“Impulse – Season One” (2018)
Episodes: 10 episodes
Developed by: Jeffrey Lieber based on ‘Impulse’ by Steven Gould
Featuring: Maddie Hasson, Sarah Desjardins, Enuka Okuma, Craig Arnold, Tanner Stine, Keegan-Michael Key, Missi Pyle
Clay Boone: “What’s your deal? Like, why are you always alone?”
Henrietta ‘Henry’ Coles: “I like being alone.”
Clay Boone: “No one likes being alone.”
Who would have thought that the first two episodic series from YouTube would have been not good, but actually great, arriving hot on the heels of their first success, “Cobra Kai” (2018 – present) comes the quasi spinoff/sequel to the sci-fi movie “Jumper” (2008), based on the same material, but that earlier effort was much weaker, with a lead actor who was not as talented as he needed to be to lead such a high concept movie. Now ten years later Doug Liman, the director of that movie, now producer of this new show, “Impulse” (2018) as well as director of the pilot episode, has put things right as well as delivering something that is not only intriguing but is a reflection of its times in a way that makes the show not only relevant but a must watch, that seems to have been made for a variety of audiences. This is a ‘metoo’ show if ever there was one which could be seen as risky in an adolescent sci-fi series.
“Impulse” follows 16-year-old Henrietta, AKA Henry, who discovers she has the ability to teleport. The first time she realizes this, she is in a truck with her high school’s Golden Boy, who tries to rape her. She has a seizure and teleports, in the course of which she inadvertently crushes him, leaving him a paraplegic. The show goes on to explore Henry’s need to reconcile what her assaulter tried to do with the consequence, and her feelings about discovering she can teleport with her feelings about the assault.
Following on from those elemets is the fact that this show is built almost entirely around women, almost the entire main narrative is from a womans point of view, Henry the main character, Cleo her mother, Jenna and many other characters who are all searching for their places in a town that is not welcoming to them at all, even the police officer who is looking deeper into the assault (although she doesn’t know it) is a woman from New York who has had some rough dealings there. This is unique for a genre show especially one that follows on from a movie based around a male character who was one dimensional – having women at the centre immediately raises the stakes even without super powers. We actually see women interacting with each other in very emotional as well as real ways that even by todays standards is a bit of revelation, there are no men to save the day, it is up to them, like real life.
This is a show that is a sci-fi show at heart, about people that can teleport anywhere they can imagine, however like all great genre shows it is about more than what appears on the surface, in this case it is about a blended family, the town they are living in, the people that they interact with, growing up through adolescence and most importantly it revolves around a sexual assault that leaves both parties involved in very different places, as well as dealing with it in extremely different ways. To say that this is set firmly in a post Trumpian world is an understatement, there is no doubt that the sexual assault that takes place in episode one by a boy seems to be legitimised by some higher power, his father is not the greatest role model but he is not a rapist, entitled yes, crooked maybe but there is no evidence he is a rapist. The ongoing effect that Henry has to face knowing that her attacker is still present, that her mother and her mothers partner have to treat the rapist’s father with respect is something that rings true for many victims, as is the shame and blaming that goes on, this of course is complicated by the fact that she has to learn about her new power which for all its benefits leaves her as helpless as the assault itself, very smart show running.
There are of course other elements to the show that flesh out the world in which Henry exists, one of these is a faceless organisation that is hunting teleporters, we witness the lengths they will go to in their efforts as well as the price another teleporter is willing to pay so that he is not captured. This is the ‘B’ plot that will we know collide with the ‘A’ plot in some way which will propel us into season two. There are many mysteries in Henry’s life which she wants to confront along with her Mother, of course these all come to light after he assault as well as the coincidental revelation of her power.
The show itself is led by Maddie Hasson as Henry who has to play an extremely complex character who is more than just her genre representation, as she needs to be like any adolescent, tough, vulnerable, enquiring, funny, scared and brave all over the course of one very complicated season. Hasson will not be familiar to many but she does an outstanding job, reminding us that there are so many talented people; they just need room to shine. Hasson is ably supported by veteran character actor Missi Pyle who plays her mother who has not had a great crack at her own life, she finds herself the mother of two girls who are both pulling in very different directions, Pyle knows exactly what to do and judging by her performance so does everyone else, she is fantastic. Rounding out the trio of central character’s is Sarah Desjardins who plays the daughter of Pyles love interset, who like Hasson has not been seen widely but here plays someone who is a little lost especially when her ‘sister’ reveals what is happening with her, so she must adjust what she knows as well as still grieving for her mother who is now dead. The two, for me, stand out male actors are Veteran character actor and bad guy of the piece is Callum Keith Rennie who is a hunter but as with many protagonist is himself hiding a secret. Lastly there is Daniel Maslany as Townes a boy at school who is on the spectrum and has insights into what is happening with Henry in terms of her abilities which is a welcome aspect of the as well as some comedy relief just at the right times.
“Impulse” is a very good genre show that really goes beyond the flash of “Jumper” as well as a painting as close to something real as any other show on television at the moment. This is a show that offers insight into what it is like to be an adolescent in 2018 first, what it is like to be a girl who is put upon for no other reason than her gender as well as a very good sci-fi inspired trip that is more interested in building character as well as plot so that once the flash and bang has worn off we as the audience are still left with real people to hang future seasons on which is something many genre shows miss. There are real surprises to be had with each episode as well as some very moments for all the characters, I am looking forward to the second season, YouTube have dine an outstanding job with this show, I look forward to more of their offerings in the future.
- Pilot: When Cleo’s boyfriend, Thomas, decides to sell Henry’s car, Henry enlists the help of high school basketball star, Clay Boone, to steal it back. But when Henry experiences inexplicable seizures, things quickly escalate beyond her control.
- State of Mind: After a visit with a neurologist, Henry hopes her new meds will fix everything. Meanwhile, Bill Boone attempts to identify his son Clay’s attacker.
- Treading Water: Rattled by her newfound power, Henry tests her ability with the help of Thomas’s daughter, Jenna Hope, and fellow outsider, Townes Linderman.
- Vita/Mors: After finding herself in an unknown place, Henry seeks out Jenna and Townes in search of some answers.
- The Eagle and the Bee: Left with no one’s support, Henry returns to the unknown place only to discover a startling connection to her past.
- In Memoriam: While Henry returns to Reston with someone from her past, Clay faces some harsh truths about his new reality.
- He Said, She Said: After Henry and Clay have a fight, Cleo tries to make amends by inviting the Boones over for dinner. But the evening takes a devastating turn.
- Awakenings: As Cleo fights for her daughter’s well being, Henry battles her own inner demons.
- They Know Not What They Do:As Henry sets out to find her mother, Cleo navigates an unwanted showdown between Bill Boone and his business associates.
- New Beginnings: After a heart-to-heart with Cleo, Henry faces a life-altering decision: leave Reston for a fresh start, or stay with the Hope family and confront her enemies.