'The Whispers' Mystery Exposed

"We weren't just going to polar bear" the answers, showrunner Zack Estrin tells THR.
ABC/Eike Schroter

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the fifth episode of ABC's The Whispers.]

Before The Whispers even aired its first episode, showrunner Zack Estrin described episode five as pivotal.

The ABC drama ended this week's episode with the discovery of a glowing, floating space rock/ship that seems to be psychically connected to Sean (Milo Ventimiglia), perhaps finally getting to the core mystery of the summer drama.

The reveal was originally included in the pilot, but producers opted to reconfigure the series to draw out the reveal and deliver a bigger impact.

"The great thing about this episode is that we got to reveal what caused that thing that was found in the desert in the pilot," Estrin tells The Hollywood Reporter. "We weren't just going to polar bear the thing, we were actually able to show the answer. And as Wes (Barry Sloane) figures out where it came from, we come right back to the beginning of the pilot."

Here, Estrin talks with THR about what that reveal means and how that sets the stage for the second half of the season.

Getting Wes back to the desert involved a lot of planning by ["imaginary friend"] Drill.

The nice thing about Drill is that because he travels by electricity, he has the ability to be in one place and then be somewhere else rather quickly. He is incredibly smart in that way, rather than fortunate. Everything Drill does is very intentional and very plotted. Perhaps he's tried this at other times and he wasn't seen. And we're only seeing him now because he's successful in getting his plan executed. This is all something he could not have done on his own. He doesn't have the power to move objects and to do things. So he needs people to do his dirty work for him. And sometimes the kids can do that for him. But in some situations — and that's the case in episode five — the kids can't do it. But they can get someone else to do it. And all of this comes from the fact that he can only communicate with kids. Kids are the only ones that can hear him, and that's why he's forced to do things that way.

Now that a few episodes have aired, do you feel as if the viewers caught all the clues they've been given?

For the most part people have caught the details we wanted them to catch. I did see a lot of comments along the lines of "John Doe/Sean was able to turn off that electric fence when he walked up to it in the end of episode three." And what was actually happening there — and that was probably a mistake on our part — is that Drill turned off that fence for him to let him in. Another bit of confusion was when Harper's mom seems to recover thanks to Drill. That shouldn't be construed as magic or that somehow Drill was just able to have her come back to life. That's an entirely different level of show that we're not doing here. What was supposed to be clear there — and I don't know that it was — was that he manipulated the electricity in the machine to in essence trigger her nervous system out of her coma. So he just manipulated the electricity, and there was no magic there. I want to be clear that Drill has no special powers; he can only do things that involve electricity and speaking with children. I don't want viewers to get the impression that Drill is all-powerful, because he is completely not.

Claire (Lily Rabe) seems to turn a corner in this episode. Over the past couple of weeks she's spent a lot of time screaming and worrying about Henry. This week, she finally seems to remind herself that she's not just a mother but also an FBI agent.

In this episode she's moving from being reactive to proactive, if I was going to be a network suit type. Episode five is the beginning of the second chapter of the show. It's the next step in Drill's plan. So in essence, the first four episodes were Drill's first step. So then the question is, "Now what is he going to do with the energy he trapped at the end of episode four?" That question is going to begin to be answered. And what's great about Claire in episodes five and six is that she is beginning to take the bull by the horns. She is actively trying to figure out what his plan is.

How does this episode set up the back half of the season?

The show is going to be ratcheting itself up. We are going to be revealing Drill, because he cannot be seen, but for the first time, we will get a sense of who or what he is. How can we show you something you cannot see? That's what we're going to do in episode six. We're also going to see the impact that Claire has on Drill.

What did you think of The Whispers' big reveal? Sound off in the comments below.

The Whispers airs Mondays at 10 p.m. on ABC.