The CW's reboot of the classic British "mutants on the run" show The Tomorrow People had its first episode last night... and thus far, it's pretty fun stuff. This pilot rushed through a million plot points in 42 minutes, but stuck pretty closely to its theme of madness and oppression.
Given how few people have watched the original British Tomorrow People, this show could have taken a lot more liberties with the material — but instead, the creators of this new version decided to stick pretty close to the template, with the main tweak being that Jedikiah is now the main character Stephen's uncle, and Stephen's dad was Professor X, and now he's missing.
Speaking of which, comparisons between The Tomorrow People and the X-Men (or Heroes) are inevitable — but this show keeps things a lot tighter, in terms of superpowers. Everybody just has the three Ts: telekenesis, teleportation and telepathy. (Plus Stephen has a fourth power: time-stopping, which is basically bullet time.) In practice, this means a lot of air-bending.
In any case, this first episode establishes the character of Stephen, who has all the requisite causes for angst: his father disappeared when he was a kid, and now he's hearing voices and turning up in weird places in the middle of the night. (Everybody thinks he's just sleepwalking, with a sideline in lock-picking, but he's actually teleporting in, as one character puts it, a mutant version of a wet dream.)
Soon enough, Stephen learns that he's actually one of the Tomorrow People, an embattled group of mutants who have a cool subterranean lair and an awesome computer named TIM. He instantly becomes one-third of a love triangle with Cara, the woman whose voice he's been hearing in his head, and John, the tragically insecure leader of the Tomorrow People. And Stephen learns that his father was the great hero of the Tomorrow People until he disappeared, who was supposed to lead the mutants to the promised land before he vanished.
And then we meet Jedikiah, the show's Big Bad, who captures Stephen and attempts to neutralize his powers with an injection — before Stephen reveals that he's not just the son of the greatest hero ever, he's also way more powerful than the other mutants. Stephen's able to use his powers inside Jedikiah's evil HQ, where powers are supposed to be neutralized. And then he unleashes the Bullet Time.
The final reveal, of course, is that Jedikiah is Stephen's long-lost uncle, and that Stephen's dad is supposedly dead in a car explosion. Even though Jedikiah was a huge jerk to Stephen when they first met, Stephen's uncle wants him to come work at Evil & Co. — and Stephen agrees, because he figures it's the best way to find out what really happened to his dad.
So in spite of the CW-ish angst overload, this show is off to a really fun start. Mark Pellegrino, in particular, appears to be having a blast as the sinister Jedikiah. But meanwhile, Amell wrings the right amount of humor out of situations like swapping his anti-psychotic meds for laxative because he knows the school pill-popper is going to steal them. ("Enjoy the crazy." "Enjoy the diarrhea". Heh.) The show's two actors of color, Aaron Yoo (Russell) and Madeleine Mantock (Astrid) do a lot with the requisite "providing emotional support and quirky humor" roles that their non-European heritages consign them to, and show early signs of becoming the two most interesting characters on the show.
And in the middle of its frenetic pace, the pilot manages to bring up a couple of thorny issues, that might provide a lot more fodder for interesting storytelling in future.
Like, if it's really a "survival of the fittest" type deal with "homo superior" versus "saps" (aka "homo sapiens") should Stephen really be siding with the mutants against his own mother and brother? Is there any other way to contain the spread of teleporting, mind-reading prodigies other than Jedikiah's extreme solution? (We can't have kids tweeting nuclear launch codes and tagging the Oval Office, after all.)
But also, there's the theme of madness and conformity. The main thrust of the episode is Stephen finding out he's not crazy — those voices in his head were a real person reaching out to him, and the strange things that were happening to him had a real explanation. But even though Stephen's not crazy, he's still out of step with the other kids around him, and his version of reality is still going to be skewed in relation to theirs. Maybe there are gradations of sanity, and Stephen's bizarre situation is going to land him up somewhere in the middle of them.
All in all, this pilot was fun enough — and hinted at enough provocative ideas — that I'm pretty stoked. What did you think?