A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Impulse is a drama about a young woman who finds she has supernatural powers after a sexual assault. This assault is pictured in the show's first episode: two teens in a car kiss and then the boy forces his hand down the girl's pants as she cries and screams for him to stop. A violent occurrence forces him to stop, and the effects of the assault are realistically experienced by its victim throughout the course of the series. A main character smokes frequently, though it's unclear whether she's smoking cigarettes or marijuana. A man's naked rear is visible as he gets into a shower. Language includes "ass," "s--t," "a--hole," "f--k," "goddammit," and "p---y."
What's the story?
In IMPUSE, Henry (Maddie Hasson) and her mom Cleo (Missi Pyle) have led a pretty reckless life so far, between Henry's acting out (AKA criminal misdemeanors) and Cleo's string of unreliable boyfriends in different towns. But now they've landed in a good place, living with Cleo's newest boyfriend (Matt Gordon) and his resentful teen daughter Jenna (Sarah Desjardins). Their new town is small and not that friendly; nonetheless popular football star Clay (Tanner Stine) seems interested in Henry. But when Clay's interest turns malicious -- and when Henry discovers at a terrifying moment that she has equally terrifying powers -- a series of events is launched that even Henry's newfound powers can't control.
Is it any good?
Anchored by sensitive lead performances, this oddball series is an interesting and dark character study wrapped in superhero-drama packaging. Young people coming into their (supernatural) power is a classic superhero plot, of course -- you need look no further than shows like Flash or Smallville, or more modern entries like Runaways or Marvel's Cloak & Dagger to find super powers used as a metaphor for puberty. But though Henry discovers her power to teleport in Impulse's very first episode, it takes a lot longer for her to figure out just how she pulls off the trick. In the meantime, drama is milked from more typical teen-angst plotlines: what it's like to be the new girl in town, the pitfalls of building (step) family relationships, the pain of being ignored and overlooked -- except by people who want to do something bad to you.
A slightly ludicrous plotline involving Henry's connection with a Mennonite-dominated opioid empire gives this sad-eyed girl yet another reason to feel conflicted, and intense, natural Hasson is great at playing all the colors of her misery. If only the discovery of her powers lent the same bit of joy that we see in other dramas about fledgling heroes, a Peter-Parker-swinging-through-the-skyscrapers scene where all the slings and arrows of her life became fuel for an exultant release. Hasson is terrific, but her ever-present dark cloud, and even the cool blue tone of the show's cinematography adds up to kind of a bummer. It's not that Impulse isn't good. It's that it's not a lot of fun to watch.
Talk to your kids about ...
Parents can talk about whether Henry is a hero or an antihero in Impulse. What's the difference? Can audiences love either? Are flawed heroes a typical main character? What other examples can you name?
Superhero dramas are experiencing a moment on TV and at the movies. Why? Why do average people want to watch people who have extraordinary abilities? What about these stories are appealing to viewers?
For kids who love superhero stuff
Our editors recommend
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.