REVIEW: IMPULSE – SEASON 1

Impulse (2018)

MAIN CAST

Maddie Hasson (The Finder)
Sarah Desjardins (Van Helsing)
Enuka Okuma (Slasher)
Craig Arnold (Heartland)
Tanner Stine (The Thundermans)
Keegan-Michael Key (Why Him?)
Missi Pyle (Gone Girl)

Impulse (2018)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Matt Gordon (Rookie Blue)
Daniel Maslany (Chained)
David James Elliott (Trumbo)
Callum Keith Rennie (Battlestar Galactica)
Aidan Devine (A History of Violence)
Shawn Doyle (Reign)
Michelle Nolden (Earth: Final Conflict)
David Alpay (The Vampire Diaries)
Allison Hossack (Reaper)
Danny Pudi (Powerless)
Lulu Antariksa (Legacies)
Hiro Kanagawa (Caprica
Lauren Collins (Degrassi: TNG)
Will Chase (Sharp Objects)

Maddie Hasson in Impulse (2018)YouTube Red’s new series is part of the ‘Jumper’ family, but it’s driven by a very strong lead performance from Maddie Hasson that makes it more of a character drama about sexual assault than a YA thriller.  Directed by Doug Liman, the pilot for YouTube Red’s Impulse begins with a bang. Two men, one played by Keegan-Michael Key, are engaged in a full-on teleportation brawl, exchanging punches as they shift between a remote iceberg and a busy subway train full of confused passengers. It’s a thrilling spectacle. Over the rest of the 10-episode first season of the show, there is no scene of comparable action or scope, and Key’s role in the series is negligible.the-simpsonsAnd if you’re curious why, as I initially was, despite the presence of Liman and source material from Steven Gould, YouTube Red isn’t selling Impulse on its ties to the Jumper book and movie brand, know that the series’ quantity of teleporting fun is minimal and its fidelity to Gould’s novel is close to nonexistent.  Having dispatched and dismissed the major selling points for Impulse, it’s possible to really respect the show for what it actually is, namely a surprisingly effective exploration of a young woman dealing with the aftermath of sexual assault, while at the same time learning very little about her newfound ability to travel through space in moments of extreme emotion. It’s often quite solid and Maddie Hasson effectively leads a fine ensemble, but Impulse really isn’t the show you might be expecting.imageHasson plays Henrietta “Henry” Coles, a vagabond teen who struggles to make friends and connections because her mother (Missi Pyle) keeps moving from one boyfriend and town to the next. Henry’s latest home is somewhere in upstate New York and comes with a popular, dismissive new pseudo stepsister (Sarah Desjardins) and the challenges of being unable to drive due to several recent and unexplained seizures. A conflict with a teacher in class leads to Henry’s latest seizure and to attention from Townes (Daniel Maslany), who’s on the autism spectrum and a bit of an outcast himself, when he notices that Henry’s condition also causes objects around her to move. That’s nothing, though, compared to what happens when basketball star Clay (Tanner Stine) ignores Henry’s boundaries and vocal protestations after some initially benign making-out. Before she knows what happened, Henry is back in the safety of her bedroom and Clay’s life is changed forever.impulseUsing the sexual assault of a young protagonist as a character catalyst can be effective and fertile instigation for drama — see Veronica Mars or Jessica Jones — but it can also be exploitive when ramifications and emotional scarring are ignored to push the narrative forward. Impulse showrunner Lauren LeFranc is admirably determined not to let the series fall into that second category. What the show does best is deal with consent and the lingering trauma a sexual assault can cause a victim. It’s a multi-episode process that’s almost always in the foreground as Henry faces the constant presence of her attacker; suffers self-doubt as her story is questioned; and shies away from other intimacies in her life, already a problem for the new girl in school and for one of those sci-fi characters whose burgeoning adolescence and nascent powers are intermingled.IMPULSE-Maddie-Hasson-YouTube-Premium1Hasson’s balance of tough-girl exterior and inner fragility is exceptional. There’s a volatile minutelong uncut shot of the young actress in the second episode that sold me completely on the performance and her ability to carry the series. Episodes are preceded by sexual violence content warnings and end with hotline callouts to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. LeFranc and the writers, plus a team of post-Liman directors dominated by women, including Helen Shaver, Alex Kalymnios and Cherien Dabis, do right by this sensitive, difficult side of the story. The performances by Desjardin; Maslany (Tatiana’s brother); and David James Elliott, as the father of Henry’s attacker and a local automotive kingpin, are all totally overhauled as characterizations go from one-dimensional to much more nuanced. The series badly needs the comic touches Desjardin and Maslany provide in their finer moments.22c11def757c6d1c4d1d8056a72353faHenry’s understanding of her power is being laid as an interesting foundation for future seasons, but I accused Freeform’s new drama Cloak & Dagger of slow progress in its superhero narrative and that show is positively steaming along compared to Impulse. Much too much of what drives the first season comes from a mostly ludicrous plotline involving Elliott’s character and a Mennonite-run opioid empire that recalls the way the first season of Bates Motel was about small-town Oregon marijuana trade more than Norman Bates’ introduction to motel maintenance.  The drug story, probably developed with confidence that YouTube Red’s core audience didn’t watch the far more outrageous take on similar material in Cinemax’s Banshee, at least offers another reason for Henry to feel guilt and remorse, and another tense situation to highlight how good Hasson is. It’s weakly plotted, but appropriate for a show that wants to make you think it’s a YA action-franchise starter, when it’s really an interesting and somber character study with a heroine who, very rarely, teleports.

 

REVIEW: LEGACIES – SEASON 1

Matthew Davis, Peyton 'Alex' Smith, Kaylee Bryant, Danielle Rose Russell, Jenny Boyd, Aria Shahghasemi, and Quincy Fouse in Legacies (2018)

Starring

Danielle Rose Russell (Aloha)
Aria Shahghasemi (No Alternate)
Kaylee Bryant (Santa Clarita Diet)
Jenny Boyd (Viking Quest)
Quincy Fouse (Logan)
Peyton Alex Smith (The Quad)
Matt Davis (The Vampire Diaries)

Matthew Davis, Zach Roerig, and Danielle Rose Russell in Legacies (2018)

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Demetrius Bridges (Containment)
Lulu Antariksa (What Still Remains)
Karen David (The Scorpion King 2)
Zach Roerig (The Gifted)
Chris Lee (The Chi)
Sam Ashby (Stranger Things)
Katie Garfield (Project Almanac)
Steven R. McQueen (Piranha 3D)
Ben Levin (Allegiant)
Andreas Damm (The Yearbook)
Amy Manson (The White Princess)
Jodi Lyn O’Keefe (Halloween: H20)
Ben Geurens (Reign)
Ayelet Zurer (Man of Steel)
Nick Fink (Glee)
Riann Steele (Ant-Man and The Wasp)
Erica Ash (Scary Movie 5)
Christopher B. Duncan (Veronica Mars)
Jedidiah Goodacre (The Order)
Rodney Rowland (The 6th Day)

Matthew Davis and Danielle Rose Russell in Legacies (2018)The Vampire Diaries and its resulting spinoff series The Originals saw pretty much every single one of their characters die and get resurrected in some new, creative way, and now, in true vampire fashion, this franchise is defying death once more with another spin-off series, Legacies.Danielle Rose Russell in Legacies (2018)After The CW ended creator Julie Plec’s first spinoff series, The Originals, the initial idea of a further spinoff – about almost an entirely new cast of characters – seemed unnecessary. But the series premiere of Legacies gives fans, old and new alike, credible reasons to return to Mystic Falls.Peyton 'Alex' Smith, Danielle Rose Russell, and Aria Shahghasemi in Legacies (2018)Legacies is an easy entry point for new viewers to join the TVD fandom. Most of the necessary plot details are explained in simple exposition in the first episode — it’s set several years after the Originals’ series finale, following an adult Hope Mikaelson (Danielle Rose Russell) and seeing Alaric Saltzman (fan-favorite Matt Davis) running a school for young supernatural kids out of Salvatore family mansion.Danielle Rose Russell in Legacies (2018)But aside from the thrill of seeing the old Salvatore boarding house being used in a new way and some small but exciting cameos from fan-favorite characters, that’s where the comparisons to The Vampire Diaries and The Originals end, making this new spinoff more accessible than The Originals ever was. And for fans of the first two series, Legacies offers something new – a true supernatural high school drama. Yes, The Vampire Diaries may have started out in high school, but let’s be honest: those teens never saw enough of the inside of a classroom to earn their high school diplomas (let alone get accepted into college).Legacies starts with actual teenagers who are supernatural creatures, living at a school with other supernatural teenagers. The preppy boarding school setting allows Plec and co. dive into high school drama in a way they never have before. This works for several reasons. First, and perhaps most importantly, Legacies stars actors who are actually age-appropriate. No more 30somethings playing 17-year-olds. The friendships and romance intrigue actually feel right for a high school setting – and the supernatural elements are the cherry on top.

What’s most compelling about the romance on Legacies is how the new series takes a fresh and honest look at how many teens approach sexual identity. The new spinoff takes place somewhere in the near future (the timeline on Vampire Diaries and Originals got a little murky towards the end, but it landed somewhere 4-9 years from now) and the sociopolitical attitudes are refreshingly progressive: The teenagers at the school are all sexually fluid and don’t feel the need to label themselves.Danielle Rose Russell in Legacies (2018)With an accessible entry point for those who have never seen a single episode of The Vampire Diaries or The Originals, Legacies is for anyone interested in supernatural high school drama. And the nostalgic setting and fun easter eggs for fans of the Vampire Diaries universe are just the cherries on top.