Emma and Noah come to Mexico for the same boring reasons that most longtime couples take vacations: to relax, to make memories (whatever that really means), and most of all to reconnect with each other. It is their 10th wedding anniversary—or, as an eccentric staffer at their all-inclusive resort puts it, “the puberty of marriage.” This, she explains, is “when the real love begins. You become what you will be.” For some, a week of drinks by the pool might suffice to ease the marriage into that forever stage. But these two, played by the charming Cristin Milioti and William Jackson Harper, seem to have more on their minds than a slackening sex life. It’s going to take more than a beach getaway to open the next chapter of their relationship.
This is the familiar place where The Resort, a wild vacation romp from Andy Siara, begins its itinerary. But the eight-episode series, premiering July 28 on Peacock, sets a lighter tone than last summer’s sublime White Lotus and ridiculous Nine Perfect Strangers, in part by avoiding the ennui that comes with plots that revolve around rich-people problems. (At one point, Emma and Noah agree to buy a custom-made dress, only to flee the shop in a panic when they learn the five-figure price.) Somehow both broader and quirkier, shaggier and more propulsive than those predecessors, this genre-jumping adventure is billed as a “comedic thriller” and stakes out a space between the culty Lodge 49 and the crowd-pleasing Palm Springs in Siara’s canon. It doesn’t hang together quite as well as those titles, but it does still make for a fun summer binge.
Cristin Milioti and William Jackson Harper in ‘The Resort’
The caper takes off when Emma, the more restless of the two, crashes her ATV during an expedition into the jungle and lands next to an old, broken flip phone. Something compels her to track down a working model that will read its SIM card. She quickly realizes the phone belonged to a college kid, Sam (Skyler Gisondo of The Righteous Gemstones), who went missing along with another young vacationer, Violet (Nina Bloomgarden), in 2007, just before a hurricane destroyed the resort where they were staying. Noah doesn’t exactly share his wife’s eagerness to spend their vacation searching for two strangers who’ve probably been dead for 15 years, but he throws himself into it in the hope that some amateur sleuthing will revitalize their marriage. “People do all sorts of dumb sh-t for love,” he explains at one point. “I mean, look at me.”
As he and Emma start digging, flashbacks flesh out Sam and Violet’s story. On the plane to Mexico for a family vacation, Sam sneaks a look at his napping girlfriend’s (Debby Ryan) text messages and discovers she’s sleeping with a professor. Violet and her father (Nick Offerman, a study in sad masculinity), meanwhile, have come to mark the first anniversary of her mom’s untimely death. A chance meeting that begins with a skateboarding Sam slamming his head into a palm tree and Violet administering questionable first aid soon escalates into a romance. In the context of Emma and Noah’s story, they become avatars for the lustful intensity of young love.
Skyler Gisondo and Debby Ryan in ‘The Resort’
The season unfolds as a series of plot twists, tempered by apparent digressions into more philosophical territory. (An episode that positions resorts as intentional communities built around the manufacturing of memories could double as a backdoor pilot for a series in the Lodge 49 vein.) Our heroes sift through the ruins of Sam and Violet’s resort. They get mixed up with a fearsome dynasty of tailors. A mysterious local author seeds the script with leftfield musings on time. High Maintenance creator and star Ben Sinclair, also an executive producer and director of The Resort, surfaces as a skateboarding Santa—and his role only gets stranger from there. Siara keeps adding genres to the mix: comedy, suspense, romance, action-adventure, sci-fi.
At times, the story’s incomplete foundation creaks under the weight of so much activity and so many concepts. Questions that seem important go unanswered. Long-awaited insight into characters’ pasts too often comes across as generic groundwork for a trauma plot, which takes away from the overall emotional impact. And the show can be a bit too meta for its own good. “This isn’t the end,” a character declares in episode 4. “The second half is a heartbreaker.”
Nina Bloomgarden and Nick Offerman in ‘The Resort’
Yet it’s hard to fault Siara, Sinclair, and a creative team that also includes, among its executive producers, Mr. Robot and Homecoming mastermind Sam Esmail too much for touching too lightly on too many ideas, when so much TV has nothing at all to say. Amid all the spectacle, the show does, finally, strike a thoughtful contrast between puppy love and the more mature variety, which it doesn’t make the mistake of overstating. But mostly it’s defined by small pleasures, from the likability of the main players and the casting of real-life character-actor couple Dylan and Becky Ann Baker as Sam’s parents to its loving homage to Latin American literature and the L.A. punk Easter egg of Alice Bag and Kid Congo Powers’ cameo as a lounge act. Like any good vacation, The Resort flies by. You can tell you had fun because it’s over way too soon.
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