The Whispers: Give Us Your Children or Zero Hour Revisited

publicity poster for The Whispers
Three episodes into the ABC series The Whispers and it is clear that the network have a winner on their hands. In some ways the show feels like an odd twist on religion’s “Give us your children,” quote with a bit of Ray Bradbury’s Zero Hour revisited, which in essence it is, since the show is based upon that short story from The Illustrated Man. Other comparisons spring to mind, The Village of the Damned, sans George Sanders, alien impregnated small town wives, scarily high intelligence and a hive mentality look-a-like kids, or even, a perverse version of Drop Dead Fred, Phoebe Cates’ invisible friend, played by the late brilliant Brit comic Rik Mayall. One could even find a bit of Starman in this “kitchen sink” program that still manages to captivate.

Thus far, there are two couples whose lives are intertwined to an alarming extent. The reason for the word alarming is that one of them, Milo Ventimiglia (John Doe, who is really Lily Rabe’s character’s husband) is running around getting messages from the lights and helping an alien lead children into the sort of mischief that will not only get them in trouble but also blow up a large part of the US.

The show starts with a dark haired and cute moppet, who could almost be the new Dakota Fanning, she plays a game with invisible playmate Drill. This fun pastime consists of almost killing mommy, but the cute little girl is still happy as she, Harper, has won. Later, Drill will return to make the little one’s mother better.

Other children are approached, Minx, daughter of Kristen Connelly‘s character who hacks into daddy’s top secret account and allows the spawning of a possible disastrous event. The threads of all the characters and the plot weave together with the taut precision of a spider’s web.

Lena Lawrence (Connelly) and husband Wes (Barry Sloane) are on the outs because he had an affair with FBI coworker Claire Bennigan (Rabe) whose husband, Sean, (Ventimiglia) disappeared on a test flight and was pronounced dead. Now, Sean is back, but has no idea who he is or who Claire is, and he is taking orders from the same lights that the children are.

The clever bit about The Whispers is how all the kids that Drill approaches are a piece of “Sean’s” puzzle. One child, who lost his game by blowing himself to bits, starts the whole chain off. His “target” was a worker who intended on reporting a faulty pipe system in a nuclear reaction plant. Next in the puzzle is Harper (played by Abby Ryder Fortson who was a series regular on Transparent and really is the current Dakota Fanning crown holder, she is a delight to watch) whose game with mommy end with her in a coma in hospital and brings Harper’s nuclear head of safety father rushing home before possibly learning of the faulty pipe and Minx, whose access to daddy’s files ticks the final box of actions needed by “Sean.”

Right up until the scene in the petrol station toilet, with his hostage and unwilling aide de camp Dr. Maria Benavides (played brilliantly by Catalina Denis) it seemed that Drill and Sean were one in the same, but now it looks like Sean was appearing to the kids but following orders from the lights, just as the children were. If all that sounds confusing think Starman and it starts to make a bit more sense.

The last child approached is the formerly deaf son of Sean and Claire. He is given his hearing back and can now talk although “it’s a secret.” Grammy Starling (played by “ET’s mum” the iconic Dee Wallace) almost rumbles the kid when he’s playing an interactive game instead of sleeping. Just what Drill and daddy want Henry to do has not been revealed.

This is another of those shows to get excited about. When I first saw the trailers The Village of the Damned was my first thought, George Sanders thinking of a brick wall as the blond-headed super-genius kids try to crumble it, and, self admittedly, I passed judgement on the show pre-viewing and left it alone.

Big mistake. The show, created by Soo Hugh (The Killing, Zero Hour) has been tightly crafted and promises enough suspense and mystery, along with a hearty does of science fiction, to keep even the most jaded fan interested. The Whispers airs Sundays on ABC.

Watch it.