This week, on The Tomorrow People: The gang needs a night out, John needs a break, and Stephen needs a date to Homecoming
Last week’s (theoretically) John-centered episode may have been somewhat of a dud, but “All Tomorrow’s Parties” thankfully takes a step in the right direction by amping up the action and introducing new elements to the serialized plot. There are still several rather painful touches to this week’s episode (every mention of Homecoming immediately draws the audience out of the action- these characters look closer to 30 than high school. Pretending otherwise is ridiculous, and not in a good way), but on the whole, it’s progress, and that’s to be applauded.
Revealing larger threats behind Jedikiah, who are theoretically pulling his strings, provides a lot of narrative ground for the future and the seemingly powerful voice in Stephen’s head is appropriately ominous. This demotion of Jedikiah to mid-level villain (and potential protector of his nephew) would be significantly helped if, as mentioned last week, we had any sense that he cares for or about Stephen. For now, however, we’ll take what we can get.
Stephen’s abilities seem to be progressing rather slowly, given the events of the pilot, but at least we see him in training. Given his precarious position, one would think he’d be honing his skills, particularly slowing time and shielding his mind, almost constantly. If watching his friends get shot at in a club isn’t enough motivation to kick things up a notch, what will it take? Jedikiah’s read of Stephen also needs to be nailed down. Is his nephew pulling the wool over his eyes (the kid doesn’t seem like that talented of a liar) or does Jedikiah have a larger plan? The show wants to have its cake and eat it, cutting to a knowing shot of Jedikiah before revealing that he seemingly remains in the dark about Stephen’s true loyalties. Picking one angle and sticking to it for the time being would make for far less manipulative storytelling.
Jedikiah and Stephen’s relationship may remain muddled, at best, but John and Cara’s has improved significantly. There’s a real bond between these two and, while the performances remain far from nuanced, Peyton List does well this week with Cara’s anger at John’s secrecy and deceit. Thankfully, the show doesn’t stretch out her discovery of his ability to kill, putting her in a similar position as the audience. There seems to be a bit too much Stephen-related jealousy going on in this partnership for how close they seem to be (another problem of trying to pretend Robbie Amell is 16 or so- is Stephen the same age as John and Cara, as the actors’ ages imply, or significantly younger, as the show occasionally states? Is he a viable love interest or a smitten boy?), but otherwise, this central relationship goes a long way towards giving the series the heart it desperately needs.
By far the biggest strength of this episode, though, is its action. The John/Cara fight is the standout, taking advantage of their teleportation-based fighting style to great effect and cementing Cara as a physical, rather than just emotional or psychological, powerhouse. In an episode which delightfully addresses gender inequalities and hangups (Stephen needs to be okay punching a “girl”, when it comes down to it, or he’ll get himself killed), seeing such a balanced fight between genders is an extra treat. Sequences such as this in other genre series often come off as contrived- petite women should almost always lose physical fights to ridiculously built men, regardless of how toned the women are (or how prominent a character they are in the series). Adding in the supernatural element allows for suspension of disbelief- in a straight-up fist fight, John would certainly win. Add in Cara’s apparently superior speed and teleportation abilities however and this time at least, she gets the upper hand.
There’s a clear path for the series to follow, focusing in on setpieces such as these and expanding the mythology, while jettisoning the high school distractions (including Astrid, despite how adorable Madeleine Mantock is in her dress montage). Making this same move in its first season catapulted The Vampire Diaries from hokey high school True Blood rip-off to genre standout (and backpedaling last season gave the show several of its worst episodes in recent years). The Tomorrow People could improve dramatically in a matter of episodes, but only if the PtB have the clarity of vision to see what’s working and not and the courage to make drastic changes as needed.
What did you think of this episode? Are you glad Astrid’s in the loop now, to some extent at least? Anyone else far more interested in how Russell spends his days? How do you think Jedikiah feels about Stephen? Post your thoughts in the comments below!