“Why do they look like our idea of devils?” Somehow the question doesn’t crop up in the second episode of Childhood’s End until over a half-hour in. It takes the literal rocket scientist of the show — precocious astrophysics student and Karellen obsessive Milo (Osy Ikhile) — to address the elephant in the room, revealed at the end of the last episode.
It’s stunning and unexpected to launch into the second episode of Syfy’s new miniseries without really going over the reaction to the fact that Charles Dance in real, practical costume as head alien representative Karellen looks like Satan from South Park. Instead, the world accepts it pretty quickly, like the likeness is just accidental, with no indication that this is in any way mind-controlled.
Ah, no matter. If we spent our time worried about logical inconsistencies in every sci-fi saga on this level — read: ones that willfully bite off much more than they can chew — we’d die alone, and soon.
So it’s best to just embrace how many zany Arthur C. Clarke concepts this episode packs in. The climax involves a pearly, alien Ouija board gifted to shifty, power-hungry biology professor Rupert Boyce (Julian McMahon). The board communicates with a demonic presence inside a young mother’s womb, and also broadcasts rune-like symbols in the shape of the constellations to Karellen’s brethren on his home planet. Magically, Milo figures that last part out in about five minutes — what a whiz!
Meanwhile, possessed children are cropping up, mostly freaky Hitler-Youth-looking Tommy (Lachlan Roland-Kenn), son of Amy (Hayley Magnus), the woman who is bearing Karellen’s ungodly agent. It really gets as Rosemary’s Baby-meets-The Omen as it sounds? Two devil children, you say? Childhood’s End starts to legitimately bend genres here.
There’s even a Christian missionary’s daughter and child psychologist, Peretta (Orange is the New Black’s Yael Stone) who gets her crucifix bent into a nub by the force inside Tommy. She spends off-hours poring over religious texts, looking at old occult-book Lucifer sketches — seemingly the only other person on the planet who cares about the demonic form of the head Overlord. Everyone else just does tribute graffiti; maybe some even have a crush. After all, he’s cured disease, hunger, the income gap, war, and the whole she-bang. “It’s blissful ignorance but it’s still ignorance,” Milo explains.
At one point, a craggy priest — Peretta’s guru — waddles in to deliver an info dump, and hits it on the head from a less scientific perspective: “Faith is on its last legs, but we don’t see it, because they give us ice cream.” Cut to Amy, with Satan-alien spawn gestating, eating a pint on the couch. Subtlety isn’t what Childhood’s End is going for.
Again, it’s for Charles Dance hoofing it awkwardly off of his landing deck like the Lord of Darkness on stilts, clomping all up into biologists’ cocktail parties or your friendly neighborhood barn like he owns the shit (which he does). All we need is him in some parades. I want as much Dance as possible.
We don’t quite get Karellen’s evil secret in this episode: He only half-imparts to his former representative Ricky Stormgren (Mike Vogel). The arrival of the green-eyed devil spawn signals that he’s planning to take things over from the inside, and gets some troops on the ground. And all signs point to hoards of devil kids.
We do learn that Ricky — now sickly thanks to Karellen’s sway — is a sap, who keeps Karellen’s secrets and doesn’t let him die the alien at the hand of Peretta. Instead Ricky revives Karellen using a magic alien elixir, despite a lot of cryptic warnings. After all, Ricky (Peretta decides from his religious texts) is Karellen’s “false prophet,” and perhaps as much to blame for the world turning into Valhalla as much as the intergalactic devil himself. Stormgren had to make a mistake like this, and idiot humans need something to believe in.
Peretta, spitting righteously in the direction of Karellen’s face: “You have deceived us!”
Dance — with that Tywin Lannister half-sneer peeking through the caked-on face makeup — “No, you have deceived yourselves.”