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We explore all the reasons you should be watching YouTube Red's profound, topical, and stirring young adult drama 'Impulse' (if you’re not already).

‘Impulse’ renewed for S2: Why you need to add it to your watchlist

Out of the tumult of 2018’s San Diego Comic-Con came the news that YouTube greenlit season two of its sleeper hit Impulse. Produced by The Bourne Identity’s Doug Liman, who also directed the pilot, the show is adapted from a book by the writer of the Jumper novels, Steven Gould.

However, although the show centers on a young woman who discovers she has the extraordinary power of teleportation, it is so much more than your typical sci-fi thriller and goes beyond the confines of the 2008 Jumper movie.

With a strong lead performance from Maddie Hasson portraying a character who harnesses her power to escape painful memories, Impulse has positioned itself as a profound, topical, and stirring young adult drama about sexual assault. We’re here to explore all the reasons you should be watching this show (if you’re not already).

Impulse tackles serious issues without exploiting its subject matter

With the rise of supernatural and superhero TV shows, we’ve seen the young adult subcategory turn into a breeding ground of innovation for new ways to explore teen issues. In Impulse, Hasson’s Henry uses her newfound superpowers to teleport herself out of a sexual assault situation after a kiss with golden boy Clay Boone (Tanner Stine) turns into an attack.

As The Hollywood Reporter mused in its review of season one, “What the show does best is deal with consent and the lingering trauma a sexual assault can cause a victim.”

If you’ve seen even just one teen TV show from the 90s in your lifetime, you’ll understand what an after school special entails. However, in recent years there’s been a shift in what teen TV shows can accomplish.

Rather than using the incident as a driver for drama before moving onto its next “hot topic”, the aftermath is explored carefully through a series of episodes, as Henry must face the constant presence of her attacker and suffer doubt when her story is questioned. Like other young adult shows that have explored such serious issues with tact (think Veronica Mars and Jessica Jones), Impulse doesn’t diminish the significance of being a survivor.

Impulse gives Henry space to wrestle with her memories of what happened without immediately shouldering her with a Nolan-esque burden of responsibility,” noted IndieWire. “The inexplicable ability to manipulate time and space is clearly something for her to unravel, but Impulse doesn’t do it at the expense of what else she’s gone through.”

As such, Liman and showrunner Lauren LeFranc have done an outstanding job at making the show more than just a high school special with added sci-fi action. It’s a meaningful plot – one that uses its superpower twist as a way to explore serious topics rather than exploit them.

Hasson offers a solid turn as Henry while providing the show with a moody take on young adult superpowers

Hasson proves her acting chops as an outsider teen who struggles to make friends because her mom (Missi Pyle) keeps moving from one boyfriend and town to the next. The actor strikes a balance of young adult malevolence without going overboard.

As The Hollywood Reporter went on to explain, “Hasson’s balance of tough-girl exterior and inner fragility is exceptional. There’s a volatile minute long uncut shot of the young actress in the second episode that sold me completely on the performance and her ability to carry the series.” Among a strong ensemble cast, Hasson anchors the show with a performance that is second to none; as you’re watching Impulse, you’ll find that you can’t help but root for her character.

It strikes a fine balance between action & drama

The show is somewhat of a mashup of different stories and subgenres, but Liman and LeFranc manage to make all of the components work together as one piece. Not only does the emotional fallout of the assault help audiences to understand Henry, but it also paves the way for us to find out more about the relationship with her stepsister Jenna (Sarah Desjardins), which develops as the show progresses.

The story also gives adult characters (such as her mom Cleo) some meaningful and compelling beats of their own. But among the carefully considered character developments, the show also delivers on the action, offering slick direction and visually stunning set pieces – just enough to strike a fine balance and give it a sci-fi edge, but not so much as to take away from the dramatic storylines and the emotional narrative at the heart of the show.

As CBR writer Kevin Melrose put it, “It’s a young-adult drama that’s one-part Fargo and two-parts 13 Reasons Why, with just a dash of superpowers. And that recipe somehow works.”

The fans love it, and rightly so

It’s for all of these reasons that Impulse has received a warm reaction from its audiences worldwide, who have been impressed with its ability to walk the line between supernatural sci-fi and high school drama with a thoughtful story at the center. Clearly this is no understatement, as the show has had over eight million views since it premiered on June 6.

Its dedicated fanbase continue to show their love for Impulse on social media platforms. “If you miss it (Impulse), you will be so SO sad, don’t get me started, don’t even get me started,” wrote one viewer on Twitter, while another mused rather blunty, “I just binge watched #impulseseries on YouTube. Fucking amazing.”

Meanwhile, when asked what their fave Impulse moments were, Twitter user Loula recalled, “All scenes containing teleportation, especially during the fire,” while another named Sandra quipped, “I think the one where Henry confronts Clay about what really happened / tells him the truth. That scene was so well written and damn, that acting.”

YouTube Premium proved the perfect platform for such a show

While Impulse’s prestige production and acting skills on show might not have looked out of place on the likes of Freeform or The CW, YouTube was the perfect platform, as it allowed for a more honest telling of the topics the show explores. As LeFranc said during a recent interview with Pop-Culturalist, the story of Impulse couldn’t have been told on 80% of the networks out there.

“We have two young women characters that support each other; they’re not antagonistic towards each other. A lot of networks would say, ‘Where’s the drama? Would these two girls like each other? They’re opposites.’ They’re very different but they’re figuring each other out.

“As for the sexual assault material that we deal with, a lot of networks would say, ‘Please don’t do that. It’s uncomfortable to watch. It’s something we shouldn’t talk about.’ I’m so grateful that YouTube has been such good partners to say, ‘Do it! Do something that we haven’t seen on TV.’”

With everything left up in the air for Cleo and Henry in Impulse’s S1 finale, there are so many places for the show to go and explore in the second season of YouTube’s unexpectedly successful young adult contribution. We’re excited to see where LeFranc, Liman, and the rest of the team take this thoughtful story – keep your eyes peeled for a release date in the upcoming months.

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