The Tomorrow People Season Finale Review: Rage Against the Machine
Hey there, Tomorrow People people! It's been a while since I dropped in on the freshman CW drama, and as things go with these plot-heavy shows, a whole lotta stuff has happened in the interim. Stephen's dad Roger finally came back to life! Jedikiah went rogue, and kind of nuts! Stephen got with his partner, and then she tried to suicide bomb the Founder! John lost his powers! There's A MACHINE that does stuff! And most importantly, John and Astrid made out!
Over the second half of the season, The Tomorrow People managed to work out some of its more egregious kinks—it dropped all pretense of Stephen and Astrid going to school, removed the 'family secrets' drama, redrew Uncle Jed as an uneasy ally as opposed to a full-blown villain, let John and Astrid kiss—but it also struggled with some of the things that have bogged it down since jump street. Though he improved a bit, Stephen is still a bit of a bore at the center of this crazy world, and perhaps more disappointing, the show sort of lost the interesting parts of Cara's character as she took on a full leadership role within the underground Tomorrow Peepz. Of the primary trio, only John has been consistently compelling. One out of three isn't an especially good average.
The constant twists and turns in the plot have generally compensated for deficiencies of character, but only to a point. Once you get to the end of the season, where character arcs and big plot points are meant to converge, we're supposed to be shocked, or thrilled, or angry by things that happen to certain characters. If the path to those moments is muddy, the results aren't going be as effective. That's pretty much where The Tomorrow People found itself before "Son of Man," and the episode didn't do much to change my perspective. Quite a bit happened in a very short period of time and there's something of a new equilibrium heading into a possible second season, but I couldn't bring myself to really care about much of it.
But all the stuff! Let's pour one out for Roger, who was never long for this world, even after the show spent more than a dozen episodes concentrating on his power, his missing body, his delinquency as a dad, what have you. Jeffrey Pierce was fine as the noble elder Jameson, particularly in the scenes with Mark Pellegrino's Jedikiah. Their final moments together—including Roger convincing Jed to shoot him in hopes of stopping the deadly machine that would freeze all humanity in a bubble to create a Tomorrow People refuge—were pretty strong as far as brother-to-brother tear-jerkers go. The show frustratingly used Roger as a plot device a few too many times throughout the season, but he had to go so that Stephen could rise up and be the chosen one who everyone keeps talking about.
And did he ever rise up! Despite my lack of connection to or real interest in these characters, the mid-episode siege on Ultra headquarters by Stephen, Cara, Russell, and their two human buddies John and Astrid was fairly well-developed, plotted, and directed. The show has found a nice sweet spot with the visual representation of the Tomorrow People's abilities, even if it mostly results in the actors swinging their arms around while air-y effects do the rest of the work. The choreography and editing of Stephen and Cara fighting the juiced-up kill squad on the ground while John picked them off with a sniper rifle from the roof gave the scene some heft, despite the fact that the entire ordeal was happening midday in downtown New York and no one else was on or near the street.
The same can be said for the fight between Stephen and the Founder, which went on much longer than these types of throwdowns tend to last on The CW. There's a physicality to the fighting on this show that makes scenes feel like brawls and not just people smacking into one another really quickly (hello, The Vampire Diaries). Again, I don't think the show did an especially great job of making us care about what would happen if the machine had actually frozen humans in place, other than the fact that John and Astrid are humans, but the scrum at least justified the kind of pain Stephen was willing to go suffer to save humanity. He's a character who's constantly been trapped between two worlds, even as those worlds crashed together, but he's also always going to choose to save people. And that's fine! Even though, as Cara said later, he's the lamest chosen one ever, he is pretty solid at the gig.
Weirdly, it seemed like this finale really wanted to zoom through the primary plot points—first so it could get to all the hugging and kissing between the core four characters, and then so it could set up some stories for a possible second season. The scenes in the former category were as good as they can be on The Tomorrow People, with the John and Astrid stuff working much more successfully than the Cara and Stephen stuff, simply because Luke Mitchell is far and away the best thing on the show, and there's a levity to his performance as John when the character is with Astrid that's really charming. In an expansion of his powers, Stephen turned back time to save Cara's life, which was cool enough. The show hums a little more when it hones in on the interactions between these four people, so those moments felt mostly earned, if somewhat empty.
But boy, did "Son of Man" hustle to set up new stories. The need to provide a road map for the future is a real one and there's a precedent at the network to take big swings in season finales. The problem is that the last 10 minutes of the episode really brought back the show's Matrix-y lineage, complete with Stephen's miraculous save of Cara, a bunch of new Tomorrow People tracking down Stephen to pay their respects to the chosen one, and John being reprogrammed and re-powered by Jedikiah as a sort of Mr. Smith type. Although I don't really need to see more of John the Conflicted Killer or the uneasy romance between Stephen and Cara, it was interesting to see how much The Tomorrow People pushed these new stories. Perhaps it was an attempt to convince the The CW that there's more story here?
Regardless, there definitely IS more story here. The Tomorrow People never turned the corner in the way The Vampire Diaries or Arrow did in their respective first seasons, but I'm curious to see whether removing some of the elements that were weighing things down—Roger and the Founder most notably—would actually help the show progress to that higher level.
– The show really dropped the ball on Stephen's mother Marla after it was revealed she was also a homo superior. She still mostly sat around and looked worried and/or cried. Sarah Clarke definitely deserves more than that, even at this point in her career.
– So Stephen tossed the Founder through the machine's portal, but we didn't see him die. He definitely returns at some point in a prospective second season, correct?
– How creepy was it that Stephen was excited to set in the chair previously occupied by the Founder and Jedikiah, being that it was also the chair that was destroyed by his now-dead flame's suicide bombing? People grieve in their own ways, but come on, man.
– Stephen also claimed that Cara would never believe him if he explained how he saved her life. Um, she's a superhuman who knows you're the chosen one. I think she'd get it.
What did you folks think of the finale? Do you want another season of The Tomorrow People?
- Comments (161)