What happens if you think your future will never be as good as your past? This question plagues The Resort’s Emma Reed (Cristin Milioti), who feels stuck in her 10-year marriage with Noah (William Jackson Harper). It also ultimately drives Peacock’s dark comedy, which explores fascinating ideas about love, loss, and the memories that help hold them together.
It’s too bad that The Resort tethers those big concepts to a rather unwieldy suspense story. While it poses meaningful questions about the permanency of time and life, the writing fails to explain the show’s surprisingly mystical answers. Yet despite its shaky coherence, the series still makes for weirdly compelling fun. Most of the credit for that goes to a ridiculously charming ensemble of character actors—Milioti, Harper, Luis Gerard Méndez, and Skyler Gisondo in particular—who pull off emotional and comedic nuance even as The Resort gets caught up in its complicated premise.
About that premise, which starts simply enough: Emma and Noah take a trip to the Mayan Riviera, hoping a tropical vacation at an all-inclusive resort might revive their relationship. (Never underestimate the power of unlimited alcohol to provide a spark.) It’s immediately evident that they’re on different pages about almost everything. (Even so, Milioti and Harper share a warm and believable chemistry.) During an ATV ride in the wilderness, Emma falls and cosmically lands by an old flip phone belonging to Sam Lawford (Gisondo). In 2007, Sam and fellow teen Violet (Nina Bloomgarden) went missing from a neighboring resort called Oceana Vista, which has since shut because of hurricane damage.
Despite similarities to last summer’s frothy The White Lotus, the Peacock show is actually more reminiscent of Search Party, in which Alia Shawkat’s Dory Sief seeks adventure outside a monotonous relationship by obsessively looking for a missing acquaintance. In The Resort, Emma makes it her mission to solve this 15-year-old mystery, seemingly to fulfill her craving for an adrenaline rush. Emma and Noah, along with resort employees Baltasar (Méndez) and Luna (Gabriela Cartol), traipse around the Yucatan Peninsula hunting for clues that only get stranger with each discovery.
The Resort initially brims with intrigue, with flashbacks depicting Sam and Violet’s chance meeting in 2007 while on vacation with their families. After instantly bonding, they get unexpectedly roped into a larger-than-life legend pertaining to Violet’s favorite author, Illan Ibbera (Luis Guzman). Their quest makes for an interesting contrast to Noah and Emma’s present-day search. Sam and Violet are a young couple full of hope and romance. They’ll do stupid things to spend time together, including looking for his missing skateboard. Noah and Emma’s days of excitement, meanwhile, are long gone, and it often feels like she’s trying to recapture past glories by holding onto photos and memories from a cell phone that isn’t even hers.
Rather than honing in on that parallel, The Resort gets lost as it introduces a variety of possibilities. Is eccentric resort owner Alex (Ben Sinclair) involved in Sam and Violet’s disappearance? Is Baltasar really who he claims to be? And what about that wealthy-but-shady Mexican family Emma and Noah get caught up with, which leads to an even more labyrinthine narrative? Plus, almost everyone here is going through some form of grief or longing, but The Resort muddles those (potentially thrilling) stories by not fleshing any of them out.
The good news is that the ever-reliable Milioti makes this a worthy watch with her take on Emma’s disorienting, ultimately relatable personality. After an exemplary performance in the canceled-too-soon Made For Love, she aces yet another complex character. The show’s MVP, though, is Méndez, who balances the thin line between being funny and allegedly menacing without revealing his intentions. The Resort also features a smorgasbord of always-welcome faces, from Nick Offerman as Violet’s father to Parvesh Cheena and Michael Hitchcock as a couple (they’re both named Ted) who befriend Noah and Emma. The delightful ensemble makes The Resort a breeze, even if the payoff leaves something to be desired.