The Tomorrow People "Kill or Be Killed" Review: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

By Cory Barker

Oct 31, 2013

The Tomorrow People S01E04: "Kill or Be Killed" 


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.



ULTRA NOTES

– 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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  • Oenc Nov 10, 2013

    Does anyone else have the feeling that John will turn out to be Jed's son or something?

    I am a little annoyed that they are so reckless. They should have moved hideout by now.

  • nimd4 Nov 07, 2013

    *SPOILER*

    All Tomorrow’s Parties crossed the line :-( They killed a bunch of people, in a 'childish' show; imo there will be nowhere to go from here. Not to mention a couple of people blasting away from automatic weapons, in a confined space, and the whole result was: 'so you let them kill three of our own instead'. Completely ridiculous, meh. Fun while it lasted.

  • alisonmaguire Nov 05, 2013

    Really like this show, thumbs up to CW for this one. I like Stephen as he is only ment to have just found out about his powers so let's give the lad a chance and lets hope CW sign up for the second season now so we can relax and enjoy this season with out the fear of it being cancelled.

  • MisterKez Nov 05, 2013

    I liked this episode, overall. I felt like they should write out the Astrid character long ago. I never did like her. Yes, I want a Russell flashback next week. Pellegrino was wonderful as always. John has cool powers. 5 places at once, NICE. I always thought that Stephen's mom knew more than she let on. She has played a top spy on more than one occasion. ;) Stephen is getting irritating. I just hope it breaks soon. I found it odd that the top telepath did not pick up on Stephen warning John during his fight with Killian. I think they know that Stephen is a double agent, and are playing him.

    The Tomorrow People is getting to be better and at the same time more irritating. I just hope that it makes the cut and grows out of these child stages quickly. We all know how networks like to cancel shows without giving them a chance to grow. It has passed my 4 episode test.

  • Oenc Nov 10, 2013

    OMG he is one character that makes the least sense! He's seen how awefully these people treat others as well as told by them and the Tomorrow People and yet still acts to surprised and like "What are you doing uncle Jed?!" EVERY time he pulls that surprised face I wanna slap him.

  • Copioli Nov 02, 2013

    Well, the show is not supposed to be original. It is a remake, after all. But it is doing well, and John is doing a great job, but Stephen is becoming more and more unbearable, specially because the actor doesn't seem to know what he is doing.

  • katelynsunday Nov 02, 2013

    This show is quickly moving to the top of my must watch list, I've loved Luke Mitchell since his Home & Away days (as embarassing as it is to admit I've watched that show)

  • AndreaMcCooey Nov 17, 2013

    Ah here, Home and Away is a great show! My university has a Home and Away Society. Its the staple of the college daytime tv diet over here!

  • randomjean Nov 02, 2013

    First off, lets establish that, Im glad I endured all the episodes til this. Occasionally we all gave up on shows too early. Anyways I enjoyed the ep much better than Cara. To me, its more refreshing than Cara's story.

    I read through the reviews and agree that there are so many plot holes here. Like
    -how did the crane guy teleport into Ultra's building when its protected,
    -is he also some kinda hacker thats why he can just access the computer system in Ultra,
    -why dun John just kill Jed in the car towards the end when he declared war although imo i think its cos when people usually declare war, they start the war/killing with a time lapse after that declaration.. Anyways its 4th ep only plus its a TV show plus they confirmed that Jed is 1 of the lead actors here so he will need to stick around for a bit more
    -they mentioned only Cara can communicate with others directly, yet John & Stephen communicated just fine..
    -sending normal armies to kill Ultra-trained teleporters.. what were they thinking right?
    -why didnt Stephen just stop time and disarm the bombs. maybe cos its a John's moment, not Stephen

    Theres more but im tired of typing. From the trailer for next week, it seems like Russell is getting a pass from the russell-centric flashback eps.. Hopefully im wrong. And why did they let the q of what kinda name is Jedikiah be answered. I wonder if it was ever answered in the original series.

    Despite all these, i think the show currently looks promising. Should be watching the next few eps at least.

  • MarlboroMagpi Nov 01, 2013

    I had liked this show from the beginning and now it is on my "must watch" list every week. I liked this episode too but it felt a little "Star Wars" ish. By that I meant the relationship Jedikiah with the 2 boys. Jedikiah even has the word Jedi in it.

    I might have missed it (I don't remember seeing it) but at least I now know why TTP cannot killed. When they try to, they have a ringing in their ear.

    I don't think what Cory mentioned, that they have the capacity to kill is correct. They are NOT born killers. In actual fact, they are all born without the ability to kill and if they try,it would hurt themselves. However, Jedikiah found a way to rewire their brains or some body parts so that they could. I think this was mentioned a few times in the episode.

    John actually hated that Jed reprogram him to kill and he does not want to so he left.

    I really do hope next week or some point in the future we see a flash back of Russell. They must as Russell is so cool. We could also have a back story of Tim. As I mentioned in my previous comment, he is a one of the best non human character I have seen on TV for a long time.

  • vcivi Nov 01, 2013

    Loved how they focused on John this episode, because of that, we learned so much...
    Only thing what i don't get is...that Stephen seemed so powerfull the first episode, but now he is in training and learning...and not so powerfull afterall...
    Crane guy kicked his ass....
    Loved how John took out all the bombs at the same time...that was neat!!
    Wonder about who the next episode will be about...the chinese guy???
    Loved the mother of Stephen...like he said, she is a badass and i wouldn't be suprised if she had powers too...

  • JasonMelvil Nov 01, 2013

    Frankly this show is getting better and better. A lot better than expected.

    The only real issue I have (besides the whole Astrid not remembering Stephen already told her everything in the first episode - and neither is Stephen apperantly) is that super agents are anything but super on this show.

    Really Jed? You don't bother putting GPS chips or anything in people?
    No use of gas or any other means of fighting other than guns or punches?

    That is part of the problems translating a show from the 70s to 2013. Technology has improved vastly.

    Moreover than that, if all it takes to take someone's powers away is just giving them a single dose, then why don't they find a way to inject it long distance? (like bullets covered with the stuff etc) heck, for that purpose, one might also ask if John and Crane were fighting at such a close range anyway, why couldn't John just stick a needle in him?

    That sort of takes the whole "had to kill" to a whole other level isn't it?
    I mean take Crane's powers away and he's got nothing.

    Unlike the stupid ending of Avatar, this actually would solve the problem.

  • randomjean Nov 01, 2013

    totally agree on the point regarding shooting people with the injection! it was in X-men 3 when they shoot needles with the syringe. Maybe Jed should have mentioned casually somewhere that they have that in development or something..

  • PutU2REM Nov 04, 2013

    Contrary to popular opinion, there is no safe, reliable way to incapacitate someone without killing them, and chemical agents are probably the worst of the lot. The drugs and dosages must be carefully tailored to individual targets or there's an excellent chance that they'll either be ineffective or lethal.

    The delivery systems suck, too. Gases are too imprecise for use outside of controlled environments and liquids must be injected into major blood vessels in order for them to take effect in a timely manner.

    And that's why cops carry firearms instead of tranq guns or gas grenades: unlike animal control, they can't afford a 10% fatality rate and a 10-minute wait for the drug to take effect.

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