A Supposedly Fun Vacation They’ll Never Do Again

It’s a little odd that there’s been multiple major projects in the last year all centered around a luxurious island resort that’s not what it seems. The White Lotus, Old, Nine Perfect Strangers, and even Vacation Friends have all focused on various cacophonies and chaos coming from these little pampered paradises, and now there’s The Resort (not to be confused with last year’s horror film The Resort; apparently even titles referring to luxury resorts are being done multiple times). Maybe it’s a symptom of late capitalism, or a product of the pandemic, a way for people to enjoy pampered tropical vacations at a time when cruise ships are terrifying.


Whatever the cause may be, The Resort is a solid new incarnation of the ‘vacations gone wrong’ theme, although it so far doesn’t quite live up to its excellent pedigree. The original Peacock series was executive produced and co-developed by Sam Esmail, who injects the same twisty sense of mystery he brought to Mr. A robot; it was created and co-written by Andy Siara and bears many resemblances to his wonderful time-loop film Palm Springs; and it’s directed by Ben Sinclair (who also co-stars), whose unique insight into relationships and the human condition can be seen in High Maintenance. They unite a great cast to tell an interesting, fun, but convoluted story that’s entertaining if rather unfocused.

What The Resort Is All About

The Resort takes place on a tropical resort south of Cancun in the Mayan Riviera, mostly alternating between 2007 and 2022. William Jackson Harper (so endearing and funny in The Good Place and Patterson) plays Noah, a kind but somewhat bland man on a 10-year anniversary with his wife, Emma (played by Cristin Milioti). Milioti was also in Palm Springs and was great in the recently canceled underrated HBO show Made For Love; she brings the same sarcasm, beauty, and subtlety from those projects to The Resortcontinuing to be one of the most underrated actors working today.

Emma is experiencing an existential crisis of sorts, washed over with boredom and dissatisfaction, unsettled by the quickening process of aging that’s causing sagging skin, cavities, worse hangovers, and everything else which looms over each subsequent decade like gravity (although Milioti is of course gorgeous). When she discovers an old razor phone in the dirt, she takes it as an opportunity to pursue a little mystery and reignite a spark that has died out in her life. After more digging, she realizes the phone belongs to a man in a missing person’s case on the island from 15 years ago, and ropes Noah into exploring it, though what they investigate (and what The Resort is actually about) is still a bit unclear.

The series alternates between their often delightful story, a couple investigating a cold case as a kind of marriage counseling, and the missing persons’ case from 2007. In that timeline, Sam (the always charming Skyler Gisondo) and Violet (the relative newcomer Nina Bloomgarden) meet on vacation and get in over their heads while searching for a missing skateboard. Sam and Violet’s story is hardly as fun as Emma and Noah’s despite their good chemistry, and it takes a while for anything to actually happen in the 2007 timeline, but it does create a nice contrast that actually strengthens the characters in the 2022 story. Arguably the best part of the 2007 events, however, is Nick Offerman’s touching, wonderful performance as Violet’s grieving father.

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The web of mystery which weaves the two timelines together takes a while to develop and is occasionally frustrating. A variety of bigger ideas are hinted at (involving the implications of time travel, the nature of memory, and the possibility of destiny) but require patience to unfold, and even when they do, it sometimes feels as if key puzzle pieces or logical details are missing. Fortunately, the joy of watching Milioti and Harper run around town, either chasing clues or being chased themselves while contemplating their marriage, is usually enough to forgive slow narrative pacing or a convoluted mystery.

The Aging Relationship is More Interesting Than the Mystery

Like Andy Samberg and Milioti in Palm Springsthe relationship between Milioti and Harper is the cornerstone of The Resort. Reaching their tenth year of matrimony (what one woman calls “the puberty of marriage”), it’s clear that they aren’t particularly enamored with the people they’re aging into. Emma frantically explores the cold case of the past, desperate for mystery in order to avoid confronting the banal truths of her relationship and mortality. The late author David Foster Wallace penned a wonderful essay (originally for Harper’s Magazine under a different title) about his experience aboard a cruise ship, entitled A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Againin which he writes:

I don’t think it’s an accident that 7NC Luxury Cruises appeal mostly to older people. I don’t mean decrepitly old, but I mean like age-50+ people, for whom their own mortality is something more than an abstraction. Most of the exposed bodies to be seen all over the daytime [cruise ship] Nadir were in various stages of disintegration.

This kind of decay haunts The Resort, from Noah and Emma exploring decrepit old buildings to Emma’s actual tooth falling out. Just like their relationship, their bodies are getting older, and it terrifies them. Noah’s not getting any younger either, though, falling asleep throughout the day with loud snores while Emma rolls her eyes.

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He’s sexually and emotionally frustrated with Emma, ​​leading to insecurities and jealousies, but he sees the unbridled curiosity and excitement she gets from this mystery, so he goes along with all of it. The mystery they embark upon literally dredges up the past (upsetting a large cabal of mysterious people with something to hide), which brings some darker aspects of their relationship to the surface, and manifests a few ideas that The Resort is able to land.

A Deadly Vacation to The Resort

For them, just as it is for many couples, a vacation can become less of an escape and more of an unwelcome encounter with all the unresolved or repressed problems in a relationship. Maybe that’s part of the reason why luxurious resorts and vacations have been the catalysts for so many stories in the past year. There’s something about this attempt at an escape from reality that exposes the underlying fears of aging, death, and relationship problems we all have. Wallace continues in his essay:

There is something about a mass-market luxury cruise that’s unbearably sad. Like most unbearably sad things, it seems incredibly elusive and complex in its causes and simple in its effect: on board the Nadir — especially at night — I felt despair. The word’s overused and banalified now, despair, but it’s a serious word, and I’m using it seriously. For me, it denotes a simple admixture — a weird yearning for death combined with a crushing sense of my own smallness and futility that presents as a fear of death.

Death is all around The Resort, which is filled with characters who are trying to escape it by pursuing mystery, indulging in luxury, and searching for meaning, anything to keep them from feeling the pain of getting older and the uncertainty of where life and love is going (or has gone ). People ask about “the point” and “meaning” multiple times The Resort as a kind of mission statement. “Why does something have to mean something?” Sam asks his cheating girlfriend. “What if there are no answers?” Noah asks Emma. “Then what’s the fu*king point?” she responds.

The Resort Requires Patience But Milioti and Harper Are Great

That might be the same question viewers ask of The Resort; even after four episodes, it’s not entirely clear what ‘the point’ is, or even what the overarching mystery may be. Thing don’t all add up at this juncture, and the actual plot doesn’t entirely entice audiences to stick around in order to see if things finally come together in some sense. But watching Milioti and Harper is a joy, and the way they are used to navigate these ideas of mortality, relationship problems, avoidance, and the sadness at the heart of luxurious vacations is certainly interesting. There are definitely better vacations for reality out there, but if you have some patience and curiosity, this might be a nice trip to take.

Produced by All For Ramonez, Esmail Corp., Anonymous Content, and UCP, three episodes of The Resort are publicly available on Peacock now, with new episodes of the eight-part series streaming every Thursday.

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