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‘Impulse’ Review: YouTube Sci-Fi Series Is Better in Season 2 as Its World Gets Bigger

Maddie Hasson stars in a collection of 10 new episodes that are gradually finding more international and intergenerational angles for its story.

Impulse-Season-2-YouTube-Henry

“Impulse”

NBCUniversal

There’s almost an unspoken mandate contained within the premise of “Impulse.” Center a TV show around a young woman who is grappling with her newfound ability to teleport and there’s a certain promise to follow wherever that power will lead her.

What made Season 1 of the YouTube Premium series an effective introduction to the story is that it didn’t burden Henry Coles (Maddie Hasson) with having to shoulder infinite possibilities that came with jumping from place to place. The arrival of her ability coincided with an assault perpetrated by one of her classmates, and dealing with that traumatic aftermath, Henry’s jumps — however unpredictable — usually brought her back to her bedroom, a place of comfort.

The start of the “Impulse” sophomore season finds Henry confronted with an even bigger world far outside the confines of her small town of Reston, New York. A hovering fellow jumper named Nikolai (Callum Keith Rennie) could be a guardian angel or malicious tracker. Henry’s desperate act to save her mother at the close of Season 1 led to one man’s death, emphatic proof that her still-uncontrolled power is affecting far more than her own security.

Much of what tethered “Impulse” to a high school drama structure was the continued presence of Henry’s attacker Clay Boone and the rest of his family. With Clay’s father now dead and the narrative attention shifting to Clay’s brother Lucas, the beginning of Season 2 finds the show in an awkward transition period. Henry’s would-be stepsister Jenna (Sarah Desjardins) and their friend Townes (Daniel Maslany) are still Henry’s go-to confidants, even as her world is starting to unravel thread by thread. And Hasson and Missy Pyle (as Henry’s mother, Cleo) still have an incredible rapport in the less-fraught moments of their on-screen family interactions. But the show’s first 10 episodes showed enough patience to move Maddie from that world that the relative stakes of getting busted at a house party don’t stack up to evading potential murder charges or pursuit by an unknown number of international jumpers.

Impulse 206

“Impulse”

NBCUniversal

Building the world of “Jumper” back from essentially scratch has given “Impulse” the chance to fashion a different overall concern for the series. Through the opening episodes of Season 2, the show posits that although Henry is the only one who’ll be able to will herself to control her jumps, she might not get there without being aimed in the right direction. Hasson continues to find new ways to show Henry’s frustration at the lack of answers in multiple facets of her life, and the more that “Impulse” embraces that her trajectory is going to take her far away from Reston, the more compelling the series becomes.

Nikolai is proving to be an effective bridge between the two eras of the show. Especially as “Impulse” peels back the mystery behind his character’s place in this bigger jumper world, Rennie is able to walk the line between potential mentor and potential antagonist with a calibrated iciness. As he becomes less of an enigma, he becomes an effective foil for Henry, even if he understands her ongoing struggles more than she realizes.

As a production, “Impulse” continues to use an impressive array of location shoots as a means for grounding this world. The snow-covered woods, empty backroads, and eventual Eastern European diversions set up a distinct canvas for Henry’s story to unfold against. The collective concerns of her converging families do still provide an important layer to the series, even as Henry seems destined to confront forces far beyond them.

The pace with which the show is moving toward that broader scope might be a tad sluggish at the outset of Season 2. But when some of those answers come, it’s a relief to see the show has continued to avoid an easy “vast, nefarious international conspiracy” subplot. Henry’s actions haven’t gone unnoticed, but that attention is coming from an unlikely source. “Impulse” is also guarding the remnants of Season 1’s Amish drug-running thread, seeding Lucas’ developing interactions with the community’s new leader Esther Miller (Tara Rosling) as a reminder that the Boone family still has a part to play in what comes next.

Whether it’s a simmering threat or one delivered at gunpoint, “Impulse” still keeps its sense of danger present at every turn. When that uncertainty pushes Henry and those in her immediate orbit towards a fresh understanding of their circumstances, the show is better for it. “Impulse” has laid out a few different pathways to its bigger picture. Now, it’s just a matter of jumping toward one.

Grade: B

“Impulse” Season 2 is now streaming via YouTube Premium. The first episode is available to watch here.

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