You’ve probably seen the commercials, the ones that breathlessly ask, “What if an imaginary friend wasn’t imaginary?” You’ve probably seen the billboards, the ones that warn, “Not all imaginary friends are imaginary.” You’ve probably seen the ads on this very website, blocking your view (maybe it’s even blocking this page right now) until you can no longer get the phrase “imaginary friend” out of your head. Well, congratulations, you’ve made it—to the real, not imaginary ABC summer series The Whispers!!!!!! Oh, sorry, shhhh… the whispers.
So yes, welcome to the first recap of The Whispers, your average show/PSA against imaginary friends about kids who get manipulated by some murderous invisible entity named “Drill” that wants them to do its mysterious bidding and drop truth bombs on their parents. But let’s not get to that just yet: We open on an idyllic suburban neighborhood—bubbles blown from off-screen and all!—where some playful children are running through sprinklers. One little girl named Harper stands off to the side to chat with some bushes about missing her dad. “Daddy’s always gone,” she tells the bushes. The bushes want her to do something. “No, I can do it, I promise!” she insists.
Harper’s mom walks over and finds out that no, Harper wasn’t talking to the rustling bushes (sorry, bushes); she was talking to an imaginary friend named “Drill,” who says joining them for lunch would be “very amenable” to him. (Well well well, I dislike Drill already.) After Harper goes back inside, though, neither she nor Drill are interested in the lunch. Harper rummages through a pail of colored chalk, grabs a backpack of tools (!!), and disappears outside. When her mother catches up to her in the treehouse, she tells her mom she has to play Drill’s “game,” and in order for her to win, her mom must step on the X marked on the floor. One step, one creak, and one glance at the tools placed next to the spot, and, well—there goes mom, falling through the broken floor panels to her (maybe?) death.
After committing attempted murder, Harper seems to have no idea what just happened, telling Drill she won and, sadly, imploring her mother to wake up. Welp. At least it’s the perfect time to roll opening credits… and move completely away from Harper so we can meet Claire, played by Lily Rabe, who escaped one American Horror Story only to end up in another. Claire, it seems, has been on leave for three months from her job as a child specialist for the FBI because reasons. She’s pulled back in after Harper’s case catches their attention. (Harper’s father works with a nuclear plant, so national security’s involved.) Claire has to say goodbye to her son, Henry, an adorable ginger moppet who lost his hearing and admits the two can’t hang out forever.
Back at the FBI, Claire hastily tucks in her shirt and tries to make a good impression on her return, even though the agent assigned to be her partner, Agent Rollins, looks less than enthused. Claire insists a 6-year-old couldn’t have come up with a plot to tamper with a treehouse on her own, but he says she probably learned how to do it on the Internet. (Really, Agent Rollins? Really?)
Luckily, Claire gets a chance to talk to Harper in a “safe room” with markers and toys to make Harper feel comfortable. Harper’s not, though, as she tells Claire Drill told her not to talk to grown-ups. She does reveal that he sometimes talks through the lights, plays the game to get “domination”—or as Harper put it, “domi…domi-notion”—and that Drill’s looking for a new friend. She also leaves behind a crudely drawn picture that Claire takes with her, and reveals Drill told her about a boy who failed the game, which leads to Claire searching for said boy and finding one: Jackson, who set off a bomb under the influence of an imaginary entity named—you guessed it!—”Drill.”
In the meantime, let’s take a look at Drill’s newest friend first: Minx. She’s Drill’s new target, and she’s the daughter of Lena, whose husband, Wes, works in the Department of Defense, Special Projects—and who, on top of that, is at least “not around her anymore.” Oooooooh. Complicated backstory aside, Minx is happy to play Drill’s game, and she gets it quickly enough to make other kids on the playground uncomfortable.
As for Wes himself, he’s making his way through the Saharan Desert while all this happens. He arrives at a base with his assistant Peter Kim (Dong from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt!) and immediately gets involved in a mystery involving a U.S. military plane wing found in the area. But before he can investigate it properly, the lights begin to flicker. He’s led to a geologist who also happens to be interested in the fighter plane, and to show him why, he’ll have to take him somewhere else, to something else, as soon as they suit up.
That’s when the lights go out completely, and we see the four figures, led by Wes, dressed in their hazmat-like suits, walking toward the “something.” It’s like a scene out of Alien—the four look up, and the camera pans around them, and we finally see it: Milo Ventimiglia! a giant, blue, glowing… thing … that’s coming out of the ground.
That reminds me: All this, and I haven’t even gotten to Milo Ventimiglia, who’s playing an anonymous figure who keeps showing up looking haggard and saying little. We’ll find out who he is soon enough, as long as you don’t look at the show’s IMDb page first. I’ll get to him. Like Harper said, I can do it, I promise!
NEXT: Drill‘s game “never stops,” which means it’s… Jumanji???