As if in direct response to the ongoing heat wave, The Resort concocts an ambitious vacation adventure that provides both fast-paced escapism and a meditation on the languid effects of time.
Showrunner and executive producer Andy Siara previously wrote the screenplay for Palm Springs, a romantic comedy that follows two wedding guests stuck in a time loop. Amidst the expected charisma of Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti, the film examines how time shapes long-term relationships by imagining a world where every day literally looks the same. Companionship might not be necessary, but it sure makes the monotonous a lot more special.
The Resort traverses similar landscapes. An obsession over the passage of time? Check. A trip to a picturesque locale that poses a break from “real” life? Check. An enthralling Milioti? Check. But the Peacock series is more ambitious in scope, cutting across two timelines and delving into a wider cast of characters. The show’s a bit of a genre puzzle too: part mystery, part off-kilter comedy, part old-fashioned adventure à la Romancing the Stone, part love story. Some of the fun is figuring out how weird The Resort is willing to get with its answers.
Milioti stars as Emma, a woman vacationing in the Mayan Riviera with husband Noah (William Jackson Harper). The pair are celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary—or what concierge Luna (Gabriela Cartol) declares “the puberty of marriage.” She sits by their resort’s hot tub taking online quizzes about when to leave a relationship. He holds his breath during a kiss, admitting “You got something a little stinky going on in there.” But Noah’s also content to weather out this lull in their relationship, while her crisis has deepened into something more existential.
Vacation is just the thing to bring her feelings to the surface. For Emma, paradise will never live up to fantasy expectations, but returning home won’t be as good as remembered either. She cynically likens this pattern to life. A reprieve comes when she crashes during an ATV ride through the jungle and lands next to a dusty Motorola. Emma learns that the phone belonged to Sam (Skyler Gisondo), a college student who disappeared from the nearby Oceana Vista resort 15 years ago. So did Violet (Nina Bloomgarden), a young woman that he had seemingly no connection with. The day after their disappearance, a once-in-a-lifetime hurricane wrecked the resort, destroying all evidence.
Emma decides to investigate their case, ostensibly desiring closure for Sam and Violet’s parents, though it becomes clear that she harbors the type of personal loss that would fuel a search for someone else’s. Noah gets on board when he sees how much this means to her—thankfully so, because it’s much more fun when both actors are involved. It’s a small shame that we don’t get to see much of the couple’s early days, but even flashes of their shared crude humor bring weight to their 15-year history. Milioti is magnetic as always, bringing a sympathetic edge to the prickly, single-minded Emma, who struggles to treat Noah like a true partner. Jackson teases out a complicated compassion in his reactions, making it clear that Noah’s not ok with what’s happening, but he still wants to make sure she’s ok.
Back in 2007, Sam and Violet provide a comparison as they begin a tentative romance. There’s a genuine sweetness to their interactions, especially when the show taps into the awkwardness of first getting to know someone. Part of their relationship’s appeal is its potential. The possibilities still seem endless. The Resort plays with this lure of nostalgia by dipping its toes into a slightly heightened reality: a cinematic three-minute long take introduces the once-thriving Oceana Vista, tunneling through a keyhole and sweeping past curtains. Shimmering dissolves and psychedelic imagery connect the two timelines with the surrounding nature. An in-universe novel called “La Desilusión del Tiempo” [The Disappointment of Time] adds to the characters’ hope for something more.
But make no mistake: The Resort’s metaphysical flair never gets too heady to override its fundamental quest to entertain. Visual humor adds to the offbeat comedy. Emma delivers an intense speech with a prominent smudge of jam on her cheek. Lest things get too serious, there’s a match cut of her and Noah drinking alcoholic beverages as a way to transport them between locations.
There are also plenty of narrative misdirects. Take the early introduction of the Friás, a powerful local family that may-or-may-not have criminal connections. The show fortunately pulls back from that stereotype, instead introducing the delightful Baltasar Frías (Luis Gerardo Méndez), the Oceana Vista’s former head of security. His childhood love for detective novels inspired his career choice and his own journey for answers to Sam and Violet’s disappearance. There’s a literary slant to his prying questions, and Méndez nails the subdued exasperation that fine, he’ll share something personal about himself first if that’ll make you more comfortable. His emotional openness makes his wry line readings all the more fascinating. No spoilers here, but if The Resort’s eyeing a second season, Baltasar might be the key.
Time inspires and disappoints The Resort’s inhabitants, and it’s ultimately a double-edged sword for the show too, which could have used a longer stay. Not all of its ambitions quite land within the eight 35ish-minute episodes, and some character moments feel rushed, perhaps inevitably. Luna, another former Oceana Vista employee, has hints of a compelling backstory, but the show waffles on whether to fully bring her into the fold. More than a few ideas fade away unsatisfactorily into memory, though they’re less glaring plot holes and more “Hey, whatever happened with [redacted]…?”
But to its credit, the show’s confident trek forward also smooths down loose threads. The rapid twists and likable cast make the mystery a diverting watch that doesn’t waste any time getting started. As the dog days of summer drag on, The Resort provides a welcome respite of AC-sanctioned fun.
The first three episodes of The Resort premiere on Thursday, July 28th on Peacock, with further episodes dropping weekly.
Annie Lyons is a culture writer from Austin, Texas who loves all things coming-of-age and romantic comedy. You can find her on Twitter @anniexlyons probably debating another Moonstruck rewatch.
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