TV REVIEW: The Tomorrow People Season 1, Episode 3 “Girl, Interrupted”

Girl Interrupted

Hello!

I’ll be your regular weekly reviewer for The Tomorrow People this season. I did see the first two episodes and, for the most part, I do agree with most of Aurora’s sentiments about “Pilot” and “In Too Deep.” The show is well produced, keeps the action moving and has very good special effects for any TV budget, let alone the modest one they must be saddled with from The CW Network. It’s been the character development so far that’s been lacking.

This week, thankfully, seems to be a stride toward rectifying the lack of character depth…

Again, like Aurora, I feel they did about at least a third of a season’s worth of plot twists and reveals in just the pilot episode. This rapid pacing has cost the series so far in having time to build characters and to also build truly shocking reveals, such as Uncle Jedikiah, which really could have been a big deal with lots of gravitas. Similarly, a big fault of the series so far has been Stephen as a “Gary Stu.” After all, he’s not only the son of the missing leader but also probably a TTP messiah who has powers none of the others or even Ultra knew existed. Hell, in the first episode, I think the series makes a joke comparison of him to Moses. He’s been given the archetype of “Chosen One” in lieu of real character development for the most part.

To be honest, I’m always leery of The Chosen One trope. I think Harry Potter and Buffy the Vampire Slayer did it well by eventually inverting it in both cases. After all, The Order of the Phoenix heavily implies Neville could have as easily fit the prophecies just as in the series finale of Buffy, aptly called “Chosen,” Buffy shares her gift and Slayerness with all other potentials around the world. I think the “I’m the only one” cliché is over-used too much in paranormal teen fare, and I was a bit disappointed that Stephen wasn’t just an average level powered tomorrow person who happens to be related to their great leader.

I will admit, however, I like that duality of Stephen’s father. I think it’s interesting that for Stephen, his father was the mentally ill man always moving them around and then seemingly becoming a deadbeat dad but to John, Cara, and everyone else, he’s a great leader. Now, that’s a character beat and family history worth exploring. This actually brings me to segueing into tonight’s episode, “Girl, Interrupted.”

So far, TTP does adequately with the action and the requisite pretty teens played by twenty something actors. If anything, it could be accused of being too by the numbers and too soulless and slick. Where you really see the glimmers of potential into being a good not just an adequate filler post-Arrow show is in the character moments. In “Pilot,” the best moments to me were of Stephen’s flashback to his father’s coin trick and just the small, sad look he gives his mom sacked out on the couch from double shifts she’s been pulling to afford his meds. In “In Too Deep,” it’s the flashback we’re allowed to see to when Stephen’s father left. There’s some deep emotional things to mine here and when they do that and don’t worry about Chosen One tropes or getting a million plot points out of the gate, the writers create a much more engaging show. That’s why, for the most part, I really liked “Girl, Interrupted.” It’s the first episode of the series that I actually enjoyed and had a real emotional connection to.

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The basic recap:

John decides they can implant a flash drive (just go with it) to hack the Ultra mainframe so that Tim, their own subterranean supercomputer, can follow Ultra’s “breakout” alerts. Basically, they’ll be using Ultra’s own intel secretly to find potential blossoming tomorrow people before the bad guys do. All Stephen has to do as the inside man is plant the flash drive (yes because that’s how those work) into the network cable and voila. He’s going to be given a boost from Cara, the strongest of the rebel groups’ telepaths, who will serve as his lookout…except she’s having emotional issues on the fifth year anniversary of her own discovery of her powers. She blanks out on Stephen and he runs into his evil uncle/boss Jedikiah and it’s enough for his uncle to suspect a compromise and spring a trap with fake computer reports. This lures Cara into a trap and she’s caught.

Eventually Stephen has to give her a “cure” shot of recombinant DNA therapy so that she’ll be rendered human and no longer a threat to Ultra. It’s the only option Jedikiah will accept besides flat out termination. So Cara’s injected and we think she’s lost her powers…except after the commercial break it’s revealed that Messiah!Stephen has locked into his super speshul time-stopping power (he’s the only tomorrow person on record capable of it) and uses it to do a fake out switch at the last minute of saline for the recombinant DNA solution. Cara’s safe and so is Stephen’s cover as long as Jedikiah never sees her use her powers again. This mission even leads Cara to share herself and her own pain with an empathetic flash to Stephen of the night she was kicked out of her home after her “breakout.” Moreover it’s revealed by Jedikiah that Cara is the most powerful telepath he’s ever encountered and couldn’t be read by anyone on Ultra’s staff.

There’s a B-plot about Stephen overhearing the suicide plans of a classmate named Emily and finally convincing the other tomorrow people into helping her. Cara essentially talks Emily out of her decision to park in the way of an oncoming train and all seems well. However, in the final minutes of the episode, Astrid confronts Stephen about his disappearing act at the tracks and he lies to her about it to cover his powers (for his friends’ sake, Astrid’s own safety, and even his uncle’s wishes for his employees and discretion). She’s furious and vows to find it all out for herself. DUN DUN DUN!

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The Good:

 

*          Cara has had no real character to me since the start beyond “clear key point in a brewing love triangle where John and Stephen will posture for her.” I mean, yes, she’s been a typical tough chick archetype. She’s also been a bit easy to hate, to be honest. The way John clearly loves her and she knows it and yet she refuses to admit to the true nature of the relationship with Stephen while sneaking him gifts and going to Chinese dinners is insulting. It was setting her up for two-timing minx and I wasn’t liking that. I’m not sure this episode has really turned it around, but I see a lot of great character work done here with Cara and I like it.

The episode uses flashbacks to the night of Cara’s breakout to really drive home points about her character and why she is as she is. Essentially, she used to be deaf and mute. A boy took her out because he was told by friends, ugh, that she quite literally never says no and tries to rape her. In a panic, her powers activate and she repels him off her by telekinesis (TK). Unfortunately, that leads to him hitting his head on a rock and being killed. His father has powerful town connections and her dad is a struggling financially single father. She’ll lose any court case. As she’s being put in lock up, she teleports out of reflex and goes to her family home. Her father gives her money and tells her to leave, and she shares a tearful goodbye to her sister who is watching from the balcony.

The great thing about watching this really is hit home in the final scene with her family. Cara overhears her father thinking “I’d be better off without her.” It reveals to us that she’s so standoffish to humans because she’s been seriously burned by them. It also reveals the depth of love she has for her sister both with her tearful goodbye and her admission to Emily while waiting for the train that “a face haunts me every night before I go to sleep.” She loves her sister still very much and if we don’t see Cara’s sis later in the season as a breakout, that’s a sorely missed opportunity. Her sister looked about eight or nine five years ago. She realistically could be on the verge of breaking out herself by now.

Equally as good were watching Cara in her freak out periods in present day. She’s disoriented a bit and skittish on the train, caught in her own memories of the dance that led to her near date rape. Then when Stephen’s on the mission, she ends up being unable to filter thoughts and being deluged with a huge amounts of everyone on the street’s thoughts at once. The show is doing a great job here of showing us the price of Cara’s intense power. She might be an unbelievably gifted telepath even for a tomorrow person, but it’s eating into her sanity and by her own admission keeps her underground by choice and in order to avoid the disorientation.

This is a vulnerable side and a caring side that makes Cara more than tough chick eye candy and I loved it.

 

*         Emily’s B-plot. I don’t think we’ll ever see her again. Last week, Aurora speculated that each week would be a new tomorrow person breaking out and then watching Ultra versus the rebels in trying to get to him or her first. It seems the show is going to mix up a few plots—-Stephen’s home life, saving humans as they can with their powers, saving other new breakouts from Ultra, and any other Ultra intrigue that Jedikiah thinks up on his own.

That said, I like this added part. Clearly, the tomorrow people have never thought about acting as paranormal guardian angels before. They’ve been too mired in their own survival and that’s hard enough, to be fair. I just like that now the storylines will open up to helping and using their gifts for more than just survival and that it’s actually very human of them to help. Similarly, the show doesn’t shy away from illustrating how this can complicate lives and get into messy exposure when, even if Emily is saved by Stephen’s intervention and none the wiser, it doesn’t mean other people, like Astrid, didn’t see too much.

Also, the way that Emily’s own pain and the anniversary of the accident where she caused her sister’s death was plaguing on her mental health dove-tailed and reflected Cara’s own trauma in A-plot was well done and I just found it all very powerful.

 

*           Jedikiah isn’t completely wrong. I like that Jedikiah is ambiguous as a bad guy. Yes, he does kill people. Yes, he does have an army of operatives to hunt the tomorrow people down and neutralize them. However, we’ve seen repeatedly in just the first three episodes why he does what he does. In the pilot, Stephen didn’t even realize what he was doing but almost killed someone and did land him in the hospital. Cara’s a murderer, even if it was second degree and in self-defense. “In Too Deep,” had a bank robber who was controlling people’s free will. In this ep, almost as a throw-away joke and more a set up for Cara’s own injection procedure later, we see a low level thief who’s been using his powers to teleport into the Met and steal Van Gogh’s. Jedikiah, played with charming menace as always by the awesome Pellegrino, even admits he’d be tempted to do the same thing with powers, albeit with modernist paintings.

Basically, the tomorrow people don’t deserve to be exterminated in a genocide, but they’re not all good either. There are some huge crime waves they’ve perpetrated as well as the high chances of hurting people when they breakout, even if on accident. I like that the show is reinforcing weekly that Jedikiah’s methods are wrong and his end goal is cruel but that there still has to be protection for Homo sapiens from Homo superior and I can see how decades of fighting this war and seeing even worse crimes than some art theft would warp him. Villains are always more interesting when they think they’re the heroes and clearly Jed does.

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The Bad:

*                  The treatment of characters of color on this show sucks so far. I’m sorry, there are two PoC characters in the main cast—Astrid, Stephen’s African American and mother-henning human friend and Russell, a tomorrow person of Asian descent who steals things.

Let’s take Russell first. I have watched all three episodes of this show at least twice each to do this first review even. I had to look up Russell’s name on IMDB to write this section. That should really tell you something. I know more about Emily and she was just guest of the week to be saved than I do about Russell. Hopefully, in the next episode or two, we’ll have a Russell-centric episode that opens him up as a character much as “Girl, Interrupted” has done for Cara. So far though, he seems to exist for crude humor (his dongle joke for Tim was eye-roll worthy), to talk about gambling or stealing, or to fan boy Stephen’s powers. It’s odd to me that he’s the character most defined by his criminal past. He’s introduced to Stephen as the guy who has mastered the “no finger discount” or theft via telekinesis. He also commented in the second ep that he was an on-the-run criminal and should never have been saved by John either. In this ep, he swiped the key components of the computer’s upgrade and talked about being banned from casinos for blatant cheating. Cara’s murdered someone, albeit accidentally. John worked from Ultra so must have done horrible (albeit nonlethal things) to catch other tomorrow people. Still, it’s always Russell so far coded as criminal and smarmy.

Astrid’s better to an extent. She had been painted so far as loyal to Stephen and not turning her back on him when everyone thought he was having a schizophrenic breakdown. She’s almost like a second mother to him—checking he’s had his meds, helping him socialize at a party, and calling his mom in ep 2 when he’s gone non-communicative. I was getting a feeling in ep 1 and 2, much as Aurora was, that she might be more of the afterthought point in a love quadrangle/some minor competition with Cara. However, the show as of the end of “Girl, Interrupted” has positioned her as someone distrustful, angry, and who might hurt Stephen with her future research and rejection. I was surprised she found out by episode three as that could have easily been a reveal saved for February sweeps. Things really do happen too fast on this show for good character growth. Her about face would be much, much more powerful if we had about ten more eps of her being the supportive friend who keeps being crushed by Stephen spending more time with TTP. Here it comes off as much more vindictive and fair weather. It’s assuredly not flattering and is a boring turn for her.

 

*            Tired use of rape as trauma. This doesn’t quite hit the “women in refrigerators” angle of rape and torturing of women as a plot point but it’s still annoying. Yes, Stephen, too, activated to trauma. He was just being beaten up by a school bully. Why do we have to up the ante because Cara’s a woman to using attempted rape as a shock point? It’s lazy and overkill to me.

 

*           A few plot holes in Cara’s flashbacks/breakout night. I am still confused about how her dad was supposed to be in the station filling things out as she’s being put in lockdown and then she teleports and he’s back at the family house hours later. Did it take time for her to be processed? Did she teleport through time and space? It’s a bit lazy writing and was jarring even on first watch. Also, I get that she was deaf and now can hear, but her spoken English wouldn’t be perfect all of a sudden in a few minutes. Also, could the police even fully have her taken away and such without an interpreter there for her rights to be read to her?

 

*           Stephen is Jesus, we get it. I’m glad that Cara is still actively powered. That’s good. However, I still feel I’m going to get tired of Stephen being so super awesome with his super awesome powers. He’s beginning to become a deus ex machina with his time stops. Also, of course the tomorrow people never thought of helping humans till now/took that leap. Last week, Stephen got them to save a high risk criminal break out and this week it’s now onto helping humans. I get a bit tired already of John looking either too hard-hearted or incompetent just because Stephen is the best.

 

*           Stephen is an idiot. Last week was all about that, especially with him seeming shocked there was a wet works part of Ultra. This week, what did he really think would happen when he talked to his uncle about wanting to help a human with his powers? Did you think there’d be hugs and “that’s a great idea!” Of course not, you moron. The only redeeming thing is that he used his powers and is now going to be paying a price for it. I do think TTP need to help and do more than just survive. I like seeing them be active and not just reactive. However, Stephen is still a dim bulb.

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The Verdict: I’m giving this episode 3.5/5 stars. I would have made it a solid four out of five for being the first interesting, emotionally involving episode of the series and for bringing great depth to Cara. That said, I feel like we’re one step forward and two steps back here because, while Cara made great progress, Astrid is now pretty easy to hate for being a turncoat and Russell continues to be useless and grating.

 

Next Week: Awkward family dinner because Bella Swan’s, sorry, Stephen’s mom is angry that he’s been working for Uncle Jedikiah without telling her first. If she only knew…

Rating: 3.5/5

Reviewer: Margaret Bates

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