ABC’s newest mystery-thriller show Emergence starts with a simple, familiar premise. A young girl with no memories is found at the site of a plane crash and bonds with the local police chief. The central mysteries are who the girl is, where she came from, and why does she display special abilities.
Because the girl doesn’t remember her name, police chief Jo Evans (Alison Tolman) names her Piper. Jo lives with her father (Clancy Brown) and her daughter while still friendly with her ex-husband (Donald Faison). The whole family quickly bonds with Piper while she’s staying with Jo who doesn’t want to put Piper in the impersonal foster system.
Some shows might tease the mysteries for a whole season and still not give any clear answers (I’m looking at you, Pandora). But Emergence makes a game-changing major reveal about the mystery girl in the third episode.
Seriously, it’s a major spoiler so I’ll give you one more chance to be sure you want to know.
In the third episode Piper is suffering from an illness that resists conventional medical treatment. A mystery woman gets Jo to retrieve a case from a high-tech facility. The woman uses the laptop to download files into a funky looking flash drive and tells Jo how to connect the drive to Piper and upload the contents. Jo is skeptical but in desperation does indeed connect the drive which patches or re-installs Piper’s software and Piper is immediately well again.
I don’t want to use the word “robot” because that seems a little too simplistic for what Piper seems to be. She’s been in a hospital being tested and examined by doctors who would have noticed if she was a metallic robot in a skin suit like a Terminator. Piper is more like a cylon or a replicant who can pass for human.
I’m guessing Emergence is going to explore ideas like Battlestar Galactica and Blade Runner about artificial intelligence (and people) and what it means to be human. Piper has shown affection for Jo and her family but does she really have feelings or is it just programming? Those kind of questions play differently when, instead of Tricia Helfer in a red dress, your artificial person is a ten year old girl in a onesie.
I don’t know how well Emergence will handle the questions the big reveal raised but I’m willing to see how they do.