The Tomorrow People finally decided what kind of show it wants to be. “Kill or Be Killed,” delved into the tragic backstory of John Young (Luke Mitchell). By the end of the episode, you learn how John became a part of Ultra, what made him who he is and why he loathes everything Ultra and Dr. Price stand for. What is the Annex Project? Why is John reluctant to fight against Ultra? Those questions and more will be answered, including the reveal of a twist I didn’t see coming.
In my last review, I expressed the importance of viewers developing relationships with the characters; giving us a reason to like or dislike them. “Kill or Be Killed” successfully accomplished that task through effective use of exposition. Too much exposition can overwhelm an audience while simultaneously boring them and/or driving them away. Too little and you run the risk of losing the audience. Exploring John’s past was essential for building the to the larger story arc – the inevitable faceoff with Jed & Team Ultra, and revealing the depths of Ultra’s genetic experiments on the Tomorrow People.
One of those experiments was called the Annex Project, a project whose goal was to weaponize powered Ultra agents. Dr. Price used drug therapies to fry the part of the brain, known as the Prime Barrier, which blocks the Tomorrow People from killing. Killian McCrane (guest star Jason Dohring of Veronica Mars fame) was one Dr. Price’s successful cases – until he went on a murderous rampage, killing over a dozen people.
McCrane is Ultra’s most wanted, and most dangerous creation. Killian resurfaces after years of being in hiding with one purpose — destroying John. John picks up on a pattern of bombings up the East Coast and deduces Killian’s returned. Killian isn’t just a threat that John feels needs to be neutralized – he’s terrified of him and what he could do to those John cares about.
The relationship between John and Killian dates back to when John was just a kid. Forced to used his powers to steal, John suffers physical abuse at the hands of his foster father. When considers killing his guardian, the Prime Barrier kicks in, neutralizing his attempt at rebelling. Jedikiah arrives at young John’s house, cooking up a backstory about John excelling in his aptitude tests. Jed telepathically reaches out to John, trying to earn his trust and ensuring that he’d be okay. Soon after, the training begins – and his first partner is a young Killian.
“I always felt sorry for him,” John tells to Cara and Stephen. “He was the only kid with a story worse than mine – beating, abuse.” John and Killian’s abusive home lives bonded them as they came up in the Ultra ranks. After the failure of Annex (Killian killing everyone), he fled Ultra and John was tasked with capturing him. Killian felts John betrayed him, and that hatred is what drove Killian back to finish him off. When Killian learns John is no longer with Ultra, he tries to reform their alliance with the intention of destroying Ultra and Jed. “Jedikiah might be a monster, but you’re no better than he is,” John tells him, turning down his offer.
John grasp on his powers exceeds that of his peers. Having benefited from training under the Ultra umbrella and learning from Roger, viewers get their first glimpse of just how powerful he really is. Killian sets a trap in a warehouse, with six bombs timed to explode simultaneously. John channels his teleporting ability, building up enough power so he can essentially teleport in five places at one time while Stephen disables the main bomb. The overexertion leaves John in a weakened state; he comes to realization that no one is safe as long as Killian is free.
The final confrontation with Killian, tempered by the threat of Ultra agents ready to kill both John and Killian (hello betrayal), leads to a shocking revelation. Killian isn’t the only successful from Annex – John is too! With no prime barrier to neutralize lethal actions, John fires a bullet into his old friend, echoing the advice given to him by Jed all those years ago, “Kill or be killed, son.”
At long last, viewers know John left Ultra and Jed all those years ago because he was forced to become a killer. The person who John trusted the most, the man he looked up to, used him as a guinea pig and turned him into a murderer. Yup, that seems like a valid reason to cut off all contact with someone.
Jed’s Power Grab | Jed’s maniacal quest for power led to him experimenting on the very people he claimed he wanted to protect. Jed feels the Tomorrow People are one evolution away from perfection – their only flaw being their inability to kill. If he can control how the Tomorrow People kill, making his own super army, he can stop them when hordes of the next gen eventually become the weapons he warned Stephen about. Is Jed driven by power or a genuine concern for the possible threat the Tomorrow People pose? That’s a question that I still don’t have the answer to – and I’m not upset about it. Jedikiah’s agenda is a major part of what makes the show for me. Just how far will he go to achieve his goal?
Secrets Lead to Trouble | As close as Cara and John are, they’re both keeping very painful moments of their past from each other. Last episode, Cara shared with Stephen the memory of hearing her father’s innermost thoughts that her family would probably be better off if she fled town. That’s something she hasn’t shared with her boyfriend. John? Well, he hasn’t told Cara that he has the ability to kill others. It might seem like a minor thing to bring up, but I think it’ll play into problems between the two of them down the line, especially as she gets closer to Stephen.
The Ties that Bond | It’s no secret that John hates Jed, but there’s a thin line between love and hate. There was a scene between Cara and John that showed just how much John feels indebted to Jed for what he’s done for him.
Cara: I don’t get it. He took a shot at you, he tried to kill me and you still jump to when he calls? What are you not telling me? What is his hold over you?
John: I’ve seen the worst he’s done. I’ve been an agent of it. But he’s the closest thing I’ve ever had to a father. I don’t expect you to understand,” he responded.
Cara: How can I when you won’t explain?
John will never forgive Jed for turning him into a weapon, but he’ll always be grateful to him for saving him from his abusive home. Jed killed the man who inflicted pain on John for years of his life. It makes you wonder if John will return the favor by killing Jed in the end.
Jameson Family Values | Discovering that Stephen is working for his uncle was something that did not sit well with Stephen’s mother, Marla (Sarah Clarke). After learning where Stephen’s been spending his time, she demanded he invite Jedikiah over for a family dinner. There, Marla expressed her unhappiness with the bruises her son comes home with, and questions whether or not she should even allow it – considering how Stephen’s father changed after working with Jed. Though she eventually relents, she warns Jed that she’ll be keeping an eye on him. Her toughness won her points with Stephen, who later called her a “bad ass”. Later, Marla says to Stephen, “There’s a lot you don’t know about me.” What could that mean? Could Marla knows a lot more about what happened between Roger and Jedikiah than she’s let on?
John Declares War | The final scene of the episode featured a conversation between John and Jedikiah at Ultra HQ. John confronts Jed for going back on his word after their meeting. Jed tries to manipulate John, attempting to get John to see he was right all along about the Tomorrow People. John alternates between appearing emotionally attached and almost ready to cry. John disagrees with Jed’s assessment that their inability to kill is an imperfection; destroying takes a way a part of their soul, something they can’t ever get back and something he felt when he killed Killian.
“I hate you for what you made me,” John tells Jed. “I made you strong, perfect,” responded Jed.
John vows that his people won’t be running anymore. They’ll be fighting Ultra every step of the way. Jed seems amused, smiling at John and saying, “Kill or be killed.” John repeats the saying before teleporting out.
Throughout the entire scene, John appeared to alternate between being emotionally detached, overcome with intense anger and feeling hurt. It was the perfect way to end the episode.
Final Thoughts | It was arguably the strongest episode thus far. There was a plethora of character development (something I’ve craved since the pilot), the “villain of the week” didn’t seem like one; rather Killian’s presence enhanced the story and served as a vehicle for the exposition. I feel like executive producer Greg Berlanti learned from the mistakes of Arrow’s first season (and Smallville before it) by going for serialization early on. Is it important to watch every episode? Yes and no. Yes, because you learn more and more about what drives the characters; no, because the episodic elements are self-contained. It’s akin to having to serve two masters – episodic viewer who can’t follow week to week but enjoys the show; and the serialized viewer who likes when plots continue episode to episode.
What’d you think of the episode? Hit the comments below and share your thoughts!