Another very intense episode of The Tomorrow People with much in it to chew on, but first I wanted to talk about a major shortcoming that could potentially be this show’s undoing: the acting.
There’s already a soap opera-esque quality to this series, especially when things like Cara’s sister appearing out of thin air in this week’s episode. But I fear that the producers aren’t doing themselves any favors by hiring actors who seem like they would be more comfortable on All My Children or Passions. I somehow managed to ignore this aspect of the show for the last few weeks. This week, though, it was unavoidable what with the dramatics in it.
The worst offender is Peyton List. She was fine in her occasional appearances in Mad Men but she fails with the emotional moments of this show, looking either like she’s in some kind of physical pain or like she’s been startled by a loud noise. This week, with her baby sister breaking out and struggling with her growing powers, List couldn’t hide behind the clamor or appearing in some state of undress. She was forced to emote and failed.
Same goes for Robbie Amell, who plays Stephen. Trying to wrestle with the fact that his father is still lying in stasis and that his uncle has asked him to help off The Founder so that The Tomorrow People may be free, all the charm and strength that he often exhibits just melts away. Instead, it’s all about the furrowed brow and the speech through gritted teeth.
The Founder, played by Simon Merrells, doesn’t fare much better. Begging for his life and trying to turn John and Stephen, who broke into his lair with intentions of murder, he chews on every word like a piece of peanut brittle, enunciating everything to pieces. The only pure moment he produced was right after reflecting a bullet aimed at his head, and sending it into the heart of his daughter, Cassie. His pain at the loss seemed entirely genuine.
Lucky for the show, everyone around these three can pull their weight dramatically. Luke Mitchell (John on the show) has proven himself a reliable cog in this machine, and Aaron Yoo is moving well beyond the caricature status he held in early episodes. And if you’ve read my previous recaps, you know how much I appreciate Mark Pellegrino.
I’m not sure how much more we’re going to be seeing of Pellegrino this season, though. The botched attempt on the Founder’s life sent him running, and could be his potential undoing. And what we still don’t know is who Stephen should trust here. Is the death of the Founder really what is needed to save Stephen’s father? Or is Jedikiah playing both sides against each other so that he may finally assume mutant powers of his own? Not even the lukewarm acting of some of the show’s leads is going to turn me away now. I’m too wrapped up and I want answers.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.