Tuesday, December 15, 2015

REVIEW: 'Childhood's End' - Karellen Puts the Next Stage of the Overlords' Plan into Motion in 'Night Two: The Deceivers'

Syfy's Childhood's End - Episode 1.02 "Night Two: The Deceivers"

Now living in a golden age of peace, some humans begin to notice changes in their children that lead them to question the aliens' motivations.

Childhood's End really hasn't been subtle at all about Karellen and the overlords having a nefarious plan for Earth. Every time Karellen shows up on the screen the score turns a bit more dramatic and tense. Whenever he appears, it's with purpose. These two hours do show a different side to him. It's a side that actually cares about Ricky and Ellie. He wasn't just manipulating them to get what he wanted from this planet. He was actually protecting them from the end game the overlords have planned for the parents of Earth. And yet, that makes it much more complicated for the show to get away with humans continually doing whatever it is that Karellen asks of them. No one really understands what he is doing on this planet. They just accept him because of the happiness he has brought to the entire world. They don't question until it's much too late. But even then, the humans still make decisions that ultimately help Karellen, which can be a very frustrating development given the lack of compelling characters.

The second night of the miniseries once again jumps ahead in time. It is now four years after Karellen revealed his true form to humanity. He essentially is the red devil that humans have depicted as the destruction of civilization for centuries. And yet, they still embrace him for all the good work he has done for society. This is a world where no one needs to work because the overlords have brought peace and order. People no longer need to have scientific curiosity because the overlords already understand all of the universe. That does make humanity a little subservient. Only a handful of characters are willing to stand up to Karellen and all that he represents. Milo wants to understand the world that the overlords come from and what exactly they are doing on Earth. Peretta wants to force the truth out of Karellen so the world can rightfully go back to believing in God and not the devil that has shown up in the world. Even Ricky and Ellie have their doubts after Ricky becomes sick. But there are also forces at play that no one truly understands. It adds a nice layer of mysticism and cool special effects to the show. But it doesn't really feel like explaining anything to the audience in these episodes.

As important as Ricky was in the previous night of episodes, his story is largely relegated to the background until the very end where a couple of plot threads come together. Instead, the main focus of "The Deceivers" comes from a family unit that is experiencing some strange behavior from their son. It's the first real hint that the overlords' plan is coming to fruition. They have created such abilities that connect this child with his mother in a profound way. And yet, it's also one very confusing story that is void of any meaning whatsoever. This family is important to Karellen. They are first to have these abilities emerge. But Karellen also needs them to unlock something very special for the overlords. That's a very tense and mysterious sequence. Dr. Boyce is really a joke of a character who basically did everything Karellen asked without question in the hopes he would be rewarded with a trip to their home planet in the future. That was foolish because he was simply being used and got in the way of other characters understanding Karellen's motivations. Boyce brought Amy, Jack and Tom to Africa for Karellen. He still has so much influence offer this world even though his outward appearance is still so terrifying. But the big scene between Karellen and Amy was largely him yelling at her and her moving stuff around on a magical board. It has no sufficient context to understand the meaning of it. So no matter how tense it is when she or Tom are touched and fling the other people across the room or when Tom jumps off the building only to hover in midair, it's still a rather thin plot because it's all just mysterious intrigue with no real sense of where it's going.

Peretta meets with Jack, Amy and Tom for a little bit too. She's the therapist they seek out once Jack becomes worried that something is wrong with his son. It's a plot beat that doesn't really do anything except confirm all the fears Peretta has about the overlords. She sees firsthand that they are up to something with this family. It's something that Jack and Amy aren't willing to accept. Once they learn that she is still religious, they stop listening to anything she has to say even though it's the truth. Her religion really is an interesting character concept in the miniseries. Sure, it's the only thing that really defines her as a character. But it's intriguing to think how religion adjusts in a world where something like an alien invasion that brings peace happens. Karellen thinks it's so foolish of Peretta to keep hanging onto this religious belief despite all the evidence to the contrary of its existence. That face-to-face moment between Karellen and Peretta is a thrilling sequence because she forces him to address things he was never going to with Ricky and Ellie. But it's all a part of the tragic trajectory that Peretta was on. She chose not to commit suicide like her mother once the world changed. She chose to stay and fight. She's being very active about the situation. She knows things aren't right in this world and goes to Ricky and Ellie's house to do something about it. And then, things don't go her way. Karellen survives her animosity. So things ultimately feel even more hopeless than before - to the point where she sees suicide as the only reasonable escape from this hell masquerading as peace.

Of course, that moment with Peretta only happens because Ricky decides to save Karellen instead of himself. That's something that really wasn't earned even though the two would reasonably have a good enough relationship for Ricky to make that sacrifice. It's just not enough of it was actually on the screen. Karellen admits that he is the reason why Ricky and Ellie can't have children. He took that from them so that they could avoid the pain of the next stage of the overlords' plan. It's a personal betrayal but neither one of them is hurt enough to actually shoot Karellen. That honor belongs to Peretta who sees this moment for the horror that it truly is. And yet, Ricky still saves Karellen from death. He raises back up to a defeated Peretta. That is a compelling moment that just didn't have the necessary buildup to actually make it work. Now, Ricky is going to die because he didn't take the medicine. So no matter what, pain and destruction is coming in the miniseries conclusion tomorrow night. Hopefully those answers will make the journey more compelling in hindsight.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Night Two: The Deceivers" was written by Matthew Graham and directed by Nick Hurran.
  • Milo is able to figure out that the message Karellen was sending was about the star constellations. And yet, that doesn't make this story feel any more than exposition. It's really quite boring actually which is odd since he's one of the few characters to question Karellen's actions.
  • Plus, Milo and his new love interest, Rachel, really don't have any chemistry at all. The show is also forcing him to be awkward around her and not really know what to say which just feels like such a drag.
  • However, Milo and Jake do meet and Milo is able to tell that something is up right away. The two of them working together to understand things could be interesting.
  • The babies' eyes are glowing green shortly after Amy gives birth. That's a sign that bad things are about to happen. Plus, that was a really quick pregnancy - of course, the show moves forward in time rather quickly.
  • I guess it's to be expected that Karellen is really only seen when interacting with humans through sets with a lot of shadows and in tight close-ups or expansive wide shots.