The Tomorrow People continues on its upward trajectory this week with a more or less successful episode. “Sorry for Your Loss” is far from flawless, but it demonstrates a continued prioritization of character that has served the series well. This week Russell is in the spotlight, as we get our first glimpse of his backstory. The Asian teen forced into serious musical study by domineering, strict parents is far from original (had Russell studied violin instead of piano, it may have tipped too fully into stereotyping), but Aaron Yoo for the most part makes it work, selling the emotion of Russell’s journey. He also does a surprisingly good job fake-playing the piano, a rarity on television, thanks to some effective and comparatively subtle editing. Demonstrating his burgeoning telekinesis in this way is neat and one of the more original touches this season.
Where these scenes fall short is in Russell’s look- were it not for the onscreen text, we would have little, if any, sense of when this break with his family occurred. The carefully-lit flashbacks have a distinct old-timey look to them, particularly the audition scenes, but tidying one’s hair, having them stand tall, and putting them in a tuxedo is a great way to age up a character, not vice versa, and this visual disconnect is distracting throughout. Age discrepancies remain a frustration in every corner of the show (which this reviewer has mentioned time and time again, and will therefore not dive into this week), but this instance seems the most avoidable, as a few costume and hair tweaks could have made a big difference, rather than the major casting and writing changes needed to solve the other examples of this. Russell and John’s journey to the funeral takes up an appropriate amount of screen time, given its emotional significance to one of the series’ most underdeveloped and utilized characters, and this focus is essential to making the episode work.
This focused approach continues in the B plot, which sees Stephen and Cara’s relationship deepen while they look for a new breakout, Piper. In the context of this episode, what we see works. In the larger context of the series however, there are significant problems, the most notable being Cara’s decision to sleep with Stephen. He’s the best man she’s ever known? This is almost impossible to believe, and not only because Stephen’s still a boy. Her choice this week raises significant questions about her judgment. Yes, her sleeping with Stephen to get back at John for keeping secrets makes sense, especially given her attraction to him, but it also makes her seem petty, impulsive, and foolish. Rather than delicious drama, this development looks to be heading for frustrating macho posturing from John and Stephen, strife within the group, or even less promisingly, weeks of secret keeping. Then there’s Astrid, the sweetheart mentioned this week so we’ll think of her as Stephen makes his move on Cara. The decision to keep her on the show at all at this point can only come down to a desire for more love triangle shenaniganry- she’s adding nothing else that the show can’t get from its other characters. All of this could easily make for juicy interpersonal conflict and development, had the show demonstrated any felicity for this kind of storytelling. So far, it hasn’t. Hopefully, given what must be coming, the writers will surprise us.
Another disappointment this week is the death of Stephen’s partner, Darcy, just as she was becoming more interesting. Unlike the above relationship drama however, this change has a lot of potential. It’s a shame to see Meta Golding go, but Piper could be a nice addition and a new partner for Stephen could open up a lot of narrative space for the writers to explore. As for Jedikiah, his one scene this week feels incredibly out of place, shoe-horned in to keep him in the audience’s mind and give Mark Pellegrino something to do. Overall though, this episode is a marked improvement over the previous flashback-heavy installment, “Kill or Be Killed”. If the writers can keep honing in on what makes the show unique and interesting, keep developing their characters, and avoid the numerous pitfalls they’ve placed in their way, perhaps The Tomorrow People could grow into the kind of satisfying, memorable genre fare the CW is known for.
What did you think of this episode? Were you glad to see Stephen and Cara hook up? Who will get the next series of flashbacks? What kind of partner do you hope Stephen is paired up with? Post your thoughts below!