The CW's The Tomorrow People is the perfect depiction of a 2013 superhero origin story in that the superhero is told he has powers before he gets to experience them on his own. It is tailor-made for a generation of kids who, much like Stephen (Robbie Amell) grew up expecting instant gratification no matter what they were doing and therefore isn't equipped to handle things like patience or compromise. What that amounts to in the pilot episode is 44 minutes of jam-packed storytelling, though unfortunately often at the expense of showing, front-loading information so the audience accepts this strange new world and powers immediately.
Stephen is a young man just coming into his powers as a homo superior, quite literally an advanced version of a human being who has a mutated gene that allows for abilities like telekinesis and telepathy. His father was a homo superior before him, but his father left the family years ago, so a few other members of his kind step in to show Stephen the ropes. There is John (Luke Mitchell), a confident and skilled master of his powers who happens to be leading the homo superiors in Stephen's father's absence. Early on in the pilot episode, we spend some alone time with John to see what he can do in action, and with that one switch of gaze, we get a taste at the kind of leading man hero Stephen could-- and probably should-- grow into being. There are times when Stephen is hemming and hawing or just being an angsty kid that John's journey seems much more unique and original; he is the kind of character that you immediately want to know more about.
As is Peyton List's Cara, a woman we hear before we see, as she is quite literally the voice in Stephen's head, luring him to the secret underground space their kind has taken over to live and train in peace. She is unassuming in her self assuredness, and she has a soft-spot for Stephen that implies a rawness in her emotions. She should be like a big sister to a character like Stephen, but of course because it's a CW show, their connection is already hinted at being something deeper. If vampires throw each other around when they have sex, Tomorrow People might be able to literally disappear into each other, something we're bound to learn soon enough.
However, the most interesting character on The Tomorrow People is Jedikiah (Mark Pellegrino)-- a man who leads the government agency (Ultra) that is hunting the Tomorrow People even though his only family falls into that category. Is part of his reasoning prodded by a sense of inferiority or jealousy? Does he want to study the genetically gifted to find out how to harvest the mutation and implant it only in specific next generations? Does he fear not being able to adapt and therefore becoming extinct because of it? Thanks to Pellegrino's patented innate charm but also moral ambiguity he infuses into all of his roles, these are just the first few questions that cross your mind when you spend time with Jedikiah. He elicits more thought about what the Tomorrow People stand for, what the bigger picture for them could be, and what it means that they're being kept a secret than you might expect from an episode mostly prone to showing off cool effects such as disappearing people or levitating objects.
There are some really interesting themes at play on The Tomorrow People, but unfortunately the pilot barely plants the seeds for many of them. Since we do follow Stephen for so much of it, it makes sense that he would be oblivious to many of them; he is clearly in over his head already, making decisions from a little kid's longing without any real reason to believe the things he was promised would be paid off. Let's hope that's not a metaphor for how the show as a whole will go, though.
There are a lot of really interesting questions that The Tomorrow People leaves us with, least of all the "why now" of it all. There's the question of Stephen's father (Jeffrey Pierce) and the circumstances around his disappearance, as well as whether or not Stephen's little brother has the gene and therefore needs to be "watched," too. Pierce is such a dynamic player, backstory of the Tomorrow People aside, we hope he returns and specifically gets to play opposite on-screen brother Pellegrino because those would be some powerhouse moments for the show. There's also the question of why these two species (which really aren't as separate as the show is trying to claim) are at war at all if the Tomorrow People can't kill and therefore aren't nearly as much of a threat as they could be.
The pilot episode of The Tomorrow People has to move fast in order to introduce Stephen and his struggling but well-meaning family, his everyday teenager school and problems, and the world of possibilities being opened to him by a few attractive strangers and some very surreal abilities. But it wouldn't have cost the show any more time to have Stephen realize he could move something with his mind before the voice in his head told him he could. It wouldn't have slowed the show down at all to spend an extra few moments lingering with him on the question of if he was going crazy and what it all means. Sure, we would have known he wasn't going crazy, but that doesn't dilute the fact that "what it all means" should still be life-changing for the kid.
Instead, The Tomorrow People chooses to include voice-over narration from Stephen over both the opening and closing segments of the pilot that sets up the tone that this story is being told with some hindsight. Therefore what we are about to experience with Stephen may be a bit colored by what Stephen has come to know since these events took place, and we really shouldn't take anything we see at face-value. The pilot episode focuses entirely on the external changes to Stephen and his life, but hopefully this reflective voice-over, as on-the-nose as it may be, means subsequent episodes will focus more on his internal struggles and how what he is learning about himself, his father, and the world around him will make him a man. Just as there was so much more to Stephen than first met the eye, so should there be to his kind, those who hunt them, and we have to hope, the show in general.
The Tomorrow People premieres on The CW on October 9 2013 at 9 p.m.
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