Impulse Ep. 8: Truth, Justice, and the Henry Coles Way


While seizing, Henry is sent on her “hero’s journey” to protect a young girl from a monster. But who is the monster she has to slay in Impulse? CW: Sexual Assault

Impulse is not a superhero show, and it doesn’t want to be. Henry’s (Maddie Hasson) assault is not used as a device to launch her “real” story. Superhuman abilities don’t suddenly make her realize she wants to don a cape, and they don’t erase her traumatic experience.

Teleportation is a part of Henry’s story, but it is not the story because Henry is way more than just a superhero.

That being said, Impulse doesn’t shy away from the superhero aspects of its premise either. From the outset, Townes (Daniel Maslany) tries to convince Henry that she’s a superhero, which annoys her. In episode eight, however, she starts to embrace that side of herself when people she cares about are put in danger.

Related Story: Impulse Ep. 7: A look at 7 quotes from ‘He Said, She Said’

More from Recap

With that in mind, I couldn’t resist adapting Superman’s famous catchphrase to help break down Impulse‘s most cinematic episode yet.


At the end of episode seven, just before collapsing into Cleo’s (Missi Pyle) arms, Henry starts trying to tell her mom that Clay (Tanner Stine) assaulted her. Henry is in such an emotional state that Cleo doesn’t fully understand what she’s saying, though Cleo understands enough to know something horrible happened.

Cleo is devastated that she was not there for Henry and even came down hard on her multiple times because she didn’t see that Henry was acting out for a reason. Jenna, as highly empathetic as she is, feels bad about how much guilt Cleo is putting on herself and is then put in an awkward position when Cleo asks if Henry told her what happened.

Not wanting to betray Henry’s trust, Jenna is hesitant to speak up, but she does confirm what Cleo had already been suspecting: that Clay tried to rape Henry. Jenna also reveals something Henry doesn’t actually know she’s aware of, which is that “Henry is afraid of all of the Boones.”

That reveals later sets Cleo on the warpath, quite rightly but at a very dangerous time, as the Boones and the Millers prepare for their “meeting.”

Justice… or lack thereof?

I have hated Bill Boone (David James Elliott) since the pilot, but I have a new level of contempt for him after episode eight. After Clay finally admits that he may have “mistakenly” assaulted Henry, Bill completely lets him off the hook and warns him not tell anyone else, which does a disservice to Henry, obviously, but also to Clay.

As I watched the scene, I kept thinking about something I heard at my college commencement ceremony last month. The speaker Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer and civil rights advocate, gave an incredible speech, which partially focused on the criminal justice system. What stood out the most to me was this line: “I believe that people are more than the worst thing they’ve ever done.”

I would like to believe that, too, but the only way it works is if people accept responsibility for the wrong thing they did. You can’t become a better person in the future if you can’t see yourself for who you are in the present.

Clay should admit what he did. I doubt he will, but he does owe that to Henry. He also owes it to himself if he wants to be more than another Bill Boone. As I wrote in my pilot react, violence is often more cyclical than spontaneous. The only way to break that cycle is to recognize that you’re in it, which the other Boone son, Lucas (Craig Arnold), has started to do.

The Henry Coles Way

While in a prolonged seizure, Henry comes face-to-face with Clay again but in her mind. That version of Clay isn’t willing to admit to what he did either, let alone apologize. He owes it to Henry, and she knows he does. She tries her hardest to get him to apologize until someone helps her realize that she doesn’t need Clay to see that justice is done. She only needs herself.

If you’ve seen The CW’s black ops drama Nikita, Henry’s mental journey in episode eight actually reminds me a lot of the one Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca) goes on while sedated in the season one episode “Echoes.”

The circumstances are different. Alex’s trauma is different from Henry’s, and I don’t mean to conflate the two. However, their arcs in these specific episodes share similarities. Both encounter younger versions of themselves and try desperately to protect the children from a looming threat.

Henry assumes her mission is to save four-year-old Henry (very well portrayed by Carina Battrick) from Clay, who is particularly menacing since he is not constrained by a wheelchair. Alex believes she needs to save her 13-year-old self (Eliana Jones) from the people responsible for her parents’ deaths.

In the end, both Henry and Alex are wrong. The monsters they’re confronting are not their enemies. They are the monsters. They both subconsciously fear who they’re becoming.

Next: Impulse: Four ways the pilot addresses rape culture

Henry has been filled with anger since the pilot. In episode eight, she unleashes it violently for the first time on the Clay in her mind, beating him until he bleeds to get him to apologize for the assault. The more he smugly refuses, the angrier Henry gets until her younger self steps in to give Henry some perspective.

Henry’s rage is 100 percent justified, but Clay isn’t the one being hurt by it. Henry is. She realizes that she needs to learn how to start moving past her anger, not for Clay’s sake but for her own. Violence may be the Boone way, but it is not the Henry Coles way.