The Resort Review: William Jackson Harper, Cristin Milioti Star

To say that “The Resort” has more to offer than it seems is saying something, considering just how much it already has at first glance. Created by “Palm Springs” writer Andy Siara, and with a stacked cast led by the always killer Cristin Milioti (“Palm Springs,” “Made for Love”) and William Jackson Harper (“Love Life,” “The Good Place”), the series unpacks a mystery that only gets wilder, deeper, and more disorienting with each passing episode. One of the year’s most intriguing TV surprises, “The Resort” will deserve a bigger audience than it’ll likely get on Peacock (where three episodes are currently available to stream, should you be able to find them).

In the beginning, Siara and Allison Miller’s “The Resort” presents itself as a relatively straightforward story, albeit one unfolding in two parallel timelines. In 2007, Violet (Nina Bloomgarden) and Sam (Skyler Gisondo) meet at a resort in Mexico before disappearing into thin air the night before a catastrophic hurricane. In 2022, Emma (Milioti) and her husband, Noah (Harper), stumble upon the first clue in years as to where they might have gone, leading the especially restless (and reckless) Emma to dive headfirst into more questions than she can actually answer.

Even as Sam and Violet’s timeline takes on a darker tone, Bloomgarden and Gisondo provide a giddy energy that nicely counterbalances Emma and Noah’s married struggles. (Between this, “Licorice Pizza,” “The Righteous Gemstones,” “Booksmart,” and “Santa Clarita Diet,” Gisondo is truly making a play for becoming one of Hollywood’s most reliable and underrated comedic aces in the hole.) Milioti and Harper, as could be expected, are perfect casting choices for a show like this, which requires them to run the gamut of emotions while retaining a sharp comedic edge. Of the two, Milioti gets the fuller character arc to play with, as Emma tries her very best to push down her weaknesses in favor of fully embracing the apathy of true nihilism.

Other notable performances include Nick Offerman as Violet’s grieving father, the delightful married acting couple of Dylan and Becky Ann Baker playing Sam’s harried parents, and Gabriela Cartol as an ever-watchful manager whose sporadic appearances only leave you wanting more. When Ben Sinclair, who also directed the first four episodes, shows up as a rapidly unraveling man, he takes the off-kilter energy latent in his iconic “High Maintenance” character and cranks it up to eleven hundred. In the show’s pivotal fourth episode, though, it’s Luis Gerardo Méndez who swoops in with a deftly funny performance in a part that could easily devolve into expository nonsense, but instead anchors the entire show.

“The Resort” proves itself refreshingly eager to push itself to ask more questions and leave each episode on a note that makes it near impossible to stop watching. It’s also frankly rather exciting to watch a show that doesn’t look or feel quite like any other, as directors including Sinclair and Ariel Kleiman wind through dizzying hotel hallways and tangibly humid jungles alike with discerning eyes for detail. And as Emma and Noah get further into the lore of Sam, Violet, and the resort that seemed to swallow them whole, “The Resort” reveals its truer and bigger ambitions.

Nestled inside the mysteries lie the ghosts of Emma and Noah’s marriage, the painful pasts haunting most everyone who ends up crossing their path, and the equally terrifying and exhilarating possibility that maybe, just maybe, there’s something bigger than all of them waiting just ahead. It’s hard to say much more about what else the show’s even about without giving away the twists, of which there are many. If you’ve already seen “Palm Springs,” though, you might have an idea of the kinds of turns “The Resort” takes, and/or some of the variations on themes of love and loss that it explores along the way.

As time begins to run out for answers by the end of the season’s eight episodes, it seems pretty clear that “The Resort” might’ve taken on more than it can ultimately handle. And yet, watching it feels akin to what it might’ve been like for Violet to read the book of adventures her mother left her, with affection if not much clarity. Even if it doesn’t know exactly where it’s going, “The Resort” is still so committed to making the journey worth the while that it very often succeeds. The most frustrating thing about its ending, really, is that there isn’t another page to turn for the next chapter — at least, not yet.

The first three episodes of “The Resort” are now available to stream on Peacock, with new episodes dropping weekly on Thursdays.

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