Wednesday, December 16, 2015

REVIEW: 'Childhood's End' - Milo Risks His Life in Order to Understand the Overlords' Plan in 'Night Three: The Children'

Syfy's Childhood's End - Episode 1.03 "Night Three: The Children"

A new age dawns as children begin to exhibit advanced abilities. But what does this mean for the future of humanity?

"The Children" finally reveals the endgame for Karellen and the overlords for their mission on Earth. They apparently serve another being as well. They came to Earth in order to force humanity through the next stage of their evolution. That explains why the show has had such an intense focus on the children as they developed these new abilities that no one really knew what to do with or understood. The overlords brought in the new era of man that was the best years humanity has ever experienced. And yet, that was always destined to end tragically as revealed in the teaser that opened the miniseries. Now, the series has reached that point and shows just how everything went from being so good to being so bad. It's a transition that happens quickly and is a bit scattered and riddled with exposition in the end. But it still showcases the need for evolution and the mission of the overlords in interesting ways.

All of this connects back to Jack and Amy. Their children were the first to develop advanced abilities. And now, they are at the center of it all as the rest of the children reveal themselves to be deeply connected. The children not only have telekinetic abilities but they are also able to communicate with each other through a shared mental connection. Sure, the sight of hundreds of children standing just outside Jennifer's house waiting for her to lead them to their new existence is a cool image. It's just a concept that really doesn't go anywhere. It's not at all surprising when Karellen announces that he and overlords are leaving and taking all of the children with them for the better world that's waiting for them. After all, Karellen did essentially warn Ricky and Ellie that this would happen. But it's still quite a sight to see all of the children connected in such a way and then being lifted up into the sky.

However, the emotional connection with Jack and Amy really isn't that strong. These concluding two hours explain that they met when both where sick as children in the hospital. They've grown up to have an amazing life with their two children. Jack is scared of the abilities his children have developed. He just wants to live in a world that he can understand. It's an intriguing prospect that a place has popped up in this world that embraces what the culture was like before the overlords came to Earth. How that place is able to exist and function really isn't something the show is interested in telling. Instead, it remains focused on the plot and how inescapable the children's departure from this world really is. Even after Jack and his family make this move, children are still coming towards Jennifer. She's the special kid in charge. That's basically all she is. There really isn't a big explanation for why she's the kid that all of this centers around. Was it just because the overlords assisted in her creation? It's unclear. But she does have the power to keep Tom around a little while longer for Jack and Amy. But he can't stay forever. It is tragic that Jack and Amy decide to die as soon as all of this happens. However, it's not as an emotionally moving scene as the show really wants it to be because Jack and Amy were largely just plot constructs and nothing more.

There are actually a number of prolonged death sequences in these concluding hours of the miniseries. Jack and Amy's is big and explosive. However, it's also of their own choosing. Meanwhile, Ricky has no other choice. He gave Karellen the medicine that could have saved his life. So he is basically doomed as a character. He actually spends so much time in these two hours actively dying. It's dragged out way past the point of being relevant and interesting. His story largely showcases that Karellen has formed connections to the humans. He's not able to stop what is about to happen. But he has proven himself willing to help Ricky embrace the kind of life that would make him the happiest. Sure, it's incredibly silly for Ricky to once again be in that hotel room dreaming of the life he could have had with Annabel when Ellie is painstaking taking care of him. But Karellen also makes the offer of slowly down time for Ricky. He doesn't have much left but Karellen could make a difference for him. Instead, Ricky chooses to just look up at the stairs with Ellie. It's not a great or even earned moment. But it's understandable why Ricky's death is given so much screen time in the end. He was such a crucial character in the beginning. Sure, he lost all purpose after that first major time jump. But he still played an important part in this plan. So thus, he deserved a proper sendoff - even though it was elongated too much.

But so much of the focus in the end is on Milo as he actually achieves his goal to travel to the overlords' home planet. He understands that something is happening with the children that the overlords aren't telling humanity about. He knows just how far they have evolved because of the utopia. The only way for him to get any solid answers is to find a way onto the spaceship through the animal program Rachel works for. It's never abundantly clear why the overlords are taking these animals. It's largely just an excuse for Milo to get onto the ship in order to take the years long journey into space. Of course, he has to stop for a minute and think about things with Rachel regarding just how long this search for answers could actually take. Somehow, they figure it would be eighty years before he would return to Earth. That's a long time. And yet, it's hard to care about Milo's dilemma regarding whether or not he should go because the miniseries hasn't really invested any time in the development of this relationship. It's simply something that gave Milo happiness. He was a woman that he wants to return home to. And yet, that's such an overused device and really doesn't inform Milo or the importance of this mission all that much.

However, Milo does get to experience being the final human alive on Earth by the time it reaches its destruction. The final part of the miniseries is very expositional as Karellen and another overlord are much more forthcoming than they ever were on Earth. They are fine talking to Milo about the source from which they take orders and just how much destruction has gone on back on Earth. It's a journey that is actually eighty years long. Milo is never able to return to Rachel. The overlords can't even preserve her body for him. He accepts his fate and is willing to go back down to Earth as it reaches its final moments of creation. It's weird that Jennifer is also down there still looking like a child as she brings about the explosion of the entire planet. And yet, it's still a meaningful experience because Milo is actually talking to Karellen. He has a direct line. He is not alone in this experience. Sure, the overlords have no idea what to do with the reminder that Milo asks them to take from humanity. They watch the planet explode and then move back to where they come from. But it's still a nice gesture of them to leave a reminder of the world that used to exist in this part of the universe. Bigger things may be happening elsewhere. But this is the story about Earth and how it has reached the end of its journey in the cosmos. The overlords helped it through this transition. And now, the story is complete.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Night Three: The Children" was written by Matthew Graham and directed by Nick Hurran.
  • It's slightly disappointing that the miniseries only showed two overlords over the course of its six hours. That was some solid creature design. It would have been great to see more of them in one setting. Of course, that could have been an effect that took away from the focus on Earth that the show was going for.
  • It's weird that Jack doesn't ask Amy where Tom is once she re-enters the church. Of course, there was only so much time left on the bomb.
  • Also, the show never really did explain why Karellen and the overlords look like what humans perceive the devil to be. So that makes Milo's story earlier in the miniseries seem even more pointless.
  • It's a great detail that Milo brings up cookie dough ice cream in explaining to Karellen just how special existence really was on Earth. That was an amusing detail that was largely missing throughout the rest of the miniseries.