'Impulse' empowers assault survivors to speak out, producer Doug Liman says

Fred Topel
Doug Liman executive produces and directs episodes of Impulse for YouTube. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Doug Liman executive produces and directs episodes of "Impulse" for YouTube. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 16 (UPI) -- Impulse executive producer Doug Liman says the show's first season already has encouraged survivors to seek help or speak out, in part because every episode of the YouTube show ends with a message from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network and information on where viewers can call if they need help.

"We just did an interview where the person interviewing us talked about their own experiences being assaulted," Liman said in a phone interview with UPI. "I think it's one of these things that society is less comfortable talking about and keeps in the shadows. That's not good for anybody."


The star of Impulse, Henry (Maddie Hasson) is a teleporter. She only learned she could teleport when Clay Boone (Tanner Stone) tried to rape her. Henry teleported out of Clay's car, in the process crushing the vehicle and paralyzing Clay. Clay's father, Bill (David James Elliott), grew to suspect Henry was involved in his son's accident.

"Some people have messaged me who have been victims of assault or know victims of assault," Hasson said while on the line with Liman. "It's been nice to see the reaction and it's nice when you hear a story about somebody being helped because of our show or feeling heard."


Season 1 of Impulse premiered in June 2018 on YouTube Premium. The show is based on the same series of Steven Gould books that inspired Liman's movie Jumper. With the show, Liman felt he could shake up the superhero trend that emerged in the decade following his film.

"I'm sort of a disruptor in terms of the kinds of things I'm interested in creating," Liman said. "Bourne Identity was a disruptive film. It wasn't like other action movies. I had an idea of how to do a disruptive superhero story, starting with the fact that it's not a superhero story. She has a super power, but she's not a superhero."

The message from the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network comes after every episode of Impulse because every episode deals with the aftermath of Henry's assault in some way.

"At the heart of it, you have somebody with a superpower, but it's connected to a really traumatic event in their life," Liman said. "So there's trauma associated with a superpower. That's such a provocative approach to doing a superhero story."

For Henry to become a powerful teleporter, she will have to confront the incident that first unleashed her power.

"In Season 2, Henry has no choice but to get ahold of her powers, to be in control of them," Hasson said. "To do so, she has to address her trauma because there are external forces, people after her who are trying to use her power for their own gain, for their own purposes."


In Season 1, Nikolai (Callum Keith Rennie) observed Henry from afar. In Season 2, he takes her under his wing to teach her how to use her powers. Henry isn't the easiest student.

"Henry is not really trusting of men at all," Hasson said. "With Bill Boone and with Clay and she has this absentee father, I think it's sort of a recipe for a bad relationship. It's just interesting to navigate that with Callum."

Henry kept her assault secret from most of the people in her life. She felt adults would not believe she had the power of teleportation, and that would call into question her accusation against Clay.

At the end of Season 1, Henry told her mother, Cleo (Missi Pyle), that Clay assaulted her. She also demonstrated her power in front of Cleo, who is ready to have her daughter's back.

"Her daughter was keeping this huge thing from her, so she's really trying to become more of a present parent," Pyle said on the call with Liman and Hasson. "She's become more fiercely protective of her daughter."

Season 2 sees a stronger relationship between Henry and Cleo, but then more drama happens.

"In the beginning of the season, they become really close," Hasson said. "I do think Henry has to decide if being close to her is really a real way of protecting her or if being further away is the answer to keeping her safe."


As Henry gains more control over her powers, viewers can look forward to more teleportation action scenes.

"Season 1 was kind of a little bit more internal for Henry," Liman said. "Season 2, we're really starting to test drive these powers. I gave a little taste of it in the opening of the pilot of where you can start to go with people who can teleport. I'm excited that we're starting to get there in Season 2."

With action comes small victories for Henry, fleeting though they may be.

"She has a few triumphant moments," Hasson said. "I think Henry's power is much bigger than we could have ever imagined. You get to see it grow in a really big way. The world sort of grows as her power grows."

Impulse Season 2 premieres Wednesday on YouTube.

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