When The Tomorrow People debuted, I wrote about how originality isn't necessarily the key to the show's success; what's important is that it keeps up a good storytelling pace. This is never going to be a series that reinvents the wheel, and I don't think the creative team has much interest in doing so. But if The Tomorrow People can burn through plot with measured abandon, never shying away from confrontation or letting secrets come out, then it can be just as fun as its network-mate The Vampire Diaries. The show certainly still has quite a ways to go, but after "Girl, Interrupted," my optimism level is very, very high. This is how you do fun genre programming on a modest budget. It's harder than it looks, and it's great to see The Tomorrow People figuring it out so quickly (it took TVD at least a half-dozen episodes to get this good).
After last week's male-dominated episode centered on Stephen and John, "Girl, Interrupted" unsurprisingly focused a little more on the ladies of this world, with some quality results. We learned some interesting, relatively moving things about Cara's past, spent some time with a human girl named Emily that raised important questions for the Tomorrow People's existence in the world, and closed out the episode with Astrid already figuring out that Stephen is... something different. This is Episode 3! The show could just as easily still be concentrating on Stephen being emo about his new abilities or being 'troubled' at school. I am in full support of shows that don't bother wallowing; the premise is nutty, but just run with it, right?
Filling in Cara's backstory early on was a smart move on the show's part. Stephen is clearly the lead character, but he's also the newbie in the world, so his story is going to be more about learning the ropes and becoming the hero or whatever. And John is the badass, surely with a past full of baggage of his own. But Cara is the emotional center of the trio, and thus far, of the entire group of Tomorrow Peeps we've met. The opening sequence of this episode, with Cara experiencing her first breakout mid-sexual assault when she was in high school, was more powerful than it probably had a right to be. I threw shade at Peyton List in my write-up of the pilot, but she was really, really good in this episode. Better than I've ever seen her, in fact. The material was pretty straightforward victim-becomes-empowered stuff, but she sold Cara's naivete and pain in the flashbacks. Part of the reason List keeps getting jobs like this is that she can portray youth and innocence well, despite the fact that she's almost 30. Armed with an unfortunate outfit, she made high school Cara believable first as a deaf girl just looking for someone to pay attention to her, and subsequently as a suddenly powerful girl hoping that her family would protect her in a very bad situation. Those flashbacks were also useful in thinking about how the Tomorrow People's powers develop and manifest. I don't know if you know this, but I'm not a scientist or a geneticist—and having Cara's breakout basically cure her deafness is fascinating. Are people with disabilities more likely to break out? Can the Tomorrow People's blood or genetic material cure the sick? Pretty sure the show is going to explore at least one of those ideas, if not both.
Though the present-day Cara stuff wasn't as less successful as the flashback material, her pain and anger on the fifth anniversary of her first breakout and father's subsequent orders to run away smartly paralleled Stephen's attempts to save a suicidal classmate named Emily. It's not much of a shocker that The Tomorrow People has gone out of its way to emphasize Stephen's heroic tendencies in the early going (he's Neo, after all), but I've been surprised at how that character trait as bumped up against important questions for the other Tomorrow People and their existence as members of a larger society. Last week, Stephen pushed John and company to fight back against Ultra instead of hiding. This week, he was concerned about whether or not they should get involved in humans' lives. John said no, because John, but it was a little surprising to Stephen that Cara wasn't interested either. But that's where the flashbacks came in, and thankfully Cara let Stephen into her mind so he could better understand why she might be hesitant. Normal people don't understand, no matter how much the Tomorrow People might want them to. Which of course only made Cara's eventual decision to indeed help Stephen save Emily from killing herself even better. It was a big step for Cara to remember that not only does she still have humanity, but that humanity is worth saving in general. If Cara and John are more willing to help strangers with Stephen, that opens up lots of different storytelling avenues as well. It means that every episode won't be about the crew facing off against Ultra and just barely getting away. (On that note: It was a little silly that Jedikiah and Ultra captured Cara and simply believed that Stephen had de-powered her. Apparently Ultra didn't do any tests to determine whether their presumably high-tech procedure actually worked.)
And then! Astrid witnessed Cara, Stephen, and John save Emily from the oncoming train she was trying to use to kill herself. Last week, I wondered aloud who would be the first 'normal' to learn Stephen's secret, Astrid or the little brother, and now we have our answer. It makes sense to let Astrid in on it first, considering she's actually had a few lines in every episode and seems generally interested in Stephen's well-being. I like that she saw something, but really has no idea what she saw. That gives a low-level supporting character a story of her own, while creating tension between her and Stephen. There's no guarantee that Astrid's research will result in anything substantive anytime soon, but The Tomorrow People's willingness to go there already tells me that the show isn't interested in hanging back and telling stories at a methodical pace.
In three episodes, The Tomorrow People has given each of its three leads something important and entertaining to do. None of the stories has been especially GREAT, but they've been told economically and given us at least some idea of where these people have come from, and where they might be headed. It's nice to know that, CW publicity materials aside, The Tomorrow People is not just an Amell power hour.
– Still not too much for Aaron Yoo's Russell to do, but there was certainly more of him this week. He made a joke about TIM's dongle. That's something special.
– The Stephen-as-a-double-agent plot moved along slowly, with him planting some important surveillance equipment. I like that that's a runner in more procedural-y episodes.
– Another good-looking episode. The Tomorrow People's production department is making great use of some exterior locations in and around Vancouver, and Danny Cannon continues to do a solid job mixing his style with the typical CW look.
– Another week, another shirtless Robbie Amell scene. Think they'll do one every week? I'll try to keep track.
What did you think of Cara's flashback and this episode as a whole?
AIRED ON 5/5/2014
Season 1 : Episode 22