And it's all Sheriff Fred's fault. Turns out this whole season's really been about him — and while it wasn't anything you saw coming, his actions all made a surprising amount of sense.
The finale was by far the best episode of the season. It was legitimately an excellent hour of television, and such an improvement over the other, much slower-moving episodes, you can't help wishing the whole season had been like this. And yet, there's no way the finale would have worked without the rest of the season.
And now the spoilers start...
Sheriff Fred, it turns out, was always hanging on to his sanity by just the barest of threads. Remember way back when he gave his little speech of vengeance in a bar? We should have all paid way more attention to that. Up until the finale, Sheriff Fred's been integral to all the plots, but hasn't had a Returned of his own. And even then, it's when he finds out that he actually doesn't have one that he flips.
Because, just as suspected, Maggie's mother, Barbara, has been back for a week and staying with the man she was having an affair with when she died. Maggie insists that she tell Sheriff Fred she's alive, or she will. Maggie, to be fair, thinks that her family deserves closure and has more loyalty to the parent who raised her than the one she never knew.
So Barbara goes, and Sheriff Fred envelops her in what can only be described as the world's least comfortable hug. He's clinging, and she's telegraphing "Don't touch me" in every single part of her body. Barbara tells him that coming back made it "clearer than ever" that she doesn't want to be with Fred. And, in Sheriff Fred's face you can see the exact moment that what little control he had over his worst impulses evaporates entirely.
Marty, for the first time in, like, forever, remembers that he's a federal agent with superiors and calls his boss for help. He tells her that the Returned need help, not guns. Which is how Colonel Stone and military initially show up: with trucks full of supplies. Unfortunately, Col. Stone runs into Sheriff Fred. See, Col. Stone was told that there was a flood and people lost everything. Which means that Sheriff Fred gets to be the one to tell him what's happening, and he's disinclined to present it in a good light. He points out the living Rachael, and then shows Col. Stone the dead one from last week. And then explains everything the way Gary would have: These aren't really people's loved ones. They're imposters, and dangerous ones at that.
Meanwhile, the Langstons are bonding with the family they found last week, the Thompsons. It turns out that they worked for Henry's grandfather and died in a flood (which seems to back up the water theory). They're still looking for their son, who has a crescent-shaped birthmark on his neck. Henry also gets a robo-call telling him that all the Returned are to report to the school gym for a "flu shot" and papers.
At the gym, Jacob points out that people aren't going to like all these people returning, and Henry promises him that they'll always be together and that they'll be safe. Which is such a giant arrow pointing to him being unable to keep either promise, that it's the only real speed bump in this episode. Marty gets to the Langstons in time to tell them to go home, since he has a bad feeling about all this. A feeling that is completely justified when he tries to take the Thompsons outside, and is stopped by a deputy with a gun.
Marty, Pastor Tom, and Maggie all discover that no one's cell phone is working and that Sheriff Fred's gone off the deep end. Maggie volunteers to take care of the records (which they, very smartly, only wrote down so there would be no digital copies), Marty's headed back to the Langstons' house, and Pastor Tom? Well, he leads a jail break. The school fire alarm goes off, and a bunch of the Returned (and Pastor Tom) make it out.
Sheriff Fred gets the door locked in time to yell that there's no fire and they're "escaping." One of his deputies realizes what that means, and leaves. His little sister is one of the Returned, you see. So Sheriff Fred goes ahead and proves, some more, just how far gone he is by releasing Gary and deputizing him in the hunt for the Returned.
Marty gets to the Langstons and tells them they should run. Henry and Lucille realize that not only are they old, they're going to be really recognizable. But Marty is younger, and has a badge that will make bluffing his way out easier. So they send Jacob away with Marty. Jacob screams and cries, and Henry and Lucille are heartbreaking in their goodbyes. As usual, Frances Fisher and Kurtwood Smith have no regard for our feelings and are devastating. Even as Smith has to deliver a somewhat hackneyed line about having to break one promise (they'll stay together) in order to keep the other (keeping Jacob safe).
Marty and Jacob get away just as Sheriff Fred shows up. He tries to lay the blame on Col. Stone, which is ridiculous, and then says that the Returned'll be fine. They're just going to send them all to a camp. YEAH. That's a really loaded thing to say, given all of human history. Lucille slaps Fred, and it's glorious.
And Sheriff Fred's lost control even of his little vengeance. He gets back to the school, to find that the military's taken control. Gary and his little band are on their knees with guns pointed at them. Maggie's talked Dr. Eric into destroying the list of Returned (damn the science and his leukemia), is refusing to cooperate, and is being taken into military custody. Honestly, Maggie responding "Haven't you done enough?" to Sheriff Fred promising to help her probably hurt more than Lucille's slap. And THEN! He doesn't even get rid of the Returned, as Col. Stone says they're quarantining the whole town.
Marty and Jacob get to the edge of Arcadia, only to find a bunch of bug carapaces all over the floor. And a helicopter. And a bunch of trucks. All headed right towards them. The episode, and season, ends by showing us the crescent-shaped birthmark on Marty's neck.
I've had lukewarm to positive feelings about the first season of Resurrection, but the finale really brought the whole thing together. Each plot actually fed into Sheriff Fred turning narc on the undead. Jacob's return revealed Barbara's infidelity, which both lead to his slow unraveling (again, I bring up his vengeance speech from earlier in the season) and Sheriff Fred found out that Henry had known about it for decades and never told him. That little wedge may have been enough to tamp down on any feelings of regret Sheriff Fred may have had in hurting his brother by turning Jacob in.
Caleb's plot? Sheriff Fred used that story to convince Col. Stone of the danger of the Returned. Even though he knows that Caleb had done nearly the same crime before he died, Sheriff Fred tells Col. Stone that the Returned are dangerous and that one of them "already" robbed and killed.
And Rachael and Gary? Sheriff Fred uses Gary's rhetoric (and Gary himself) to enforce his vendetta. And he uses Rachael's body to prove that the undead are coming back to Col. Stone. Each story was a perfectly fine vignette on its own, but it turns out that they were all pieces leading up to Sheriff Fred's breakdown in the finale.
Other little things that were great in the finale:
- Sheriff Tom and Rachael were excellent wranglers of the the undead, taking them into the church and giving them food and taking down their stories.
- And the fact that they decided to write everything down on paper so it wouldn't make it online — which was at least a nice attempt to address something we've been noticing for weeks.
- Plus, Helen, who was so against the Returned and Pastor Tom, shows up at the church. Instead of fighting with Pastor Tom, like he expects, she's thrilled to see a loved one.
- Pastor Tom takes Rachael and the Thompsons to where his wife's been staying, which both sets up some friction for next season and reintroduces a character I honestly thought that the writers had just forgotten about.
- Finally, the Thompsons. At first, I thought that they were just a family included to tug on our heartstrings when they got swept up in the Returned roundup. And, even as I felt manipulated, I was still really worried about them.
But it turns out that they might be related to Marty. Given his age and the fact that the Thompsons said that they worked for Henry's grandfather, it seems unlikely that he's the son they lost. He could have survived, and maybe Marty's a descendant. Or, Marty's also a Returned, albeit one who came back much earlier than the rest and has nothing like the memories of the others.
So Resurrection ended with a mighty bang, following a build-up that focused more on individual stories. It tied them together and sets up much larger stakes for a second season. I'm looking forward to it.