Holy cow. Where has this show been for the past month or so? The Tomorrow People has been sort of stumbling along, having the occasional cute moment along with a lot of really dreary melodrama. But last night's episode packed a decent punch, and I suddenly don't hate any of these characters. What's up?
Part of what's up is that this show finally feels like it's about a war. The basic premise of Tomorrow People, after all, is that the Alphas/X-Men/whatevers are a new species, in a secret war with the organization known as Ultra, which wants to wipe us out. The main character, Stephen, is a double agent, working for Ultra while also secretly helping the Tomorrow People — an arrangement which seems about as doable as juggling cats.
So in last night's episode, a lot more of the telekinetic shit hit the telepathic fan, and the stakes suddenly felt real. Or at least, real-ish.
The basic plot is pretty simple: Stephen gets invited to meet the mysterious senior partner of Ultra, who can boss Jedikiah around and ordered the death of Stephen's dad. And then Stephen is given a final test of "fidelity": Watching Ultra massacre his friends in the Tomorrow People with gratifyingly non-metaphorical machine guns. And meanwhile, the Tomorrow People set themselves up for that massacre by going out partying in spite of John's warnings that Ultra is not screwing around here.
Oh, and Cara finds out that John is the only Tomorrow Person who can kill — something he's inordinately ashamed of, even though it saved her life. And Astrid finds out that Stephen is up to his neck in crap, and witnesses his superpowers in action first-hand, in an effective, emotional scene.
In general, the characters are feeling a lot more real, and their relationships have a lot more oomph than they did a while ago. Also, this episode gets to the heart of some of the contradictions the show's been playing with since the beginning.
In particular, Stephen's "double agent" status causes all sorts of problems this time around, which feel plausible. He's having a harder and harder time convincing anybody at Ultra that he's actually on their side, and the fact that every mission he's involved with gets borked has not gone unnoticed. This is what leads to him meeting (sort of) the secret Ultra honcho, who's actually an Alpha himself and who mind-probes Stephen with what appears to be scary effectiveness.
Meanwhile, Stephen's ability to live at home with his mom and brother, and go to school with Astrid, cause the other Tomorrow People to question why the "chosen one" (heh) gets to live in the real world while they all cower underground. Kurt, the weaselly bank robber from a few weeks ago, gets his chops busted for visiting his mom, and turns this into being about John's shitty leadership. To make matters worse, Cara feels as though they're just surviving instead of living, and maybe her relationship with John is only based on them living in fear together. She challenges John to a stickfight, because this is the CW and we need shirtlessness.
In the end, the two stories dovetail pretty nicely, as Stephen's test of "fidelity" (and you gotta love Jedikiah's explanation of why "fidelity" is better than "loyalty") is the same as the John's total and utter vindication. And all at once, this feels a bit more like a war and less like a pout-off.
All of the characters are more interesting this time out. Astrid feels like a real person, who cares about Stephen, instead of the paranoid wacko we saw a couple weeks ago. John is giving us less puppy-dog and more "guy who makes the hard decisions." Cara is "kind of a badass," even though she has to tell us that in those exact words. I believe in these relationships — I even sort of believe that Jedikiah cares about Stephen, beyond wanting to use him.
Not saying that Tomorrow People has suddenly become the best show on TV or anything — but I was actually pretty thrilled by this episode. To some extent, it's that thing where you have a headache that lasts a whole day, and it's suddenly gone, and the absence of that stabbing pain in your temple is like the sweetest joy ever. But it's also a sense that this is becoming a show with characters I care about, and some themes I'm interested in. More of this, please.