The Tomorrow People presents itself as being a good show. It proceeds merrily along its plot, with all its twists and turns, which seem to fit the show. Its actors are all at least competent if not good. Its special effects rarely show their seams, even though they're used regularly. It's got a good grasp on how to pace its episodes, so they generally have satisfying plot arcs. And yet I find this show tremendously infuriating much of the time.
Much of this has to do with the fact of its presentation. The Tomorrow People launches into all its plotlines as though we should care. It feels presumptuous that we’re supposed to care about the Stephen-Cara-John love triangle, and then it goes and adds Astrid and possibly Irene. It’s presumptuous to assume that we care so much about Stephen’s father when he's barely been seen, and his supposed Tomorrow Person utopia seems too good to be true/interesting. Or it kills off a minor, antagonistic nothing character like Darcy and expects us to care because it told us she had a brief glimpse of humanity.
Part of the issue is still, as I discussed in my last review, that there’s no hook. There’s no charismatic single person we can care about. But I think the problem is still deeper than that. It’s that the series is so married to its plotline of Stephen working for the Ultras while helping the Tomorrow People that it can’t seem to see anything else. The show’s biggest single mistake so far, I think, was turning the “Tomorrow People go clubbing” episode into yet another “Stephen sneaks off to save their lives” story. We still haven't really seen these characters exist as people.
This is a problem because first, well, Stephen is the worst fucking double agent in the history of double agenting. I don't think this is entirely Amell’s fault—he's being asked to play a vaguely heroic lug, and succeeding—but simply the fact remains that he’s not at all heroic as written. He gets a pass for every damn thing he does wrong and will occasionally be totally immoral, like sleeping with Cara and arguing to keep her while never, ever mentioning her existing partner.
That's a microcosm for The Tomorrow People as a whole, and, well, any show that falls back on serialization when it doesn't have anything else (see Sonia's reviews of Hostages, for example, or most of The Walking Dead). Keep throwing twists and drama at the screen and eventually something might click. But until it does, those twists and turns just seem ridiculous. Why are these people negotiating with one another? Why do their points of negotiation make no sense? Why does this entire scene rely on them forgetting absolutely critical knowledge that defined their motivations up until this point?
“Thanatos” is probably the best episode The Tomorrow People has done. Focusing on the John-Jedekiah relationship is good for that, since that seems to have the most emotional potential of anything on the show. The main story, of Jedekiah accidentally being teleported into the base, is also a good story for an episode—the characters need something from each other while working on a time limit, and this exposes different conflicts between characters.
The problem is that getting away from that source of episodic tension gets back to the areas where The Tomorrow People struggles. The “Thanatos” of the title, the reason the Tomorrow People go after Jedekiah, ends up being a scientist who’d worked with the Ultras. So our heroes go and have a nice little conversation with Dr. Death, who kindly tells them, unprompted, about the one very specific thing that corresponds with the one secret that John was apparently hiding. And then he’s gone, having existed only to keep the plot moving in one specific direction.
What’s frustrating about this is that the issue is not one of drama being created out of character development, but instead that it’s drama being created out of editing, both at a micro and a macro level. The micro level is editing in how the episode is put together. The conversation with Thanatos is presented as though it’s the middle of a discussion where John, Irene, and Stephen all walked in and introduced themselves, and presumably, the conversation continued after. In those unseen moments, the world and characters could be made more interesting. But they’re edited out. And at the macro level, it feels like the entire story is being edited around the Stephen/Ultras plot, in a way that makes everything else less interesting. It just assumes that we care about hunky double agent guy because that seems like a plausible TV show.
- Russell being exposed as a Fake Geek Guy doesn’t make that testing any less annoying.
- I’d like to send a special wave of hatred toward The Tomorrow People's terrible basketball/rape episode from last week. Tone deaf, cliché, and aware of how cliché it was, all in one shitty package. I suppose a supernatural show feels compelled to get that kind of crap out of its system, but it was still a special level of infuriating.