Signed up the 28/03/2017
Impulse is YouTube Red's contribution to the teen drama wave that has been threatening to re-assume its place from 2018 forward (I'll write about that in a article soon). The pilot is directed by the talented Doug Liman, as the rest of the season's quality so riplicates- fittingly led by a group of women directors. The series is adapted from the fourth book in the Jumper universe, authored by Steven Gould. The 2008 movie adaption was directed by Liman himself, which made it even more fitting that he was involved in the series adaption.
Impulse follows the story of a young woman by the name of Henrietta "Henry" Cole, who is sexually assaulted by the school jock and in turn town's prized pony, Clay Boone. I was relieved that the story was tackled by a group of women from episode to episode because it could've been a glossed over superhero series that is disguised as social awareness.
Luckily even when some of the episodes are careless about how they handle the conversation around sexual assault and rape- mainly by subtley trying to draw sympathy from the audience for the young perpetrator whose life has now been changed forever from his OWN doing- we still get pure validation for Henry's pain and trauma. Which in turn validates a lot of (young) women out there who hace similar experiences and so gives them the confidence to speak out and/or deal with their internalised trauma.
Henry discovers that she has an odd ability to teleport that seems to have suddenly developed out of nowhere, which she later also finds that it is triggered by fear. Through the episodic melodrama and satiating thrills we get to witness the young loner navigating through her feelings of dispair as she deals with the pain and anxiety that her assault caused her, as well as her trying to juggle that traumatic event with her anxiety-inducing high school life. She also struggles with always being the new kid due to her mom's capacity to move from town to town without considering the emotional implications it has had on her as a growing young woman.
With this much meat to a story, you'd imagine the creators would knock it out the park if they'd centre the story around exactly that. But they thought it best to stray a bit to pull a one-of a kind 90210,/The OC, to try to wove the parents into the obviously teen-centric series. There's also a weird obsession with drug cartels and smuggling. The entire series ends up centering the plotline around a drug and family feud between town kingpin and car-dealership owner, Bill Boone (the father of the rapist little shit), and a well-respected community.
What I mostly enjoyed about the show is that it prides itself, and insists on, spreading awareness. Our protagonist suffers from severe seizures and is ever in and out of the hospital, and her self-proclaimed side-kick, Townes, is on the autism spectrum, among other things. Henry's step-sister, mean-girl (who turns out to be a pretty decent human being) is also questioning her sexuality, which will be interesting to explore for the school's it-girl, come the comfirmed second season. Also, women-empowerment is strong within the show.
What this show needed was the world building found in shows like Stranger Things, The Originals and Handmaid's Tale. We also needed more on the teens' friendship, relationship and overall teen life dynamic, and less cartel and parents BS. In my personal rule-book, shows centering around young people should spend minimal time on parents, while putting as much effort in that limited time to make us care for the parents, but not so much that they're always in our faces. This aspect of the show ultimately takes away from spending time on Henry, her developing powers and her friend, pretty interesting school mates which I'd loved to have seen more of, and her cheeky it-girl step-sis who's also, like, kind of a lowkey nerd.
The show has a strong lead and the supporting cast is just as driven and interesting. Everyone who comes on screen (though not developed enough in this first season) is compelling enough to drive intrigue with whatever little screen-time they're afforded. There are a lot of rushed characters, which is where characterisation falls short, but I see potential in a lot of the characters through the charisma they bring. A show with compelling characters is a show that will outlive most.
Visually, Impulse is one of the best I've seen in a while. Taking to dark and shadowy colours, deliberate direction and camera positioning and control. The small, quiet town with long dry roads surrounded by open fields and modest housing adds to the somber and atmospheric aesthetic.
It has its flaws here and there, but Impulse is the show to watch out of this year. I imagine that the upcoming season 2 will be much more refined, and I'm more than excited to see where Henry's story takes us.
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