One of ABC’s newest shows to start up this summer is “The Whispers.” This supernatural, drama stars Lily Rabe as Claire Bennigan, an FBI agent who specializes in handling cases with children. She is called to return from her leave after her husband’s death to handle a case of a woman falling from a tree house and becoming seriously injured. The FBI become interested when it looks like this accident was actually caused by the woman’s six-year-old daughter, Harper (played by Abby Ryder Fortson) and also because of Harper’s dad’s ties to the nuclear plant. Claire is sent in to interview Harper to access her mental state when Harper admits that she did cause the accident but only because she wanted to win “The Game” against her friend Drill. When Claire presses on who Drill is, Harper says she has never seen him but can hear him talking to her through the lights. Harper also admits that Drill had told her that by winning “The Game” she would get some kind of domination, but this is never fully explained to her because Drill leaves once Harper’s mom is hurt so he can find a new friend. Before Claire can ask any more questions, Harper’s father, who is normally extremely busy with his job at the nuclear plant, arrives to take her home. While other FBI agents think they are just hearing about a typical imaginary friend, Claire thinks otherwise because, as she points out, kids typically know that their imaginary friends are jus that but Harper adamantly believes in Drill as a real force. Claire discovers then that there was a case a month earlier of a kid setting of an explosive in his mother’s office building, killing himself and injuring his mother. In the report, the mother says her son had been playing “The Game” with Drill.
While Claire conducts her investigation, this first episode cuts back and forth between other characters that tie into the Drill mystery. There’s the second child that Drill finds, Minx (Kylie Rogers), who finds herself in a similar situation to Harper: Minx’s father, Wes (Barry Sloane), has a job that keeps him away from home, but he and his wife are just now separated. Wes’ current assignment is to investigate a disturbance in Nigeria that could affect international relationships. When he arrives he is lead to believe that he is just there to investigate a stray piece of American aircraft that found its when into Nigeria, but he is then shown a geological anomaly: a fulgurite, or petrified lightning, that still holds some electricity, has the ability to interfere with other electronic currents, and holds the remains of a plane but with no dead body in it. All while this is happening, a mysterious John Doe finds his way around town and it seems he can get inside the mind of Drill.
“The Whispers” play on the creepiness factor of children talking to people that others cannot see and twists the cuteness given to the idea of imaginary friends. The control parents have over their children is taken over by this invisible entity Drill and that loss of control becomes dangerous. Drill is given ghost-like abilities, he can move objects and flicker lights in response to the children, he is something definitely different than the usual ghost figures that get created, especially when there is the connection created between Drill and the petrified lightning in Nigeria. “The Whispers” also has continuing theme of absent fathers; all the children Drill targets either have dead fathers or fathers who are not home a lot. These children also sometimes have emotionally absent mothers, Harper tells her mother she is always too busy on the phone. Drill fulfills the absent father figure in these children’s lives by providing them with companionship and, though it is gruesome and violent, also guidance. Drill is not satisfied with just being a father role, he needs to have total control over these kids and, therefore, needs to remove the mother role as well. For what purpose Drill is taking these kids, it is not clear yet.
Overall, this first episode gives a lot of information in an hour. Multiple relationship connections are revealed between all the groups and at times can feel like a flow chart might need to be drawn out. Not only are problems in the local community, but this first episode alludes that these problems may be causing an international ripple effect. There is a lot to unpack from the first episode, but there is a whole season to do this.