When making something thoughtful and provocative don’t forget to make it entertaining and engaging, as well.
Season One of YouTube Premium series ‘Impulse‘ is an odd, undercooked sci-fi drama mashup that almost works. Another made-in-Canada genre show that ticks all the prerequisite boxes. Yet, choosing to focus its debut season on a serious, highly topical subject places this paint-by-numbers into something distinctly more relevant.
Henrietta “Henry” Cole (Maddie Hasson) has grown tired of moving from town to town as her mother’s (Missi Pyle) rotisserie of boyfriends keeps spinning. Now stuck in Nowhere, New York she’s making the best of it with a new “sister” and “dad”. Being the social outcast at school doesn’t help. But, at least she’s got pot smoking and her burgeoning career as graffiti artist/criminal to keep her grounded.
She ensnares local High School hero/basketball star into one of her schemes which leads to a full-on sexual assault that both traumatizes her and unleashes a hidden ability, teleportation. Making this traumatic event a catalyst for power brings in more pathos than typical superpowered origin stories. This is a “gift” she doesn’t understand, can’t control, and that only intensifies her systematic fear and sense of isolation.
I respect the choice to focus on this topic; and the writers ensure that this isn’t just some glossed over plot device. It is taken seriously and is given much more consideration than the typical just “walk it off” approach many Hollywood productions deliver. But, it also leads to unwanted story padding as many of these ten episodes offer little actual progress into the much bigger world they are “jumping” into.
As an unofficial sequel to Doug Limon’s feature film ‘Jumper’ (it’s based off the third book in the same novel series) I went into this show expecting much more sci-fi thrills. And, although effort is made to explore this secret world where powerful corporate/government allies hunt to enslave, experiment upon, and/or destroy these mutant teleporters and their families, little momentum is built towards bringing Henry into the fold. It feels more like an “afterschool special” on steroids than it should.
There’s a deep ensemble cast, including genre favorites Shawn Doyle and Callum Keith Rennie. However, most of the acting lacks both the subtly and intensity these themes demand. I should really have cared more.
I often end up with “here’s hoping Season Two delivers on what was promised in Season One”. And, unfortunately that’s again the case with Season One of ‘Impulse‘. Yet, kudos for respectfully addressing an uncomfortable, yet exceedingly significant (and contemporary) subject. If only they’d copied ‘Jessica Jones’ by allowing that life-altering trauma to motivate the plot and characters forward instead of just keeping everything spinning in place.