The Tomorrow People got off to a somewhat rocky start — but the past few episodes have been ridiculously fun. And last night's episode, in which we learn that Russell inspired a whole slew of superheroes, would make a great jumping-back-on point for people who've given up on the show. Seriously, this show is finally hitting its stride.
It's kind of sad, actually. Everything about "Superhero" clearly seemed designed to pull in fans of Arrow. After all, Tomorrow People was airing right after Arrow — until now. This was the first episode that was stuck airing after Star-Crossed instead, which meant that all of the show's efforts to showcase Arrow-esque superhero uniforms, vigilante justice, quips and random sex were for naught.
It's too bad — I honestly think if the Arrow fans had caught the first five minutes of "Superhero" airing after their show, they would have stuck with it and probably liked it.
It helped that this episode focused on Russell, one of the show's most fun characters who usually just provides a few goofy one-liners. Unlike the previous Russell-centric episode, it wasn't about his origins as a piano prodigy with a stern, demanding father, either. It was Russell as we've grown to love him — the Scarlet Pimp.
In a nutshell, there's a superhero in town, rousting Vietnamese gangsters. Russell thinks she's his ex-girlfriend Talia, but she turns out to be a different woman, Mallory, who has picked up the "mantle" of the Red Avenger. And even though Russell was kind of a loser when he knew Talia, she's been going around telling everyone that he inspired her to be a superhero — reflecting the hero she knew he could be, rather than the jackass he was.
In the end, Russell teams up with Talia to take down the gangsters, while the others sort of help out and sort of give him shade for wanting to do the "superhero team-up" thing.
There were a few things I liked about this superhero plot: for one thing, it gave the show a "heroic destiny" angle that didn't focus on Stephen, and wasn't about finding Stephen's dead dad for once. (In fact, Russell points out how weird that whole business is.) And that meant that we could have some speechifying about heroism that was more rewarding, like Mallory's cute speech about being born with greatness, to do great things — which Russell entertainingly mangles when he tries to recruit other Tomorrow People to be superheroes.
This episode also raised some worthwhile questions, like why not use your powers to help ordinary people? It added a neat layer of moral ambiguity — plus it showcased how both sides of the Ultra/Tomorrow People conflict are wrong. Ultra wants to protect humans, but only by violating the mutants. The Tomorrow People, meanwhile, regard humans as irrelevant and won't lift a finger to help them when they're in trouble. Neither side is exactly staking out a position of moral superiority here.
In this context, the Red Avengers organization seems to have a viable alternative to fighting Ultra endlessly, and apparently Ultra only operates in New York, so moving around and staying dispersed is a decent strategy for staying off Ultra's radar. (Also, note to Manhattan mutants: Jersey City really isn't that bad, and it's outside Ultra's jurisdiction.)
But mostly, this episode was just super fun, largely because there was more Russell, and thus more ridiculous jokes about horizontal jousting and his name being "what's written inside my underwear." Plus, it's nice to see the mutants fighting someone besides Ultra and other mutants.
In the episode's "B" plot, the "finding Stephen's Dad" storyline finally lurches forward, in a way that seems to open up a lot of neat possibilities judging from next week's preview. Stephen has a handy gadget that apparently homes in on his father's cryogenically frozen body, because blerghy blergy blergy blorp blorp. So Morgan — remember her? — volunteers to hook up with her ex-boyfriend Jedikiah, and try to read his mind.
The Morgan-Jedikiah stuff is sort ofsqueezed into the cracks of this episode, and feels like it comes from a much darker hour of television. But it sort of works as a counterpoint — Jedikiah is worried because the Founder thinks Jedikiah killed Morgan, and now Jedikiah can't afford to have any new memories of seeing her in his brain. And then, when Jedikiah catches Morgan trying to poke around in his brain, he tries to kill her for real. In the middle of such a light-hearted, goofy episode, the sight of Mark Pellegrino freaking out and trying to strangle his lover is somehow extra-jarring. At the last moment, John rescues Morgan and tells Jedikiah that she's pregnant with Jedikiah's baby.
And the coda is that Stephen — who's now randomly making out with his hard-ass partner Hillary because she finally opened up to him — tracks down his father's body, under a butcher shop in Brooklyn. At last.
Jedikiah catches Stephen with his dad's body, and finally has a moment of clarity that Stephen has never spoken the truth to him, ever. And the end of the episode sets up what will — hopefully — be a long conversation between the two, hashing things out. (Still feeling somewhat burned by the cliffhanger where Stephen's mom turned out to be a mutant, and then the next episode swept the reveal under the rug.)
All in all, this episode was not just fun, but nimble — the feeling of plodding along from plot point to plot point is gone, and the characters are becoming just a wee bit unpredictable. Of course, it helps when you give Russell more screen time. A lot.