YouTube Red's Impulse is Far More than a Sequel to Jumper


If, for some reason, you're looking for a sequel to Jumper, you won't find it in Impulse. Sure, the new YouTube Red series is executive produced by Doug Liman, who directed the 2008 sci-fi action film, and based on the fictional world created by author Steven Gould, but the connections largely end there. Rather, it's a young-adult drama that's one-part Fargo and two-parts 13 Reasons Why, with just a dash of superpowers. And that recipe somehow works, mostly.

All but ignoring Gould's 2013 novel of the same name, Impulse instead follows 16-year-old Henrietta "Henry" Coles (played by Maddie Hasson), who's dragged by her restless mother Cleo (Missi Pyle) from city to city and boyfriend to boyfriend, never putting down roots. But Reston, a small town in Upstate New York, feels different, at least to Cleo, who's settled into a comfortable routine, interrupted only by Henry's rebellious streak -- broken curfews, graffiti, classroom outbursts -- and unexplained seizures that make the teen feel like even more of an outsider.

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When a confrontation with a teacher triggers one of those seizures at school, it becomes clear -- at least to autistic student Townes Linderman, played by Daniel Maslany, who notices objects subtly moving in the classroom -- they're not a symptom of a medical condition but a manifestation of a superpower. However, it's the sexual assault by basketball star Clay Boone (Tanner Stine), the youngest son of a powerful local car dealer, that's the turning point, both for Henry and for Impulse.

Maddie Hasson as Henry and Daniel Maslany as Townes in Impulse

Consensual kissing in Clay's truck swiftly crosses a line when he ignores Henry's objections to going further. Her panic prompts another seizure, and in the blink of an eye, Henry is suddenly back in her attic bedroom, now littered by metal of Clay's truck, while the star athlete is left unconscious and paralyzed from the waist down in the crumpled remains of his vehicle.

It's easy to see the metaphor in the newfound teleportation ability of a girl who yearns for escape -- from a humdrum town, from danger -- but, surprisingly enough, Impulse isn't overly concerned with superpowers. In fact, the series goes entire episodes without depicting or even mentioning Henry's extraordinary, mysterious power, focusing instead on her struggle to come to terms with trauma. That's when Impulse is at its best.

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