The Tomorrow People, the CW’s newest foray into genre television drama, might seem a little familiar at first blush: the prospect of good-looking young mutants being recruited to hone their powers and fight crime will be familiar to anyone who’s ever read a comic book, while the group’s antagonists, an order-maintaining organization of suited “agents” with a propensity for pontification, will resonate with anyone who saw The Matrix. All the same, The Tomorrow People’s pilot succeeds by barreling forward with absolute conviction, knocking out so much exposition that one can’t help but be curious about the actual story.
The series begins in matter-of-fact exposition: teenage Stephen Jameson curtly shows us who he is, who his friends are, who his mom is, and what he’s been grappling with lately: in what he classifies as a “sleep disorder,” he somehow manages to sleepwalk through all manor of security and wind up at his neighbors’ place. His problems are compounded by auditory hallucinations, voices in his head telling him somewhat dubiously that he’s not crazy.
Stephen is surprised to discover, however, that the voice might be right. The voice in his head belongs to one of two so-called “Tomorrow People,” highly evolved people with three mutant super powers: telepathy, teleportation, and telekinesis. They abduct him and inform him that he is a Homo Superior, a super-evolved variant on standard humanity. A small subset of the population is learning how to hone these powers, but a government program called Ultra is hunting them down.
All of this is before the opening credits have finished, mind you — it’s an unapologetically brisk pace, and my first reaction is to take no issue with it; we all know the origin story beats by now, so we might as well fast forward through them. From there, Stephen quickly learns that he inherited his powers from his Tomorrow Person father. The seemingly psychotic deadbeat had left his family years ago, but the group reveals that he had been a hero amongst their ranks. He disappeared, and the Tomorrow People think Stephen might be able to contact him. Unable to handle a video of his absent patriarch, Stephen leaves.
His adventures aren’t over, however. As his powers remain stubbornly active, Stephen is kidnapped by an Ultra agent. The smiling, slimy villain explains how Ultra is in fact working for the betterment of humanity, which makes a lot a sense if you’re evil. The agent offers him a cure, but Stephen is unwilling to accept it; when the Tomorrow People show up, however, the agent cuts his losses and decides to kill them.
As the agent pulls the trigger of his gun, however, Stephen demonstrates a new ability: the ability to freeze time the second after bullets leave guns — a sort of “bullet time,” if you will. Stephen protects them, and they manage to teleport away.
Stephen’s new power is a paradigm shift not only for the Tomorrow People, but for Ultra as well. The agent, twistily enough, reveals himself to be Stephen’s paternal Uncle Jed, the human-born scientist who tried to save his troubled brother. Jed is impressed with Stephen’s power, and offers him a position maintaining order with Ultra. In conclusion, Stephen accepts the position while maintaining a telepathic connection to his special peers at the Tomorrow People.
Lets get a couple thing out of the way: the word “derivative” doesn’t even scratch the surface here, as Tomorrow People borrows liberally from Marvel Comics and The Matrix in equal measure. Also, the pilot doesn’t really sell Robbie Amell’s ability to believably portray an angsty, mentally crippled teenager.
That said, we appear to have ourselves a solid, well-built bit of pop sci-fi here. The stakes are clear, the characters are consistent, and the stage is set. The true test of Tomorrow People will be whether they can effectively expand this universe — preferably into territory a little less thoroughly trodden — but for now, the show succeeds on its momentum.
The Tomorrow People airs Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on the CW.
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(Image and video courtesy of the CW.)