Review: Impulse, season 1

Maddie Hasson in Impulse

Impulse is an action-packed YouTube original. At its heart, it’s about sexual violence and assault. Wrapped around that heart is a blanket of mystery and sci fi about special powers. It’s a compelling combination, and very well done.

Maddie Hasson stars as 16 year old Henrietta ‘Henry’ Coles. She and her mom Cleo (Missi Pyle) have been living in Reston, New York, for a couple of months. Cleo has a habit of dragging Henry from man to man – all of them losers.

Matt Gordon and Missi Pyle in Impulse
Cleo and Thomas don’t really get what’s happening to Henry.

Right now they’ve moved in with Thomas Hope (Matt Gordon) and his teen daughter Jenna (Sarah Desjardins). Jenna and Henry get along pretty well, and Thomas isn’t as much of a loser as most of Cleo’s previous men. So things are semi-stable for a while.

Then something inexplicable and uncontrollable happens to Henry. Henry has seizures. That isn’t the inexplicable part. I’m getting to that.

Henry gets upset at school because of a teacher (Kristian Bruun) who jerks her around and abuses her. She has a seizure right then.

Daniel Maslany in Impulse
Townes recognizes Henry’s ability immediately. I certainly see a family resemblance between Daniel Maslany and that other Maslany I enjoy so much.

A kid in the classroom, Townes (Daniel Maslany), notices things moving in the classroom during the seizure. No one else seems to notice. But Townes realizes that Henry can move objects with her mind. He tries to talk to her about it. Townes is an awkward kid socially, but very smart. Even so, Henry isn’t buying what he’s convinced is true. She tries to ignore him.

Thomas and Cleo decide Henry shouldn’t be driving because of the seizures. They sell her car to the local car dealer, Bill Boone (David James Elliott).

Maddie Hasson in Impulse
Rules mean nothing to Henry. Weed is her favorite thing.

Henry enlists the help of basketball hero Clay Boone (Tanner Stine) to steal her car back from the Boone family business. He does. He helps her hide the car in a trailer park. He’s going to drive her back home.

They park on the way home and begin making out. Clay gets aggressive, Henry says no. She tells him to stop, tells him he’s hurting her. He doesn’t stop.

Henry goes into another seizure. This one twists the truck into a tangled mess and breaks Clay’s spine. Suddenly Henry’s in her own bed with a huge hunk of Clay’s pickup in her hand. She can teleport. She doesn’t know how to control it, but it happens.

That’s the setup for the remainder of season 1.

Henry’s biggest issue is that she’s been traumatized by a sexual assault. She can’t explain to anyone that it happened because she can’t explain how she moved her body into her bedroom in a millisecond. She can’t explain the truth, so she lies about how the truck got wrecked to Bill Boone, which creates serious problems.

In every episode that follows, Henry tries to deal with the trauma she feels because of the near-rape while simultaneously coming to grips with her ability to teleport.

Sarah Desjardins in Impulse
Jenna turns into an ally for Henry. She’s hiding the fact that she’s as smart about science as Townes. She’s also hiding the fact that she likes girls, not boys.

Henry confides in Townes, because he figured it out anyway. She also tells Jenna about it, because Jenna is in the house when Henry suddenly teleports back into her bedroom on multiple occasions.

There are 10 episodes in season 1, so plenty of exciting and mysterious things happen around the teleportation puzzle.

Henry confronts Clay several times. He’s now paralyzed, but doesn’t remember how his truck got mangled and him with it.

Other storylines in season 1 involve Bill Boone and his business with a group of drug dealing Canadian Mennonites lead by Jeremiah Miller (Shawn Doyle). Clay’s older brother Lucas (Craig Arnold) is involved in this. Lucas is aware that something wonky is going on with Henry, but nobody will listen to him.

There are other people like Henry. A mysterious guy named Nikolai (Callum Keith Rennie) hunts them down. He starts looking for Henry. He may be the same guy who snatched Henry’s father when she was 4 years old.

During some of Henry’s teleportation adventures, she goes back to her former home or to places from her past. She “remembers” what happened there or visits with her younger self. She also has some of the most interesting and symbolic dreams I’ve seen in a long time.

Like a pesky bee, Deputy Anna Hulce (Enuka Okuma) sniffs around the drug deals, the strange events around Clay’s injury, murdered Mennonites, and everything else that’s a bit iffy in this small town. She has a kind heart and a curious mind.

I thought the first season was very well done. The writing was excellent. The depiction of the results of sexual trauma on a 16 year old girl were realistic. The actors were excellent to a person. The series was full of suspense and action and well-paced.

Some of the storylines resolved at the end of season 1, but there is plenty more action to come in season 2. I can’t wait to start watching it.

An Impulse poster

Women directors include Mairzee Almas, Maggie Kiley, Rebecca Johnson, Helen Shaver, Valerie Weiss, and Sydney Freeland. The series was created by Jeffrey Lieber. Helen Shaver got to direct an episode that featured Lois Smith, one of my favorite examples of #EldersRock on the planet.

Impulse currently has two seasons available on YouTube. Season 1 is available free, season 2 is Premium content. Each Wednesday, a new episode of season 2 is reverted to free.

Big thank you to @Sylvía Drekisdóttir for turning me on to this web series.

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6 thoughts on “Review: Impulse, season 1”

  1. You’re very welcome. I am glad you liked it. It was really intense and hard to watch at times. I’ve mostly come to terms with and healed from the trauma of my own assaults as a teenager, but it still haunts at times. The depiction of Henry’s trauma, how she shoves it down, how the memories twist and warps themselves whenever she revisits them, the way she tries to stay strong and push through it even though it is destroying her, all that rang so familiar it was hard to sit through. But I appreciate the realism and the way the show didn’t shy away from the pain and trauma sexual violence leaves in its wake. I appreciate how every episode caps off with information on how to seek help for survivors of sexual assault.

    The characters in the show are all so great, even the villains. They feel like real, solid, three dimensional people. The writing and acting are top notch.

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