The Tomorrow People "Things Fall Apart" Review: How You Met Your Mother
We haven't checked in with The Tomorrow People since the end of 2013 and frankly, for good reason. This latest stretch of episodes to kick off the new year hasn't been particularly exciting, or even good. The Tomorrow People still hasn't quite figured out how to expand its universe in tangible, interesting ways beyond "more breakouts" and "connection to a current character's past." And Stephen's hunt for his father? Not great. Not necessarily awful, but there's not a lot of there there, if you know what I mean.
For most of its running time, "Things Fall Apart" felt like more of the same. It was good when John (and to a lesser extent, Cara) was involved, and not so good when the focus shifted back to Stephen and his dealings with Ultra. But then! We were treated to a great conclusion, and one that should make The Tomorrow People immediately better moving forward. So although the episode was called "Things Fall Apart," it looks like maybe—just maybe—this show has found some cool directions to explore that will help it come together after some mid-season growing pains.
Let's start at the end, because it was the best. Marla is a Tomorrow Person! I said this to a friend on Twitter, but you don't hire Sarah Clarke and relegate her to playing the caring, in-the-dark mother. You just don't. Whether or not The Tomorrow People's producers had that in mind from the beginning isn't something we know at this moment, but nevertheless, it was a smart move. The reveal made this episode better, saved us from what probably would have been a mediocre story with Stephen 'training' his brother Luca if Luca had been the breakout, and set the stage for a whole lot of questions to be posed and (hopefully) answered.
Credit to the writers of "Things Fall Apart," Alex Katsnelson and Leigh Dana Jackson, for slyly introducing the concept of Synergists—super-advanced Tomorrow Peeps who come from two TP parents—earlier in the episode, when referencing the just-introduced Cassandra Smythe (guest-star Serinda Swan). I filed that moment away in my notes, assuming that the show would reveal Marla's true nature, but the episode's closing sequence—with Ultra agents closing in on Marla, Astrid, and her dad, and then Marla stopping a slew of bullets, Stephen-style (and Neo-style)—was pretty great. It was a fun cliffhanger to leave us on, and it really should make things more interesting moving forward.
After all, there's only so much The Tomorrow People can do with Stephen's dad stuck somewhere in Limbo and Jedikiah always talking out of both sides of his mouth. Stephen and company are always going to be in the dark in pertinent ways, but the show had to find a way to expand its macro history. Though the character-specific flashbacks are good, we need more about the histories of the species, Ultra, the rogue factions, etc. And sure, this was only Episode 13. But shows like The Tomorrow People work best when they're burning through story. And on that note, the introduction of the Synergists, however vague, is the kind-of-easy world-building thing that The Tomorrow People should do on a regular basis, instead of letting itself get too bogged down in middling storytelling involving characters trying to balance their "home" life with their new experience.
And to be fair, though parts of "Things Fall Apart" were a bit bland—I can't quite bring myself to care about Astrid, and things with Jedikiah have gotten to the point where he has to be stupid for not realizing how close Stephen is with John, Cara, etc.—the episode did, in fact, try to make something out of the Founder and his daughter Cassandra. In a way, the Founder sort of exemplifies the show's nagging issues; despite his supposed power, he's a fairly nebulously defined character. He's "evil." Cool, got it. "Things Fall Apart" didn't really go beyond that simple "evil" designation, but it did actually show the Founder being evil, both in the past and the present. We now know that he experimented on his own daughter, implanted memories into her head, and generally made her wish for all the abilities to be stripped away. That's a start! Simon Merrells is pretty solid as the Founder, and Serinda Swan is always a welcome sight on my television (even when she's doing random British accents). Also, I actually thought Swan and Robbie Amell displayed some fun chemistry. She seemed to bring out a levity in him that we haven't seen up to this point. I hope Cassandra comes back, if only for that reason.
Amid the dry spots in recent weeks, the power struggle between John and Cara has been mostly good. The way the other members of the group randomly decided to vote Cara in as the new leader back in "The Citadel" was very silly, but I appreciate that The Tomorrow People recognizes that Cara is just as much of a badass as John, while still exploring her difficulties in transitioning into an official leader capacity. The show seems dedicated to filling in their personal histories, and this episode smartly brought their smoldering sexual tension and their "professional" tension together. There are a lot of messed-up and complicated feelings between those two, and sometimes those feelings are going to result in hook-ups; at other times, they're going to result in blow-ups. This episode gave us both, with John ultimately being banished from the underground lair (which sounds like a good thing to me) because he disobeyed Cara's authority.
This is pure speculation, but it's not hard to see John spending a lot more time with Astrid in the coming episodes, freeing up more Stephen-Cara stuff as well. But I guess we also have to consider Alexa Vega's Hillary and even Cassandra too. The idea of the love rhombus on this show isn't especially appealing to me considering none of the pairings have really clicked in the way the producers and the CW would have hoped. This episode went out of its way to show that Cara was a little jealous that Stephen could 'sense' Cassandra like he sensed her earlier in the season and those attempts mostly fell flat. But hey, do your thing show. One of these ships is bound to sail.
All told, The Tomorrow People still has a long way to go if it wants to measure up against the best The CW has to offer (and in my mind, that's a compliment). The problems start with the lead character (and actor, though Amell has definitely improved some as the season has progressed) and his constant need to balance so many different worlds and relationships—many of which, to this point, hadn't been that interesting. But "Things Fall Apart" made a big, necessary move that, above all else, makes me want to tune in when the show returns after another brief hiatus.
– It'll be interesting to see how the show explains Marla's actions in the time leading up to this point. She had to have known what Stephen was up to, but also hasn't interjected herself into any of the situations where he could have gotten hurt. That's curious, in a good way. And poor Pete! He could have drowned, and she still didn't step in.
– And here's hoping that the Marla reveal opens the show up to tell different stories with Jedikiah. Mark Pellegrino has been doing his best, but the character is in a bit of a rut, always serving masters we don't quite know, or who aren't fully explained. It's okay to not be so mysterious and vague all the time, show.
– Luca was worried about Stephen and Marla finding out about his new interest in pot, yet he kept his bong in an open backpack on the kitchen table? He's clearly not part of an advanced race of beings.
What'd you think of this episode's big reveal? And how are you feeling about The Tomorrow People as a whole?
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