We’ve reached the halfway point of The Tomorrow People’s first season, and the show is heading in two directions: one I like, and one I hate. The good: Ultra’s secret history as a formerly upright organization skewed evil by its founder is an increasingly intriguing proposition, particularly as it relates to John and Jedikiah. The terrible: this show has mucked up nearly every single one of its interpersonal relationships, as the broadly drawn characters continue to veer between petty dickishness and selfish, grandstanding “love” — remind me never to date anyone who writes for the CW.
Search and Rescue
After last week’s failed operation, John remains in Ultra custody, facing telepathic torture at the hands of The Founder. Stephen tries to intervene on John’s behalf, but The Founder puts a stop to it by revealing John’s role in the presumed death of Stephen’s father. Stephen decides to keep John’s secret from the rest of the team for now, based on his supposition that his father is actually still alive.
The Tomorrow People, meanwhile, decide that Jedikiah’s soft spot for Morgan might be the key to rescuing John. They kidnap her with minimal effort, and offer Jedikiah a trade. He’s quick to accept, though he’s unable to simply release John by his own volition — he agrees to help stage a fake breakout with Stephen’s help, and they complete the exchange. Jedikiah does have one additional condition, however: while he’s inevitably grilled by The Founder about John’s escape, he wants Morgan to stay with the Tomorrow People.
Back at his house, Stephen begins to question his mom — oh yeah, remember her? — about his father’s history with the Thanatos project. She robotically informs him that she “knew this day would come” because he’s “a seeker,” and hands over all of his father’s old data — it’s easily the most groan-worthy scene in the show so far, but it leaves Stephen with a good lead on Limbo.
One of Stephen’s father’s old video tapes mentions an alternate way to reach Limbo, so Stephen pays a visit to Dr Crick. The theory was that Stephen’s father could access Limbo in the moment between life and death, and he may have reached it when John shot him. At that moment, Dr. Crick is shot dead by assassins, as The Founder is on a rampage to tie up loose ends.
Stephen decides that he too must go to the edge of death to find his father, and in a gesture toward pathos, he decides to invite all the Tommorrow People over for an awkward dinner party with Astrid. She gets to spend the evening perpetually intuiting how much Cara loves Stephen, so that must be a real treat for her — everyone else stands around awkwardly and eats pizza in what I’d have a hard time describing as anything other than a waste of time.
The ultimate scene of the half-season finds the Tomorrow People killing Stephen via lethal injection, allowing him to access Limbo before being medically revived. As per the Laws of Television Drama, Stephen is required to stay dead for a few more seconds than expected, causing everyone around him be really worried and sad, then burst back to life. He closes out the evening by announcing that he saw his dad, and that they have to find his body.
A lot of my frustrations with this show reached their peak in this episode, which is a shame, because there was a decent chunk to like in here as well. I’m aware that certain audiences are drawn in by love polygons and infidelity and mad love and the like, but I just don’t have that in me: when I see a bunch of people who keep hurting and lying to each other standing around eating pizza, I get sad and uncomfortable and want to leave.
That’s half of what’s wrong with the big “last supper” scene of this episode; the other half is that Stephen’s civilian personal life hasn’t been developed enough to have any impact. Never mind the reeking sack of cliches that Stephen’s poor mother was saddled with tonight, I’m upset that Astrid, one of the show’s most likable characters, has been so thoroughly thrown under the bus. She has nothing to do but feel loving and supportive toward Stephen, who remains — sorry everybody — the least charismatic protagonist of the fall TV season.
None of that would be such a big deal if the pizza party were just another scene of botched drama, but I’m pretty sure that was supposed to be the emotional climax of the season so far. The groundwork was bad and the payoff was bad, and this twisty relationship nonsense has been a frustratingly dominant portion of the show. It’s like they’re trying to build will they/won’t they tension into every heterosexual pairing onscreen, and they’re not giving us anything to root for in it other than interchangeable attractiveness pairings and an arbitrary sense of destiny.
If The Tomorrow People wants to be a good show, it’s going to have to dig out what’s interesting and unique about the mythology and give that angle the time it deserves. Please, bury the adult-aged teen romance.
(Image courtesy of the CW)