Posted by : Stephanie | January 3, 2016
What the….huh? Did you see that mind-bending #Syfy Miniseries, #ChildhoodsEnd? Holy frijoles! I was like whaaaaa??! It’s a story of #alien invasion overlaid with #demon lore, basically everything that goes bump in the night in Nebraska. Watch the trailer of this riveting, gorgeously told story of which I’m a tremendous fan and then we’ll talk:
Okay so you saw how aliens come to Earth and take the form of people’s deceased relatives to tell us they come in peace. R u kidding me? And the Supervisor for Earth, Karellen, picks one prophet to be his emissary, a hunky Nebraska farmer (who wouldn’t?). The first thing you should know is that neither Karellen nor the farmer are strangers to strange– Mike Vogel plays the farmer, and he’s just escaped out from Under the Dome, that Stephen King show about a town and its many former CSI actor residents trapped under alien technology. And Karellen once played another demon who wanted to destroy The Golden Child, Sardo Numspa! Whaaaaat?!? I’m serious!
Well way more mind-fuckery ensues. Karellen creates a familiar habitat for when he zaps Mike Vogel up to his spaceship to chat. And that familiar comfy setting is the honeymoon suite where Mike spent his wedding night with his now-deceased wife. Sick alien bastard! Not to mention that Karellen first appeared to him as this lost love. You know who’s not cool with this? His current girlfriend, that’s who! Talk about a psychological probe!
So at this point we have to wonder what Karellen’s motives are. We haven’t seen him yet; he doesn’t reveal his true form for a while. But he does come off as a too-good-to-be-true altruistic alien. So when he’s messing around with Mike’s head, alienating him from his current squeeze, we have to wonder if the alien’s pulling some sort of Stockholm Syndrome thing on his Earth mouthpiece. Does Karellen want total control of Mike Vogel and then Earth? Or is he just a kindly galactic traveler?
Earth lapses into a long bucolic utopia with the aliens’ help. People don’t even have to work anymore; they have all their needs taken care of and just procreate. Except for Mike Vogel and the woman he loves almost as much as his former wife. They can’t get preggers. And shouldn’t the prophet get all the goods? If we turn mental pages through la Bible, though, prophets don’t usually fare too well.
The whole time Mike demands that Karellen show himself. He doesn’t; the plot thickens. Plus also the children of Earth are getting a little wonky.
Would you buy this Earth-topia or would you be skeptical? Some don’t want any part of it and move to New Athens, the one town in the world where humans rule. They have taxis and chaos and crime! This one family especially flees there. See, their daughter Jennifer is the wonkiest kid of them all, like Children of the Corn times a thousand. All the other kids show up, slack-jawed, on this family’s driveway to be near Jennifer. She’s sort of mind controlling them all, but then someTHING is mind-controlling her.
Well Karellen’s ready to reveal himself. In what shape does he appear at a fabulous cocktail party in South Africa? I’ll tell you what shape: DEVIL! Lucifer himself! A red Charles Dance (aka Sardo aka Tywin Lannaster) in horns and hooves and tail and wings. The humans are shocked and like whaaaaat have we done??!!? And I was watching and I was like whaaaa?!?!
There’s a whole thing about which came first, humanity’s instinctual fear for millennia of just such a creature, or the creature appearing as humanity’s worst fear? Were our story-telling ancestors preparing us for this encounter? All the dusty texts with Karellen illustrations. And what is the Devil in its purest form? You know how the Death tarot card symbolizes change and can actually be positive? Is the devil a metaphor for some sort of rebirth, or is it just straight up evil?
Jennifer’s family is super freaked out about their kid being Karellen’s conduit, and Mike Vogel is told that the reason he and wife #2 didn’t get pregnant is that buddy Karellen wanted to spare them for what’s coming. There’s an interesting face-off between Karellen and humans in Mike’s Nebraska barn that’s very The Devil and Daniel Webster.
Alas it’s time for Jennifer to fulfill her fate. The kids all go off to what looks like Ayers Rock to centrifuge some energy power to destroy the planet. And all the humans in all the land lose their kids. Meanwhile, remember the kid in the wheelchair from the trailer you just saw? Well he’s a super scientist now (fabulous actor Osy Ikhile from In the Heart of the Sea!) and he’s fed up with the aliens because he thinks they’re no bueno. He knows what he has to do. He implores his girlfriend to shrink wrap hibernate him and put him in with the other animals that Karellen is collecting for a zoo on his home hellfire burbling planet. Though it will take him just 40 days to get there and 40 days back (Biblical!), at the speed of light from Earth it will feel like 80 years to his girlfriend. Math, who understands it? So that’s the sacrifice he makes.
Well by this time I’m thinking the alien demons are for sure demonic in the purest vile sense. But is it as simple as that? Of course not in this fascinating show! Is Karellen a dear for sparing Mike Vogel and his second favorite woman the pain of losing a child? Has he been manipulating humanity the whole time? Karellen keeps saying he’s just the messenger for a fate that’s already been decided by the universe creator.
The finale is lovely and moving. Our hero survives being vacuum packed and confronts Karellen. Earth deserves to live! And Karellen’s like okay go talk to the singularity, the creation energy itself that rules the universe. And he does. It’s a kind of light beam thing. And he learns that Earth’s fate is sealed and that humanity’s children are evolving into something new and joining this universal energy. Karellen gets a bit wistful, saying that his race never evolves, just keeps wandering the universe facilitating others.
Our hero demands to go home but by the time he gets there, all the kids are busy evolving and all the adults are dead. He’s the last earthling. Karellen invites him to stay on his ship and travel the universe with him. Heroically, the last human’s like no, Earth deserves a witness to its end. I will be that witness and report back to you. Has anyone every done that? Karellen says no, no one ever has. So with a heavy heart, Karellen sends the last earthling down to witness beautiful Earth’s last breath. He asks just two favors, that Karellen not forget them, and that Karellen take one cultural artifact from the planet, a piece of music. And the music plays as Earth implodes.
This Arthur C. Clark adaptation is a little Noah, a little Exorcist, a little Twilight Zone, a little Close Encounters. It hits all the major notes that exist and keep humans up at night wondering (why are we here? are we alone? what’s it all for? what’s next?), and it does so with complexity and expansive thoughtfulness. The prophet isn’t the hero; the devil isn’t the villain; the end is just the beginning.
Super. Awesome. Miniseries. Watch it online here!
Other End-of-Year Syfy Premieres:
THE EXPANSE: Boring Alien-like sort of failed future space story where I never got invested in the people or their problems or the plot. Didn’t like anyone enough to see what happens to them on their planets and space ships — something about the fight for resources among Earth and its aligned planets, those tricky Martian colonies, and the people who mine the resources from like asteroids and stuff. Meh.
THE MAGICIANS: Is there room in the world for yet another story about a school for youngsters learning magic? The answer is YES! HELL YES! Oh this pilot episode has it all and is fascinating. I can’t wait to find out what happens to the supremely well cast main guy who’s shy at human school but a badass mofo at magic school, and his BFF who failed her magic school entrance exam and is determined to get back in there no matter what shady dude she has to cozy up to. Plus folks have sex while levitating.
Ta-ta til next time!
Tags: alien invasion, aliens, Arthur C. Clark, Charles Dance, Childhood's End, CSI, demons, devil, Game of Thrones, Karellen, Lucifer, Mike Vogel, Osy Ikhile, s5, Sardo Numspa, science fiction, scifi, syfy, The Expanse, The Golden Child, The Magicians, Tywin Lannister, Under the Dome