DEADLINE — Sexual assault is at the center of YouTube’s teleportation thriller Impulse.
Based on the third novel in the “Jumper” series by Steven Gould, Impulse features 16-year-old Henrietta, aka Henry (Maddie Hasson) who discovers she has the ability to teleport. The first time she realizes this, she is in a truck with her high school’s Golden Boy, who tries to rape her. She has a seizure and teleports, in the course of which she inadvertently crushes him, leaving him a paraplegic.
Episodes going forward explore Henry’s need to reconcile what her assaulter tried to do with the consequence, and her feelings about discovering she can teleport with her feelings about the assault.
Director/EP Doug Liman called it a big breakthrough in the development of the series, a world he previously explored with the film Jumper. “I wanted another shot at it,” Liman said, calling it “of all my films the one I was least happy with.”
Henry’s ability to teleport is more a curse than a blessing; desperate to get out of the small provincial town, she keeps getting teleported back, Liman explained to TV critics at TCA.
The pilot was shot before LeFranc came on board as showrunner, who recognized the assault scene as something that should be expanded upon and deepened, so they went back and re-shot it.
LeFranc said her vision of the series was as an exploration of what it’s like for a woman to go through that experience moving forward.
Every episode also delves into the impact of the assault, showrunner Lauren LeFranc (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) explained.
“It was important to link teleportation with the assault because those two happened in the same moment,” she said. Speaking to survivors while doing research for the series, LeFranc says they asked that it not be dramatized as a journey that launches the males’ story, and that they please not make it neat, tidy, and “suddenly she’s evolved from that.”
A viewer warning at the start of the episode lets viewers know it depicts sexual violence, and a call to action concludes the first episode.
Impulse hails from Universal Cable Productions and studio-based Hypnotic and marks the first UCP series for YouTube.