REVIEW: IMPULSE – SEASON 2

Maddie Hasson in Impulse (2018)

MAIN CAST

Maddie Hasson (The Finder)
Sarah Desjardins (Van Helsing)
Enuka Okuma (Slasher)
Craig Arnold (Heartland)
Missi Pyle (Gone Girl)
Daniel Maslany (Chained)
Callum Keith Rennie (Battlestar Galactica)racRKbQ0w1vBdzpI119jVngXDW6

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Will Chase (Sharp Objects)
Rachel Wilson (The Glass House)
Tanner Stine (The Thundermans)
Taylor Jackson (The Umbrella Academy)
Jennifer Wigmore (Heartland)
Eric Ladin (American Sniper)
Julia Knope (White Lie)
Bruce Locke (Robocop 3)
Lauren Collins (Degrassi: TNG)
Sarah Deakins (Andromeda)
David James Elliott (Trumbo)
Shohreh Aghdashloo (The Expanse)
Shawn Doyle (This Life)
Sarah Swire (Anna and The Apocalypse)

ob_526952_xt5uqdfif17ie1quyrn50bdsnz3Viewers of Impulse on YouTube Premium have figured out by now that the television adaptation of the Stephen Gould Jumper novels is more true to the themes of personal trauma from the first book than it is to the high octane action film from 2008. As a result, the pacing of the first season is quite deliberate, focusing more on what caused Henry Coles, played by Maddie Hasson, to teleport in the first place rather than accelerating through her origin story and having her quickly gain control over her abilities. Although some of that will change in season 2, the first two episodes indicate that the details about Henry’s abilities and those that seek to exploit them will continue to unfold with enticing but realistic incremental progress.impulse-season-2-maddie-hasson-daniel-maslany-henry-townes-youtube-premiumAnd that’s not a bad thing! Although we’re not yet certain whether Callum Keith Rennie’s character can be trusted, the assistance he provides in Impulse season 2 will immediately raise new questions in the viewers’ minds when the show returns on October 16, 2019. However, Nikolai, as he will come to be known, will also bring answers to long held questions, and the shady group he works for will begin to be fleshed out and given its own set of motivations. As good as season 1 was, if season 2 didn’t at least start to address these mysteries, it wouldn’t have been a follow-up worth revisiting.Impulse-Season-2-YouTube-HenryBut for fans of characters like Henry’s sister Jenna (Sarah Desjardins) and the lovable geek Townes (Daniel Maslany), there’s plenty to love about the sophomore season of Impulse. After being visited by the hacker known as “Systems Analyst Manager” in season one, viewers will no doubt look forward to the continuing mystery of the interloper’s identity and whether or not they have the teenagers’ best interests at heart. The friendship and support that Jenna and Townes give to Henry will be challenged to the limit as Henry struggles to deal with the aftermath of what she did to Bill Boone.impulse-maddie-hasson-youtube-redAnd it’s not as if the Boone family is finished with its life of crime and the Mennonite community which was so wrongly accused in season one. Despite the contrition and guilty conscience Lucas Boone (Craig Arnold) is feeling in having killed Amos Miller and the imprisonment of the community leader, Jeremiah (Shawn Doyle), Esther Miller (Tara Rosling) is still very much looking to place blame as Impulse season 2 begins. How the drug ring and Bill Boone’s absence will play out is anyone’s guess, but there’s no doubt that the tenacious Deputy Anna Hulce (played wonderfully by Enuka Okuma, now as acting sheriff) will not simply move on the way her former boss might have insisted she do.0_B0nelyje-Vqna9EvBut the most important difference in season 2 is the addition of more details about the wider community of teleporters and why shady elements of the government might be interested in learning more about them and about Henry in particular. In that sense, this new season feels properly like the second chapter in the story with plenty of shifted motivations and new players in the mix that thankfully don’t detract from the character development of those we love to sympathize with, like Jenna with her closeted sexuality or Henry with her increasing need to find ways to deal with traumas new and old since her abilities now have the power to kill.ob_af72a6_ntkbkd6vtce0a2tzvhmptqxqoghAs teen dramas with a genre twist go, Impulse is right up there with Freeform’s Cloak & Dagger and Hulu’s Runaways in terms of allowing the characters to develop and experience the full range of emotion as they grow into their powers rather than thrusting huge responsibilities on young people and having them jammed into heroic roles they’re not prepared to deal with. Impulse is still just as much about Henry’s transient childhood and the pain that Clay Boone put her through as it is about learning how to control her power and avoid those who would use her for their own purposes. Impulse season 2 worthily carries the mantle with a clear sense of where the series wants to go.

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: VAN HELSING – SEASON 1

MAIN CAST

Kelly Overton (Beauty and The Beast)
Jonathan Scarfe (Into The West)
Christopher Heyerdahl (Sanctuary)
David Cubitt (Arrow)
Vincent Gale (Battlestar Galactica)
Rukiya Bernard (Colossal)
Trezzo Mahoro (Izombie)
Hilary Jardine (Camera Shy)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Tim Guinee (Iron Man)
Hannah Cheramy (Summer Love)
Anne Openshaw (American Mary)
Paul Johansson (Highlander: The Raven)
Marci T. House (Godzilla)
Alison Wandzura (Mistresses)
Aleks Paunovic (Kindergarten Cop 2)
John DeSantis (The 13th Warrior)
Laura Mennell (Alphas)
Avery Konrad (The Killing)
Terry Chen (Bates Motel)
Sarah Desjardins (Wayward Pines)
Naika Toussaint (Deadpool)
Ben Cotton (Stargate: Atlantis)
Jennifer Copping (Slither)
Chris Ippolito (The Revenant)
Ryan Robbins (Sanctuary)
Gwynyth Walsh (Star Trek Generations)
Tom Cavanagh (The Flash)
Jennifer Spence (Stargate Universe)
Kirby Morrow (Ninjago)
Fiona Vroom (Power Rangers)
Rowland Pidlubny (Continuum)
Christina Jastrzembska (Stargate Atlantis)
Gia Crovatin (Billions)
Macie Juiles (Finding Father Christmas)
Catherine Lough Haggquist (Fifty Shades Freed)
Mark Acheson (Elf)
Christopher Russell (Land of The Dead

One thing becomes abundantly clear three minutes into the pilot of SyFy’s latest genre offering Van Helsing; this is not your teenaged daughter’s vampire story. Gone is the inherent sexiness we’ve come to associate with the highly attractive creatures of the night, and in its place a gritty, grimy, visceral appearance that articulates the reality of an existence that revolves solely around securing basic human needs in the face of post-apocalyptic obstacles. Bloodthirsty vampires attempting to storm Seattle Valley General Hospital give 21st century viewers a unique re-imagining with all the prerequisite details: buckets of blood, ravaged body parts, frequent bouts of terror, and above all, characters that inspire concern.It’s 2019 as the series opens; “Three years since The Rising began. Civilization has fallen. Vampires rule the streets. Only whispers of a human savior have given mankind hope.” Let’s get this out of the way right now. Comparisons to The Walking Dead are unavoidable, and it remains to be seen what will set Van Helsing apart from being just another horror series with an attractive woman wearing black and kicking ass as she fights back against beings that have lost their humanity. Though we don’t see Vanessa Helsing in action until midway through the episode, Kelly Overton (True Blood) plays a young woman who wakes from a coma having missed the volcanic eruption that led to the vampire pandemic. We’re immediately struck by the strength of her performance as Overton dominates every scene she’s in. Disoriented and confused after being roused from her repose by a feral bite to the neck, she immediately springs into action revealing that she is not a woman to be trifled with. And in the first of LaBute’s plot twists, we learn that biting Vanessa not only fails to turn her into a creature, but produces the unexpected consequence of returning a vampire to a human state. However, we are also left to ponder whether she lay dead or merely comatose on the hospital table leading up to her resurrection.Axel (Jonathan Scarfe, Hell on Wheels) has been ordered to guard Vanessa without knowing why, and his stoic response to this situation embodies everything we expect from a U. S. Marine. Referring to Vanessa as Sleeping Beauty, it’s clear he’s developed an attraction to her, and now that she’s awake and determined to find her daughter, it seems rather obvious that they’ll be leaving the relative safety of the hospital. The friction between the two provides a perfect launch of the relationship these two will undoubtedly have as she searches not only for her daughter, but an understanding of what makes her inherently special.LaBute and director Michael Nankin (Defiance, Hell on Wheels) employ some character tropes, but these are used judiciously to establish how members of the small group react to self-serving motives along the way. It’s understandable that one man who’s narrowly made it inside the compound wants leave to find his wife from whom he’s been separated, but these are dire times when the well-being of the group takes precedence over the needs of the one. Like The Walking Dead, we have a group of individuals thrown together in a life or death situation, but Vanessa’s “magic bullet” status raises the game’s stakes.Van Helsing - Season 1All pilots face the same hurdle; can the writers lead viewers to care enough about the characters to return on a weekly basis? Are the stakes facing them high enough, and how can the writing team avoid simply presenting Vanessa on a quest to bring the world back from the brink of disaster one bite at at time? Interestingly, many pilots rely too heavily on narrative exposition and voiceover, but here, not only does the violent and oft times gruesome action demand the viewer’s attention, it forces the individuals to take sides in the approaching storm and provides viewers some necessary character motivation. One who does emerge as a potential dark horse is Sam (Christopher Heyerdahl, Sanctuary), a deaf man who steps forward as things begin spiralling out of control, lending a hand to Axel as the team leader faces a potential mutiny. Thou as the series progresses he hides a dark secret and could become a menacing threat.MV5BZTE0MGU3ODItZmVlYi00YTk3LTk5MTAtY2FjMWI2MTVmNjhhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjYwNDA2MDE@._V1_debuted on SyFy on September 23, the pilot showed a great unveiling reveals a show with a wealth of potential and a strong genre pedigree including Continuum’s Simon Barry and Jonathan Lloyd Walker. On the surface Van Helsing may appear to be just another post-apocalyptic survival tale, but as the series progresses through its first season it begins to raise questions about  Vanessa Helsing and her role as mankind’s savior to compel viewers to return and watch this reluctant messiah cope physically and emotionally with a role she didn’t ask for and doesn’t want. with season coming to an end I can’t wait for the second season. This first season has had me hooked and knowing early on not to get too attached to characters along way as this is a real no hold bards vampire series where anyone can be killed at anytime.