We watch a lot of TV – some of it good and some of it…not so good. For the 2013 pilot season, we’re checking out a few series we won’t be writing on regularly, but may check back on throughout the season. Fresh on the docket: a game changing episode of The CW’s The Tomorrow People.
Let’s bitch it out…Let’s be clear: when I say gamechanger, I don’t mean seismic shift from mediocre to must-see-television. I’m talking about a series that at its best is a relatively light-weight pleasure, and at its worst is downright awful. So when a show like this suddenly ups its game by increasing the stakes, it’s pretty easy to take notice. If these new standards can be sustained, the show could become a lot of palatable.
The Tomorrow People is the second half of The CW’s hilariously labeled “Amell Wednesdays” because it stars Robbie Amell, the cousin of Arrow star Stephen. On the show, Robbie plays a character named Stephen (weird!), a jacked high school hunk who discovers he has X-Men-esque powers all revolving around the letter T: teleportation, telepathy and telekinesis (Side Note: he can also stop time, but that’s unimportant in this episode). Stephen very quickly learns that his newfound powers identify him as a member of the titular group who are in a “shadow war” with a government agency called Ultra <groan> that just so happens to be run by his evil uncle, Jedikiah (Mark Pellegrino). Because of course it is…
This convoluted set-up is one of the reasons that critics dismissed the pilot (that and the tin-earned dialogue, shallow characters and inevitable love triangle). Basically the show is “hot people with powers” and despite the life and death nature of the situations Stephen finds himself in, the conflict always feels surprisingly lightweight.
This changes in the fifth episode, ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ when the Tomorrow kids decide to cut loose and go party above ground like “real people”. Inevitably their excursion proves to be a trap and three members of the group are killed in a fairly startling massacre that Stephen is forced to witness by his uncle. The fact that the attack occurs after Stephen has had his mind read by an unseen honcho at Ultra (who will likely turn out to be his absent father) briefly introduces the compelling idea that Stephen is responsible. Despite the fact that that idea is quickly rejected so that some random red-shirt Tomorrow kid can take the blame, the stakes remain high. After confronting the dumb kid who sold them out to Ultra, the female leader of the group, Cara (Peyton List) takes justice into her own hands by removing the guilty kid’s powers. To cap things off, Stephen comes clean to his human friend, Astrid (Madeleine Mantock), about his powers, which is a major no-no. The results of all of these events is the promise of all sorts of interesting developments.
Now, as I said, what transpires in the episode doesn’t rescue the show. It’s still reticent to introduce more than about four speaking parts and the majority of the actors are pretty flat (Side Note: the moral of this particular episode is also a bit backwards: the one time the kids leave their underground sanctuary “to live” they’re brutally killed, thereby proving the most annoyingly self-righteous character correct). Still, ongoing issues aside, ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ suggests that The Tomorrow People isn’t afraid to explore the terrible consequences of the shadow war and make its characters a little more morally complex. If the series can use these developments to reinforce the high stakes the characters face, then The Tomorrow People could become more than the “bland CW X-Men-clone” it was initially pegged as.
The Tomorrow People airs Wednesdays at 9pm EST on The CW