Childhood’s End: “The Deceivers” is the opposite of what I hoped it would be

Well, that was a fucking disaster. Enough so that I want to take back everything positive I implied about this miniseries after the first installment, although I’m still slightly hopeful that the third part will make a bit more sense of things. “The Deceivers” is, ostensibly, all about revelations and the hunt for truth. However, probably a full half of the episode can only be described as filler material that has little or nothing to do with the overarching story or themes of Childhood’s End.

The character that I had the highest hopes for in this episode was Peretta, who seemed intended to represent the plight of religious believers after the arrival of the Overlords, but her storyline ended up going nowhere. Indeed, it felt as if the show’s writers just didn’t quite know what to do with her or, perhaps, as if they had written (and maybe even filmed) more than made it into the final cut of the episode. In any case, Peretta’s story, especially her supposed “friendship” with Ellie Stormgren, feels half-baked at best. Peretta’s connection to Jake and his family and her job as a counselor don’t make much sense, and Peretta comes off as irrational and paranoid.

Portraying Peretta’s religious beliefs as unreasonable seems to be the whole point, and this material is presented in a manner so completely without sensitivity and nuance as to make it uncomfortable to watch, even for a mean old atheist like myself. While there are certainly some strange and unsympathetic religious people in the world—and I can only imagine how they’d behave in a first contact situation—this show’s treatment of Peretta is, frankly, just cruel. Her suicide at the end of the episode is not unexpected, but it does feel meaningless. Perhaps it is meant to be tragic, but by creating the character as such an unlikable presence throughout the preceding hour and a half, the show squashes any gentle feelings the viewer may have about Peretta’s death.

That’s only the beginning of this episode’s problems, though. While I was feeling optimistic after “The Overlords” did so well at capturing some of the spirit of Arthur C. Clarke’s novel, it quickly became obvious that most of the problems I had originally foreseen having with this adaptation were just pushed off into this middle part of it. There really are just two serious issues with this miniseries, though:

  1. There’s not enough source material to fill nearly six hours of television, and the way the source material is being supplemented is clumsy (at best).
  2. Condensing the source material’s multi-century timeline into just a couple of decades diminishes the impact of the story by reducing the book’s more epic scale into something much smaller and more personal, but not in a good way.

Peretta and her added story is the biggest way so far that the show has tried to expand upon the source material with terrible results, but “The Deceivers” also includes a new subplot—about Ricky Stormgren being sick and not being able to have children—that is also a colossal waste of time. It’s through this subplot that the show comes closest to revealing what is actually going on with the Overlords and their mysterious presence on Earth, but the whole episode is frustratingly coy about the matter, and the actual revelation is being saved for the final installment of the miniseries. This episode ends with Peretta’s death and the birth of a baby with creepy glowing eyes.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • The only parts of “The Deceivers” that really worked were the scenes with Milo and Rachel, though I mostly just ended up feeling bad for poor Rachel.
  • It’s a shame to get Julian McMahon to act in this and then waste him so entirely on a completely forgettable role.
  • The translation of the “dinner party” may be the worst book-to-film scene/sequence adaptation I’ve ever seen.
  • Why make a magic space Ouija board at all if it’s not going to be used in any way like a Ouija board?
  • The one way in which I think Childhood’s End is completely successful is in creating the look of Karellen. Charles Dance looks amazing in the makeup and prosthetics. I’m only sad that they couldn’t spring for more Overlords to show up. Probably they shouldn’t have blown their budget on that stupid Ouija board.
  • I literally cackled at the glowing baby eyes.

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