The Tomorrow People "Kill or Be Killed" Review: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?
Who knew that The Tomorrow People would turn into Lost, and so quickly? I'm kidding, but only partially. Another week, another solid flashback into the lives of one of our heroic Tomorrow People. Although this show's flashbacks aren't as evocative or compelling as the ones we saw on Lost during its early run, The Tomorrow People is doing a great job of providing the important information the audience needs in order to connect with the characters, and that the show needs to give us in order to push the story forward. And unlike what some might say about Lost, this show continues to answer some of its initial big questions while introducing others that will hopefully keep people coming back for more. I know I am.
This week's focal point was John, and just like with Cara, we learned a bit about his childhood. But perhaps more importantly, we got some insight into his early experience with Ultra and how Jedikiah took the youngster under his wing. It's not surprising that this is a show about orphans; so many shows like this are. But whereas Cara was forced into orphanhood because of what happened when she activated, we met Young John when he was already living the foster kid life, stuck with a bunch of other hopeless children in the household of a deadbeat, drunk asshole who took the gig just for the money. (And of course, Stephen is partially an orphan himself, thanks to his father's disappearance, something I'm sure the show will continue to emphasize as it moves forward). Of course, the big question here is whether or not John's real parents are meant to play a bigger role in the show's overall story. It didn't seem like this episode went out of its way to tug at that thread, but any time there are absent parents, there's room to bring them back as necessary. That's probably something we should keep an eye on in the future.
Young John was a lot like Current John: angry, but very willing to protect those he cares about. Jedikiah was able to take advantage of that pretty quickly, teaching John how to build up his abilities while giving him the kind of paternal structure that John simply never had with the deadbeat. Jedikiah basically became John's father, a bond that the present-day stuff in this episode further reinforced. The flashbacks in "Kill or Be Killed" weren't as strong as last week's, mostly because the show went back further into John's life than it did Cara's, meaning the character had to be played by an actor who wasn't Luke Mitchell. The kid was fine, and Mark Pellegrino certainly carried his weight in those sequences, but the scenes didn't have the emotional heft that Cara's story did. What we saw here wasn't as tragic, though what happened in John's past certainly means that he and his kinda-ladyfriend could easily compare war stories. Nevertheless, the flashbacks worked because, like last week, they so clearly informed every single thing that was happening in the present. That's such a simple concept, but there are many shows that fail to use the flashbacks with any real purpose, particularly in the early going. Similarly, just as last week's story about Cara dovetailed with Stephen's constant empathy for humanity, John's troubles here were directly connected to Jedikiah's central role in all of this—as a geneticist, as a mentor, as an uncle, and as a killer.
See, because as it turns out, the Tomorrow People do have the capacity to kill, and not just in the "Oops, I didn't save you so it's an 'accident,'" Batman style. Well, I should rephrase that; certain Tomorrow People can kill, and those are the ones who Jedikiah trained/programed/evolved into killers. Of course, at the moment, it appears there are only two such Tomorrow People: this week's villain, Killian McCrane (Jason Dohring of Veronica Mars fame), and John. "Kill or Be Killed" tried to build to a surprise in the final act, revealing that Killian wasn't the only murderous Tomorrow Person, but it was pretty clear from the beginning that this was the reason that John left Ultra and vowed to take down Jedikiah and his crew of baddies. John is unsurprisingly haunted by both his pre-Ultra past and all the things that Jedikiah did to him while he was an employee, but the most fascinating thing about his situation is that he still has a modicum of affection for good ol' Jed. He knows that he can't trust Jed, but he's also willing to try, if even briefly.
Furthermore, although you might expect that John would shy away from his additional Jed-given ability, the episode made it very clear that he's willing to kill if it's necessary—which it was, with Killian on a rampage. This is John's biggest secret, more than the things he did as an Ultra agent. His relationship with Killian wasn't especially fleshed-out, nor was Killian an especially interesting character; "Kill or Be Killed" got by on Dohring's natural charisma and name alone, and I think we can agree that Killian was mostly just a tool to facilitate the show's important reveals. And that's fine, because this is the kind of information we need to have, and it's exactly how the show should be moving forward with the story. I'm a little surprised that we already know that the ONE THING that Tomorrow People can't do is actually possible, but that kind of move takes some gumption, which I can respect.
More importantly, this was a really solid showcase for Mitchell and Pellegrino to do their thing and to highlight the fact that, while the battle lines may be clearly drawn between these different forces, there's going to be a lot of crossing over along the way. Mitchell did a nice job of keeping John's angst inside until the right moments, playing it cool with the rest of the crew but letting the facade fall a little bit with Jedikiah. And Pellegrino turned in a typically Pellegrino-y performance, showing us a slew of sides to what had previously been a mostly villainous character. Jedikiah's relationship with John is supremely unstable, mostly because Jedikiah can't not be an ass. There's a sense that he wants to let John deal with Killian and clean up their messes, but he simply can't bring himself to miss out on the opportunity to just kill them both.
Similarly, I got the impression that Jedikiah has a pretty good idea of where John and the rest of the TP in NYC are. Killian mentioned reading about it in the files, and Jed told Stephen to set up the meeting with John in the first place. So he has an awareness of where his greatest rivals are, the supposed threats to society, and maybe he's willing to let them hide underground. Meanwhile, Jed showed quite a bit of concern for Stephen's well being, initially by not allowing him to go into the field, and later by agreeing to have dinner with Stephen's mom to help cover up the job. Now, helping Stephen lie to his mother clearly keeps Jedikiah and his work out of someone else's crosshairs, but he didn't have to make that effort. I wouldn't say that the show is interested in fully humanizing Jedikiah; he is the current villain. But he's definitely more than that too, particularly because he has such close connections with two of the heroes. This is all much more complicated than it originally appeared to be, which is an impressive feat for a show that's only in its fourth week.
But hey, The Tomorrow People just keeps impressing. This was another strong episode that mixed the past and the present together in an effective fashion. There's no reason to keep talking about how the show doesn't do anything particularly original because by now, it's pretty clear that it's set on doing things well, regardless of whether we've seen them before or not.
– Despite all that praise, it's a little odd that there wasn't any sign of Astrid this week. I guess we can chalk it up to her being off investigating Stephen's secrets, but outside of a casual mention, her presence was not felt.
– So apparently if they focus correctly, Tomorrow People can teleport into multiple spaces at once. Well, at least John can. His ability to stop five of Killian's bombs at once was pretty cool and it's nice that the show is fleshing out the characters' abilities.
– Stephen's mom was unsurprisingly suspicious of his work with Uncle Jed, but she also emphasized the notion that there's stuff Stephen doesn't know about the past. Obviously we know that he knows more than she thinks, but there are probably dozens of other secrets as well. You don't hire Sarah Clarke to just play a mom.
– This means that we get a Russell flashback episode next week, right? RIGHT?
What'd you guys think of John's flashback and the reveal about the Tomorrow People's murderous ways?
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