One of five best-reviewed TV sci-fi and fantasy shows of 2019, Rotten Tomatoes
#48 Rotten Tomatoes' Best TV Shows of 2019
94% critics' rating, Rotten Tomatoes
Starring Golden Globe nominee Allison Tolman (Fargo), Teen Choice nominee Donald Faison (Scrubs) and child star Alexa Swinton (Billions)
Emergence, one of Rotten Tomatoes’ five best-reviewed sci-fi and fantasy shows of 2019 (and top 50 shows overall for the year), is now streaming on Showmax.
Golden Globe nominee Allison Tolman (Fargo) stars as police chief Jo Evans, with BET Comedy Awards winner and Teen Choice nominee Donald Faison (Scrubs) as her ex-husband Alex.
“We begin Emergence with a plane crashing in upstate New York,” says Donald. “The police chief of the town goes to investigate and finds a little girl at the site of the crash. She’s not hurt, she has zero scratches on her, but she also doesn’t have any memory of who she is or where she came from. The police chief decides to take the little girl in... and crazy things start to happen.”
Except for her memory loss, the child, dubbed Piper, appears unharmed and, at least at first, completely normal. It’s everything around her that keeps acting weird: metal, water, electricity, cars - and so-called government officials...
Piper is played by 10-year-old actress Alexa Swinton (Eva Rhoades in Billions). And yes, she is related to Oscar winner Tilda Swinton. They’re distant cousins.
The cast, which The Hollywood Reporter calls “thoroughly charming,” also includes Emmy winner Terry O'Quinn (Lost, Perpetual Grace), Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption), and Enver Gjokaj (Agent Carter, Dollhouse).
It’s Allison’s performance the critics are really raving about though, with Variety saying, “Tolman brings to the role the warmth and shrewdness she did to a similar part in FX's Fargo; it's a pleasure simply to watch her think through the case.”
The actress herself describes the series as “a sci-fi thriller wrapped up in a family drama… with a dash of comedy sprinkled on top.”
On reading the script, she says, “The first thing that resonated with me was this spooky tone. There’s this eerie thriller throughline throughout the series. I was delighted to then find that the story is really incredible and I also really like this character. I find her warm; she’s funny; she’s got a good sense of humour. She’s nurturing without being too saccharine. She’s not cutesy-sweet; she’s a very practical woman. She knows how to get things done; she’s good at her job. I find her really kind. I just enjoy her.”
It’s great to see a female cop doing her job really well and, when her family is threatened, stepping confidently out in front to defend them.
The character is a potent combination of competent and in charge, as well as protective, nurturing, funny, and honest. All of which amounts to a rare and relatable kind of hero. As Reason put it, she’s a “size-16 protagonist who is neither a vixen or a superhero, just a good cop with decent human instincts.”
“Jo isn’t the kind of woman we’re conditioned to expect when we’re watching a female police chief on TV,” says The Daily Beast in an interview with Allison, who commented, “A lot of shows, the heroines drink like a man and, like, her dad never loved her. There’s all this dark past, as if that’s what's needed to justify a woman in this position in a dangerous field. I think you could just be a normal woman and choose to work in a dangerous field.”
The other major plus for the show is its solid family dynamic and lack of fabricated soapie drama. The Hollywood Reporter praised Emergence’s clean narrative, saying, “most insecure shows would layer in obligatory place-holder conflict to keep things tense while the mythology wheels are spinning, but a great joy is that the show's core family … relate to each other in likable and affectionate ways. This leaves room for Jo to be smart and capable on her own as she begins to explore the show's various puzzles and makes it easy to understand why people would trust her and respond to her with respect and warmth.”
At the San Diego Comic Con, Donald told IMDB, “It’s a sci-fi action thriller but it really revolves around family, and a group of people who are really trying to protect this little girl. You have the explosions, you have the chases, you have the shoot-em-ups, but what’s really important is that they always check in with each other.”
“This show is one giant puzzle,” says Alexa, “and it just fits together, cause we have everything: police show, sci-fi, thriller, family... Anyone who likes any of those types of shows, I think that they’re going to love this one.”
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