[This is a review of Childhood’s End Night Two. There will be SPOILERS.]
Childhood’s End Night One introduced the world to the Overlords and their ever-present promise the invasion was for our own good. While the first episode was something of a slow burn, focused on delivering a lot of information, the second part of the three-part miniseries takes a sharp turn in direction and brings forward new characters and a more chilling threat. With the devilish reveal of Karellen’s (Charles Dance) true form at the end of Night One, we jump off the high dive into a much darker and seemingly more complex story.
First, we have to talk about the reveal of Karellen’s form. A devil holding hands with children doesn’t make him any less horrifying. Kudos to the costume designers and visual team for making Charles Dance even more terrifying than before. Karellen is the eight-foot embodiment of Satan (something that’s familiar to Dance and anyone who’s seen the 1986 Eddie Murphy action-comedy The Golden Child), horned wings and all. His appearance shapes the audience’s view of what they were watching. The downside is that story almost hits you over the head with metaphor at this point. The world is willing to accept begin given a utopia, even though it’s handed to them by evil incarnate.
Night Two picks up four years after Karellen’s reveal and Earth has placidly fallen into a stupor. Religion and science are almost totally eradicated, with the exception of billionaire Rupert Boyce’s (Julian McMahon) Boyce Institute, which just happens to work hand-in-hand with Karellen. Here we find Milo (Osy Ikhile), now grown after the Overlords saved his life 19 years ago. Milo is still frantic with scientific curiosity and seems to be the only one who pays attention to the fact the Overlords have never clued humanity in on where they are from.
Back in the United States, Ricky and his now-wife Ellie are unsuccessfully trying for children. Another quick visit from Karellen reveals Ricky is terminally ill from his time on the Overlords ship all those years ago. Meanwhile, the Overlords are paying particular attention to the Greggson family. The importance of this specific family is not made immediately clear, which offers a bit of intrigue amongst all the catching up the episode is doing. Like the mystery behind the Overlords themselves, there’s not a lot of rhyme or reason in the script as to why these characters are important or how they are connected. Perhaps there’s not meant to be. Mother Amy (Hayley Magnus) and son Tom (Lachlan Roland-Kenn) are altered by alien scanning, while dad Jake (Ashley Zukerman) is left trying to find answers. Enter religious zealot Peretta Jones (Yael Stone), who manages to ineffectively close the story loop between the Greggson family and Ellie.
If Night One’s themes were free will and choice, Night Two’s has to be Faith and Evil. Once Karellen’s devil is seen, Childhood’s End makes it impossible to focus on anything else except religion and biblical agenda. Peretta, as one of the last remaining Christian faithfuls, bumbles from character to character preaching warnings about the Overlords, but it isn’t until the last few climactic minutes of Night Two that she has anything to actually do with the plot. One thing that does stand out is that Karellen, while recognizable as Christianity’s form of Satan and Hell, wouldn’t be regarded the same as the rest of the world’s mass religions. So how does he manage to entrance the entire globe?
This act of Childhood’s End is more concerned with asking questions and leaving them as such, than affording the audience a sense of satisfaction. In a departure from Night One, which was a progressive climb into the story, the second act feels more disjointed as we bounce through multiple character POV. Still, the meat of the story is developed in this second act and the strength of Night One means there’s still a lot to hope for in the concluding episode. After all, they have yet to explain how the title even fits with the overall story. (Considering the last minute birth and Tom’s possessed state, we can safely assume kids have a lot to do in the last two hours.) With the events that did take place, there’s a lot of potential for a stellar finish for Syfy’s miniseries.
Childhood’s End Night Three airs Wednesday, Dec 16th at 8pm on Syfy