The complexwhose first three episodes (out of eight) are now broadcast on Peacock, recalls most immediately HBO The White Lotus, in that it takes place in an expensive vacation paradise where people’s personal demons must be exorcised. Cristin Milioti and William Jackson Harper star as Emma and Noah, a couple whose marriage is troubled and whose future seems uncertain, even as they arrive for what is supposed to be an indulgent diversion.
However, they are quickly caught up in the details of a 15-year-old incident in which two young vacationers named Sam and Violet (Skyler Gisondo and Nina Bloomgarden) disappeared just before a nearby resort was destroyed by a hurricane. . They were never found – and soon Emma and Noah find themselves playing detective on the case of these unsolved disappearances, while trying to figure out how to salvage their own relationship.
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From there, the series becomes two intertwined stories: Emma and Noah’s current story and Sam and Violet’s flashback story. Sam arrives for a vacation with his girlfriend and parents (played by married actor-character power couple Dylan and Becky Ann Baker). But things quickly turn south and he ends up meeting Violet, whose journey with her father (Nick Offerman) has its own troubles and sorrows.
I don’t want to say too much about the plot, which bears the imprint of creator Andy Siara, who also wrote the time-loop romantic comedy. Palm Springs, another Milioti vehicle with mysterious issues in a beautiful location. But suffice to say, like many twisty mysteries, it sometimes struggles to fit all the pieces together and move the story forward. However, any flaws in this story are easy to forgive.
This is because of the extremely attractive and talented cast. Milioti was great in Palm Springsbut also in the sci-fi drama series made for love and other admirably bizarre projects she’s taken on since stepping away from a possible future in more conventional romantic comedies after-how I Met Your Mother. Harper is obviously a favorite of The right place, but can also swing drama and even horror. He easily keeps Noah, who initially seems like your basic unamusing hubby, from becoming a sad bag or drag. Coincidentally, I interviewed them both for the podcast bull’s-eye, a few months apart, and they make a great couple. It’s not just the two of them – Skyler Gisondo was one of the many gems of Libraryamong many other credits, including Virtuous Gemstones, and Nick Offerman is very good at making a far less gruff father figure than Ron Swanson. Add the Married Bakers, plus Bloomgarden (newer to me but lovely here), and it’s a really solid performance set.
Believable, grounded people in a story like this are so important, because stories with fantasy elements can lose audiences as they get weirder and more experimental. Milioti and Harper are entirely believable as a very troubled couple, in that it’s easy to figure out how these people would have gotten married, as well as how they would have got into trouble.
Peacock recently made headlines for struggling to gain subscribers in a field crowded with streamers. It’s a shame, because he made some very popular original series – Girls 5Eva, We are lady parts, Rutherford Fallsthe surprising saved by the bell reboot – and here it features a terrific cast in an unusual and surprisingly emotional story.
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