Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Tomorrow People, Season 1, Episode 9: Death's Door

So last week, after a moment of monumental foolishness that doesn’t come close to being realistic, John was captured. This week John is being tortured by the Founder who also makes the point that he is way way way more powerful than John. And way smarter. But then, there are species of algae smarter than John. Stephen rushes to stop the founder hurting John too badly but everyone keeps up the fiction that Stephen totally isn’t a double agent, honest. And John and the Founder reveal that John killed Stephen’s father

Stephen leaves and Cara contacts Stephen psychically (yes, in Ultra, the place where they couldn’t read Jedikiah’s mind last week because… reasons) and Stephen quickly covers up “John killed daddy” and warns Cara that the Founder will kill John soon.

Cara’s plan is to kidnap Morgan and use her to force Jedikiah to exchange prisoners. They track her down to a holiday property where she’s laying low. Morgan and Cara have a nice teleport/run/battle thing (including a moment where Morgan throws a tree at Cara which, if it hit, would totally have killed her) before Russell finally puts the cuffs on her – cuffs which switch off her powers.

With Morgan imprisoned, Cara delivers her ultimatum to Jedikiah.

At Ultra Stephen gets some alone time with John to ask about the whole killing his dad thing. John is repentant and wishes he could change it but Stephen questions the whole bemusing idea that John was setting Stephen’s dad up to be some kind of saviour ready to swoop in and save them all. Still, Stephen isn’t going to tell Cara John’s a liar because John gets to do that (never mind the small cult he’s built) and he’s even going to let the whole trying-to-kill-his-dad thing because Thanatos is real, which means his hallucination is real which means his dad is alive.

Ok, not the strongest chain of logic but it’s positively solid from a Tomorrow People point of view.

Stephen asks his mother about his father – wow, hey Stephen’s mother, it’s been a while! He asks about the Thanatos project but she wants to keep his father out of their lives.

At Ultra it’s Jedikiah’s turn to have alone time with John. Does Ultra have no protocol for dealing with prisoners at all? Anyway he wants to say goodbye to his “son”. John doesn’t react well to that. Jedikiah then has a meeting with his nephew to question why Cara still has powers when Stephen supposedly stripped them (why would you ever doubt Stephen? It’s not like he hasn’t given you weekly proof of his status as a double agent… oh wait). He’s guessed the whole stopping time thing. But it’s all totally ok because Stephen did it for love – and he can understand that because his loved one is also in trouble! Awwww, they’re so alike in motive (except the whole genocide thing). Of course, Jedikiah can’t rescue John…. but Stephen can

And when Stephen takes John his dinner, John leaps up, they both take out the guards and John takes Stephen “captive” (when Jedikiah was making his whole goodbye scene he slipped John a key). Using a gun, brief evidence that he can very much kill and shooting out a couple of D-Chips, John makes his escape.

John having escaped, Jedikiah and Stephen go see Russell and Cara and they pass over Morgan – but Jedikiah wants them to take Morgan and keep her safe. Of course it’s a huge risk since she could be used to track their safe location, but Stephen speaks for her and Jedikiah throws in threats and appeals to their very point of existence – looking after their own.

Back at the HQ, Stephen and John practice teleporting and freezing time at the same time to try and actually reach limbo (wait, can Stephen freeze time on demand now? And if he can… why doesn’t he?) though it’s not going well, and Cara knows that John is keeping something from her and is bemused that the Founder could be against them when he’s one of them (have you not come across agents before, Cara?) In a bemusing moment, John wants to confess all to Cara while Stephen thinks that it would be a distraction and since his dad isn’t really dead then why bother?

Time for Stephen to question his mother again (something of a clumsy segue), with added mind reading. She give sin and gives him the huge box of her dad’s research but warns him against putting his dad on a pedestal and being disappointed. She also realises Stephen has a secret – can someone explain to me again why he’s keeping this secret from her.

Jedikiah gets a grilling from the Founder and reveals that, yes, he has a secret – Morgan. It’s an affair of the heart and the Founder tells him not to get too upset “you’re only human”. Ooooh nice little stab there. Though he does expect Jedikiah to take care of it

Going through his dad’s things, Stephen finds a video card which he has Tim play showing his dad, Roger and Thanatos working together. John is all kinds of cynical and Cara asks why – which leads to a confession of the whole murdering thing. Cara is, predictably, not amused that John has been keeping them underground in hiding waiting for a chosen one who is already dead at John’s own hands. Watching the video they see 8 gazillion trials fail and Roger get steadily more frustrated until he finally suggests an “alternate method” which Thanatos dismisses as suicide. And the video ends.

A suicidal plan? Stephen loves the sound of that! He goes to Thanatos and finds him packing ready to leave (obviously heading for the hills). Stephen guesses that the limbo experiment requires you to die first – Thanatos agrees that was the theory but it was hard to put into practice since it was unrepeatable and the whole dying thing; but it explains why Stephen reached limbo while drowning. Thanatos adds that Roger probably doesn’t want to be found or they would have found him by now because of BIG OMINOUS PLAN THAT YOU KNOW NOTHING ABOUT BECAU--- and he’s shot

Of course he’s shot. He dies without any further revelations and the Founder enters with some Ultra soldiers announcing he can feel that there was someone else there (is this a new power? Or just random writing?)

Back to HQ Stephen tells them about Thanatos and that his plan B is that they try to kill him; he is sure his dad did the same thing, stopping time at the very moment of his death – and it has to be John since only he can kill. John doesn’t buy it – he saw Roger die, read his mind, he is dead, he has rung down the curtain and joined the choir invisible, he is an ex-Tomorrow Person (yes, I went there. No I regret nothing). Stephen objects – no, he is the chosen one (no, seriously, he even uses the phrase “Chosen One”) and will save them.

He then goes home and gets his mother to ok him inviting some friends to dinner. When she agrees, it seems he’s invited Astrid, John, Cara and Russell (Stephen quietly lets Astrid know that these are the “psychic subway dwellers”. Astrid, learning that Cara, the girl who has a thing for Stephen and who Stephen loves, is with John assures Stephen that John is a total troll. While staring at his sexy yumminess. Well she tried.)

After the bemusing party, Astrid isn’t buying that it was random. Why did Stephen set this up? After he explains he’s going to find his father and is duly vague about it, Astrid rightly sees it as a goodbye party and that Stephen is scared.

Jedikiah has a goodbye party of his own. He meets Morgan, they reunite, they have sex, he kisses her goodbye – then kills her. Tying up that loose end. He reveals this to the Founder but the Founder still threatens him – he only keeps Jedikiah around for Stephen because Stephen is so special.

Except we find Morgan in the HQ meeting Cara – Jedikiah put  a pillow on her head, a gun to the pillow and pulled the trigger – but the bullet didn’t enter Morgan. He faked it. Now on to prepping Stephen for dying (Russell points out that if it goes wrong, John will have killed 2 Chosen Ones). Stephen has 2 last requests – John look after his mum and brother (including telling the secret) if it goes wrong – and that Cara let John off the hook because their people need a united leadership.

John injects Stephen with nasty drugs, monitored by Cara and Tim. As his vitals drop, he approaches unconsciousness and Cara tells Stephen to stop time

Stephen flat lines and Cara, Russell and John are left wondering if it worked. Cara can’t reach Stephen’s mind. Tim counts down the seconds until brain damage will begin and Cara has to inject epinephrine and expect magical TV-style resurrection. She injects him with 20 seconds to go – and nothing happens. She and John try CPR – which also doesn’t work after they try for 5 seconds – Cara stops and decides to go with tearful begging instead

And he wakes up. We should inform the medical profession.

He tells them he saw his father – and they have to find his body.

So that was the first half of a season by Tomorrow People. And, if you’ve been reading my recaps, you can probably guess I’m not the biggest fan. I have two main problems with this show:

Firstly – it’s not original. It has original ELEMENTS, but the elements are not dominant enough to truly differentiate this from, say, X-Men, Mutant X or even Alphas and Heroes. Watching it, I’m often left with the feeling of “why am I bothering? I’ve seen this before” Those original elements just are not developed enough.

Secondly – its plot line either outright contradicts its previous world building, or relies on the characters having sudden IQ drops. It’s frustrating and annoying as you can see throughout my recaps  - the number of times the plot moves forwards ONLY because the characters lose any pretence of intelligence gets on my very last nerves. Not only does it make me dislike the characters, it’s just sloppy, lazy writing.

In particular, major parts of the plot line rely on abject foolishness. I do not understand why Stephen keeps his life a secret from so many for so long. I do not even begin to understand why John decided to create an entire underground movement centred on the return of a man he had killed – it’s quite obviously laughable. I do not understand why Stephen went undercover in the first place and it’s equally ridiculous that his cover hasn’t been shattered 10 times over and that Stephen doesn’t REALISE that.

And that’s aside from episode by episode nonsenses (Jedikiah being kept alive, they can read minds now they can’t, now they can, suddenly deciding not to teleport, carrying weapons then not then doing so again… it goes on)

And the characters are pretty unlikeable. John is collection of angst. Cara is whiny because of that angst, the centre of a love triangle and just kind of hollow, and Stephen is a generic chosen one with super woo-woo who is so damn special for REASONS.

Minority wise – we have a number of POC. But Astrid and Russell are pretty blatant tokens added on clumsily to the main group. Russell did certainly get an attempt at a backstory that did add some depth to his character which was certainly appreciated – but that was Russell’s episode, there’s been no long term integration of him into the story beyond that. Astrid hasn’t even had that. We have some POC in Ultra, even some decent roles – before they’re shuffled off – and killed off.

We have a large cast – and no GBLT people at all, not a one. That would be damned annoying no matter the show, but with the number of cast members in and out on this one it's far worse

I’ve spoken before about how Cara is a bone between John and Stephen – worse is the way both of them attribute her opinions to the other man. What is also vexing is that John, Stephen, the Founder, Jedikiah all have their own primary motives based on goals and causes but while Cara certainly has the goal of saving the Tomorrow People, her love triangle takes up more of her time and storylines.

This show has a problem with disability as well. We have deaf people magically cured – and no transition or reference to that, we have rough and ready treatment of mental illness which turns out to be totally not really. It’s clumsy – they borrow from disability concepts and experiences, then brush them off when they’re not useful

All in all, it hasn’t been a great start.