May 6, 2014

THE SKED Season Finale Review: “The Tomorrow People”


All season, THE TOMORROW PEOPLE has felt like the ugly stepchild of series co-creators Greg Berlanti and Julie Plec, who have more cherished children (Arrow for him, The Vampire Diaries and The Originals for her) getting the bulk of their attention.  Story arcs have been haphazard, acting has been uneven and budgetary shortfalls have been all too clear.  These were problems that tonight’s season finale, written by the show’s other co-creator Phil Klemmer and directed by Wendey Stanzler, didn’t solve.

It’s not that Tomorrow People hasn’t tried.  It’s pushed its central storyline, about mutant teen Stephen Jameson (Robbie Amell) and his family and hunted friends (they can read minds, practice telekinesis, transport through thin air and occasionally stop time), in all sorts of directions.  Stephen’s dead father Roger (Jeffrey Pierce), revered by the Tomorrow People, turned out not to be so dead after all, his mother Marla (Sarah Clarke) was revealed late in the season to be a secret mutant as well, and his uncle Jedikiah (Mark Pellegrino), head of Tomorrow People-hunting Ultra, seemed to whipsaw from villainous to sympathetic to nefarious on an episode-by-episode basis.  Midway along, an even more evil head of Ultra, known mostly as The Founder (Simon Merrells), was unveiled, and he, too, cycled from potentially trustworthy to ruthlessly murderous–although, let’s face it, someone who likes to be referred to as “The Founder” isn’t going to be a good guy.  In the last few episodes, a desperate attempt was made to transform Stephen’s human pal Astrid (Madeleine Mantock) into someone relevant by abruptly turning her into a love interest for John (Luke Mitchell), who up to that point had been in a triangle with Stephen and Cara (Peyton List), even as he battled Cara for leadership of the Tomorrow People.

Mostly, it was a mess.  The finale wrapped up the Founder storyline, but not in a particularly satisfying way, as Roger, so recently returned from suspended animation, died once again rather than have his powers fuel a machine that The Founder was using to stop time for all humans and essentially kill them–except, oops, the thing was already on, and could only be stopped when Stephen heaved The Founder into what looked like one of the portals from Once Upon A Time.  Meanwhile, Jedikiah had managed at the end of last week to give himself Tomorrow Person powers–but oops, it turned out that the powers lasted literally for about 5 minutes, leaving him in the middle of Ultra headquarters looking more than a little foolish.  Tomorrow Person Russell (Aaron Yoo), who only last week had betrayed Roger by turning him over to The Founder, and was thus directly responsible not just for his death but for the near-destruction of all mankind, was welcomed back to the team with barely a nasty look, and Astrid and John kissed as much as possible so that their romance could seem to have a shred of credibility.  Cara, in the midst of the battle to save the world, found time to change outfits and dress up in what looked like a drum majorette uniform in skin-tight leather, and when she was killed, Stephen discovered the ability to turn back time, expelling the bullet from her in slow motion and grabbing the gun from rotten Tomorrow Person Natalie (Leven Rambin).

In case all that wasn’t enough, an extended epilogue tried to set things up for a Season 2 that may never come, turning Jedikiah evil one more time and having him restore surrogate son John’s powers but at the cost of his memory and fashion sense, with John as his number 2 in his drive to create superpowered soldiers, an idea he must have gotten by watching episodes of Agents of SHIELD or Berlanti’s own Arrow.  (In another sign of desperation, several episodes before season’s end featured a nerdy but lovely new Tomorrow Person scientist who, it was painfully obvious, had been inspired by Arrow‘s Felicity.)

The narrative never hung together, and although Mitchell and List had some presence, and Pellegrino nimbly managed his leaps of moral ambiguity, the characters had little appeal or chemistry.  (Robbie Amell’s somewhat stolid affect didn’t make things easier.)  The woeful CG effects mostly repeated the same flash over and over as the characters teleported in and out of scenes, The Canadian substitution for what was supposed to be New York barely even tried to be convincing, and few sets on network television were as fake-looking as “the Lair,” the abandoned subway station where the Tomorrow People had their home, a location that miraculously none of the all-seeing, all-knowing bad guys could ever find.

Since just about all CW series tread the same narrow YA ground of plot and character, a show that’s below average looks far worse than it would if it aired in a singular context.  The Tomorrow People is a CW retread that’s never found its way, and if it defies its meager ratings and returns next fall, it will need a major overhaul.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."