and eventual resolution. All along we are clearly meant to connect Noah and Emma’s broken relationship with the euphoric beginning of one between Sam and Violet. One dying on the vine and the other cut short before it could even get started. Unless, of course, there’s kinda-sorta time travel! Or whatever this is. You’ll see.
Let’s start with some names. The name Noah doesn’t fit William Jackson Harper. For whatever reason I found it jarring whenever Milioti would say his name. I don’t know what his name should be, but Noah ain’t it. Also, can we stop with calling all characters Sam? There was a period of time — one that I thought might be over, but apparently isn’t — when all fathers were named Sam and all sons were named either Henry or Max. Without fail. I think they started that because they figured those were “good American names,” but then those names just became tropes. Even though Hipster Jr. may or may not have one of those names. Point being, this is real life and screenwriters come off as lazy when they just leave in the default names (including Emma, frankly) that come with the screenwriting software. Also, Jackson Harper and Milioti don’t feel like a couple. There’s something discordant in their performances in the first few episodes. They’re both great normally, so it’s not them per se. It’s them together. Or, more likely, it’s the way Milioti’s character is. She’s not particularly warm or funny or anything you’d generally associate with her. There is one flashback scene of the two of them on the night they met that feels like they may actually like each other. That her character isn’t this cold, distant jerk. But that’s really the only time we feel anything between the two of them that isn’t slight competitiveness and some sort of shared trauma (that we eventually find out about). I understand it’s probably a choice. But it did turn me off somewhat — especially when I do generally like these two actors so much.
The show does pick up in the back half, however, when we’re introduced to Baltasar Frías, who is played by Luis Gerardo Méndez. Méndez isn’t an actor with whom I was familiar, but he really amped up the energy and brought an edgier, comedic bent to the series that was sorely missing prior. I imagine the show’s creators thought that he and Milioti playing off of one another — which they do at points — would really be electric. With Jackson Harper playing the grounded, straight man. It does work to some extent, but Méndez is so manic and funny that he almost overpowers Milioti’s more low-key character. They even throw in Luis Guzmán as Méndez’s childhood nemesis at one point. Just to further goose the energy level. So it feels like they definitely knew they had to course correct after an almost too-somber up front. Once they got into the swing, it definitely took on some Outer Range vibes in the mystery department, but there are also some White Lotus tinges as well.
Look, the time stuff — while central to the mystery — is, as I’ve mentioned, pretty murky. It just kind of happens and we’re asked to go with it. Though we’re also left at the end of the season with an obvious nod toward a second season where I assume more will be revealed. Including, hopefully, the whole reasoning behind some of the mysterious, supernatural-y kind of things. Because, as it stands, it’s definitely more magical than it is scientific. And maybe that’s on purpose, but it doesn’t mean it makes any sense. I’d definitely like to see where they take it, though, even if the initial episodes weren’t 100% perfect.