Rating 2.5/5 – Rating YouTube Red’s Impulse was a little hard for me because I was not sure exactly how to breach my objections with this show without coming off dickish. There was nothing in the advertising promising any sort of high action show, in fact, the trailer made it look more like heavy-handed melodrama if nothing else. It has a fantastical element and seems to want to be its own kind of meta-human narrative. Because some of my criticism leaned into the whole “13 is just too many episodes” argument I had to take a step back to reconsider my position on that. For the record, my position is the argument is stupid. The number of shows is not what makes a TV show good or bad. It how the episodes are written and fits the over all plot that matters. You can have a slow middle in any show of any number. The BBC proves this all the time as many of their shows have much fewer episodes per season (or series) than we have in America and many of those have middle story problems as well. YouTube Red’s Impulse could have been a much more interesting show then what we got and it was due specifically to holding on to on plot which gave us one theme while wanting to be a show with an entirely different theme. Because of this, the pacing was too slow, what amounted to action was barely, if ever, taken by the main character and the twists didn’t have their intended impact. But it was well acted and, IMO, had on hell of a soundtrack. Let’s dig a little deeper.
Anyone Remember Jumper?
I’ve been in the habit of looking for adaptations of movies since the late 1970’s and while watching YouTube Red’s Impulse I keep thinking, “Hey this is like that movie Jumper.” Jumper was one of those “came and went” movies with a Samuel L. Jackson appearance staring Hayden Christensen. It was about a boy who found out he had the ability to teleport pretty anywhere he could literally think of. It meanders for while with the lead learning to use is powers and actually having fun with them. Then in a complete change of tone Samuel L. Jackson pops up as a hunter determined to catch people with his abilities. I will never review that movie because it was forgettable. Too many plotholes, too many inconsistencies, the world building sucked and, of course, Hayden Christensen. Well, you could gag me with an actual spoon but YouTube Red’s Impulse is based on the third book of what turned out to be a series. it was written in 1992 and if you read a lot of paranormal fiction like I have the early 1990’s was an era where YA began to take hold and the books were really, really short. Usually straight to paperback. I’ve never read the series, but I plan to just to make the comparison.
YouTube Red’s Impulse
In the book, a girl named Cent, who is aware of Jumpers, is living in hiding with her mother because her father was captured by the mysterious government agency hunting Jumpers. Until the opening of the book, Cent has never jumped before but when she sneaks off to do some snow-boarding she causes an avalanche that rains down on her and causes her to jump. For the description, it looks like the series started with one protagonist and moved on to the daughter of that protagonist and feels like everything you’d expect from a YA novel. I looked up the synopsis on Wikipedia and I’ve already purchased the digital copies. I’ll post an update when I’m done reading them.
In YouTube Red’s Impulse, we meet 17-year-old Henrietta “Henry” Cole, a disaffected teen living with her single mother’s current boyfriend and daughter. While hanging out the high school basketball team’s golden boy attempt to rape Henry triggering her to have a massive seizure and she teleports for the first time. Her jumps seem to cause was is described s a localize gravitation singularity and things get pulled in or crushed, and a golden boy gets paralyzed as a result. Turns out Golden Boy is the son of the town’s criminal businessman who thinks it’s another criminal group did it to take revenge for a lost shipment of illegal items. At the same time, there is a man who can teleport at will going around hunting down members of some organization who either did something to him or hunted him. With the help of her “step sister” and an autistic genius character Henry sets out to learn about her powers as well as dealing with the sexual assault.
So What Happened
This is my opinion, the problem was they made the rape and the fallout of the rape the central focus of the story. Taken by itself this story played out well. . .okay, until the end of it, but I’ll get to that. In the current political climate, we still have a faction of people who still take rape with the empathy of drying paint, asking stupid questions like “why was she dressed that way” or “did she give him any sign she was into it.” The rape story has some interesting moments on this, especially when Henry finally faces exactly how much the incident has scarred her and her internal confusion because at first, she was into making out with him until it turned ugly. These kinds of stories need to be told as often as possible. The problem is the show’s context is the powers, the other guy with the powers, the main hunter whose name I did not get and I do not recognize the obvious veteran actor, and the mystery of the father. Because the show focused on the rape but contextualized the powers, shadow organization and ticking clock of a danger it made things confusing. Especially since in her panic, Henry lies to Golden Boy’s father causing him to have a member of the rival gang murdered and then comes the ticking clock of the rival gang slowly beginning to learn who took out their guy. Golden Boy can’t remember what happened and Henry finds out her lie lead to the death of another person, and is afraid to tell her mother about what’s going on, because. . .
Okay, this is what I’m talking about. First of all the rape and criminal angle should have been resolved by about episode 5, then the hunter guy should have shown up and we should have gotten to the whole “what happened to daddy thing” for the rest of the season. The arch about the other “jumper” ends abruptly and was more jarring then surprising. They seemed to bill it as the hunter guy seeing what happened and about to turn against the shadow government organization but we never get to it. In fact, the very end of the series doesn’t explain anything except the hunter guy showing up and doing the whole “I have so much to tell you” schtick that’s already been done a million times already. And they could have made the bad guys a little more interesting.
Another problem with the show aside from its slow pacing and in too many paces plot, was it had a lot of great ideas. They almost gave her a team, and these were interesting characters. The daughter of her mother boyfriend being a huge science nerd hiding behind being the mean girl to fit in. The scene when her “science nerd” was revealed was actually well done and made sense for the character. The fact that Henry created this localized gravity field around her before she teleports was interesting as well, and you wondered why the other jumper didn’t. The whole crime figure/murder thing coming to a head because everyone is operating under the assumption that one crime gang it trying to undermine the other all because of the lie of the teenage girl. This was some great stuff that could have been explored but because they decided to stretch these sub-stories out to the length of the entire season, they were either dropped or simply boring. I’m not kidding. The eventual gunfight was boring. Where it ended was boring. How does that work?
YouTube Red’s Impulse Bottom Line
YouTube Red’s Impulse, as far as I know, is YouTube second big show to try to sell you their streaming service. They already hit a home run with Cobra Kai so that gave me confidence in something new. I’m not against a slow-burn but when a show with ten episodes can find less clever things to do with teleportation than a Hayden Christensen, you know you’re in trouble. I see what they were trying to do and it’s obvious that the success of 13 Reason’s Why heavily influenced this movie. .okay, to be honest, this movie “borrowed” from a few sources. .it was no 13 reasons why. I’m not saying shows about super-powers cannot tackle hard issues, Jessica Jones proved it could. I’m saying that the show obviously wants to be one thing (a sci-fi action mystery with some typical teen angst thrown in for good measure) but presented itself as another (a commentary on rape and it’s effect.) Even that last part was totally derailed as when Golden Boy’s family found out the truth they just treated him like “yeah, we can see you trying to rape a girl.” I think with some script editing it could have been tighter and believe a second season is worth at least them doing some serious course correcting.
Update – So I Read the Books
Allow me to have a typical book lovers reaction? WT living F? I’m going to forget Jumper, it wasn’t memorable, Samuel L. Jackson was completely wasted and I’m surprised it was directed by Doug Limen who has done much better work before and after. There’s a tradition for Movies to completely get books wrong, even if when they get them right that tends to be profitable. But don’t ask me to explain Hollywood financial schizophrenia. YouTube Red’s Impulse on the other hand. .WT live F. Look, I get that 13 Reason’s Why was a huge deal and become this viral thing, but the things they did with the character of Cent in this show. . .
None of the changes YouTubed make any sense to me. In the book, the character is called “Cent” short for Millicent, and she was an independent young lady who finds her own power and becomes a force to recon with. She’s a genius, so much so that when she meets other teenagers they are shocked at how fast she does her homework and passes her tests. Even when they set her up to be the girl who needs rescue, she’s found her own way out, protects her friend and becomes the asset to her mother and father. in the last book, Cent takes her power to unimagined levels and become famous for it.
In YouTube Red’s Impulse, she’s a victim. She’s a victim of her choices, a sexual assault victim, a victim of what she decides to do afterward, a victim of her family life and a victim of her powers. They were trying to make 13 Reasons Why but with super powers and instead they left me scratching my head wondering if the show runners actually read the character they re trying to portray.