A while back, I shared my thoughts on The Whispers, a new sci-fi drama on ABC, about a malicious entity from space coming to earth and befriending children. To summarize, at the time I thought the show had horrible characters who oozed massive amounts of white privilege into every scene they were ever in. It didn’t help that there’s only one Black character of note, no LGBTQ+ people, and the one disabled person is healed from his disability.
All in all, though I said that I enjoyed the overall plot, I found the characters lacking and hard to invest in. So now that the first season has wrapped up, have my thoughts changed? Well… no, not really. In many ways the show improved, and now I actually have a few good things to say about it. In other ways, it somehow managed to get worse.
I will concede that The Whispers did become more exciting as the story progressed. I finally found myself somewhat caring about the affair between Wes and Claire—mostly that is because Wes’s wife, Lena, is my favorite character and watching her struggle with both the betrayal and Claire being in her life when she doesn’t want her there was probably some of the best writing in the show. The Whispers also managed to raise an interesting moral question as well, and I was genuinely excited to see how that would be handled. Unfortunately, I was disappointed in the answer.
The alien entity Drill, we learn, is dying. He requires energy, nuclear or electrical, to live. Unfortunately for Drill, the amount of energy he is able to consume at any given time is not enough to sustain him. With this knowledge, our characters finally figure out a way to kill him—they can cut him off from power grids, trap him, and then wait as he slowly starves to death. The only way for Drill to save himself is to possess a child. This possession would also result in the death of whatever child he chooses. Furthermore, the possession is permanent.
Even though Drill would be vulnerable once he takes over a child’s body and easily killed, this would still require a child sacrifice, which is not something our characters are keen on. Instead, they opt for the power-grid option that I mentioned earlier, and surprisingly, this plan does work. Unfortunately, Drill knows what our characters are up to, and he tricks a child into finding him when the power goes out. Drill then threatens to possess and kill the child if the power is not restored.
This was the moment when our ethical dilemma was brought forward. If the characters let Drill go, they save this one child, but they run the risk of condemning another child, while allowing Drill yet more time to finish his master plan. Naturally, our heroes Claire and Wes want to turn the power back on, since they don’t think sacrificing a child is the right way to go. And while I agree with them on that point, not being the right way doesn’t change the fact that this was the only way, or rather, the least awful way. Normally when protagonists make decisions like this, we expect in the end for everything to work out well. If they’re planning on saving this one child and refuse to sacrifice him, then surely they’ll manage to save any other child. Otherwise, all they’ve done is trade one life for another life, while endangering a whole bunch of other people in the process. In other words, it makes them irresponsible assholes. Turning the power back on was literally the stupidest thing the characters could have done, and yet for some unfathomable reason, the president agreed to do it, despite his advisers telling him what a horrible and dangerous idea that was.
So naturally, shit hits the fan. Drill gets back at Wes for almost killing him by murdering Lena, because what this show really needed was to fridge its best character for an adulterous asshole’s manpain. Following that, Drill possesses the president’s daughter, which gives him direct access to the White House. He also murders the reoccurring character Dr. Maria Benavidez. This death is particularly upsetting, considering that she is a woman of color and that just about every time we see her, she’s being kidnapped or coerced into doing things she doesn’t want to. That said, like Lena, she was one of the better characters. Despite being one of the smartest people on the show, her reactions to Drill and the trauma she faced, as well as her ability to pull through them, made her very likeable. Also like Lena, her characterization was certainly far from perfect, but for the purposes of The Whispers, she was definitely a decent character by comparison to everyone else. She should not have been killed.
Unfortunately, things then start to get even worse. Drill frames Minx, Wes’s daughter, as being the possessed child, which almost results in her execution. And then Drill succeeds in his master plan: sending a message out into space for his brethren. A whole bunch of other aliens show up, and in the season finale, they abduct a bunch of children, whom they’re probably going to kill. That includes the child Wes and Claire originally tried to save.
During these finale episodes, The Whispers really did pick up. It most certainly could have done better in some areas—it was very obvious that Drill possessed the president’s daughter and not Minx, despite what the narrative tries to trick us into thinking—and even Lena’s fridging wasn’t too bad. Her character existed as more than an extension of Wes in the earlier episodes. She was developed and well rounded. In other words, her character did more than just get killed off. Furthermore, Wes’s character was dull and boring and it wasn’t until his grief over Lena’s death that I could really get invested in him. Now that Lena was gone, he and Minx only had each other, and that gave us some really good moments between the two of them. However, a fridging is still a fridging, and a character shouldn’t have to rely on another character dying to be interesting.
The Whispers definitely has some really good moments and potential for great characters. It just does not take advantage of those things. Even the aforementioned moral dilemma was great—is it okay to sacrifice one child in order to save many?—but it doesn’t explore that at all. The show wants us to believe that, no, it’s not okay. Yet the following events prove the opposite. Yeah, it would have been horrible had that child died—I totally agree that saving that child was the right thing to do—but his death would have been less horrible than what happened. I don’t believe The Whispers have been renewed yet for a second season, and if it does come back, I’ll certainly watch it. But as it is, I can’t say another season is something I really need in my life. If it does come back, hopefully the show will do better.