The screenwriter Andy Siara is carving something of a niche for himself as the go-to man for concept-heavy, resort-based black comedies. Having turned a popular California holiday destination into a hellish metaphysical prison in the clever 2020 time-loop film Palm Springshe’s now developed a series about a beachside hotel harboring a dark secret.
The Resort is a shape-shifting, disorienting affair. It starts out like a conventional romcom, with thirtysomething couple Emma and Noah arriving at a deluxe retreat on Mexico’s Riviera Maya to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. “Celebrate” is perhaps a strong word; it’s obvious from their relief at having been allocated twin beds that trouble predates their stay at this coastal paradise.
As Noah (William Jackson Harper) happily snores away the dying embers of youth, Emma (Cristin Milioti) anxiously checks for signs of aging in the mirror. An “all inclusive” holiday clearly doesn’t include much in the way of excitement or purpose.
Until it does. On a quad bike ride in the jungle the next day, Emma skids off the trail and lands by a relic from a bygone era — a kind of time capsule that chronicles the last known days of a wanderer. Or, in slightly more prosaic terms: a Motorola flip-phone belonging to a student who went missing in 2007 and was never found.
Not content merely to speculate about what might have happened, Emma sets about cracking the case. Some googling reveals that it also involved the disappearance of a young woman, an unidentified corpse and a devastating hurricane. Instead of asking what’s fueling his wife’s restlessness, Noah recognizes that a bit of mystery might be exactly what their marriage needs.
For a while the series becomes an enjoyably whimsical caper that follows the two amateur sleuths on their clueless hunt for clues. Intercut with their adventure are scenes set 15 years earlier that introduce us to the blossoming romance between the soon-to-vanish Sam (an amusingly gawky Skyler Gisondo) and Violet (Nina Bloomgarden). But ominous narrative clouds soon occlude such sunny scene as the tone shifts again.
Slick pacing, unpredictable plot developments and shrewd inter-episode cliffhangers crank up the foreboding and suspense. But in the process the show begins to lose its sense of humor and loosen its commitment to developing the central characters. It means that though The Resort is certainly worth a visit, it might not become a favorite you’re desperate to return to.
Available to stream on Now in the UK from July 29 and on Peacock in the US
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