This week I look at two episodes of Revolution back to back. Unable to finish my review two weeks ago, I decided to use this opportunity to see how Revolution plays as an ongoing story, which it seems to be aiming for. Just from these two episodes, the show actually succeeds at this angle. Episode 6 starts right where Episode 5 ends with Team Miles rushing an injured Nora to safety. The show maintains decent continuity at referencing past episodes, and it’s easy to see it as a more serialized than stand alone program. Unfortunately, taken on their own, the two episodes lack a most necessary strength.
I review both “Soul Train” and “Sex and Drugs” individually. To skip to my review of this week’s episode, “Sex and Drugs,” click here.
Soul Train was an episode that proved that Revolution wisely foresaw questions that people would have and actually set out to answer them. Although electrical sparks cannot form, people were asking from before episode 1, “what about steam engines?” And in episode 5, we learn that steam engines do work, and they work quite well. Unfortunately, the rest of the episode does not work as well as the train that takes The Neville Posse from Illinois to Philadelphia, where Monroe runs his army.
The episode revolves around the train as Charlie, Miles, Nora, and Aaron hear the steam whistle blow and rush to the town where it is being prepared to take off. Danny, Neville, and the militia are also there, which probably explains why none of the townspeople tried to commandeer the train for themselves. Meanwhile, Nora meets up with another resistance member Ken (Jeff Fahey, Lapidus from Lost) who gives her a bomb to destroy it… and a big part of Monroe’s army. Unfortunately, she is torn because Danny’s on the train, and she doesn’t want to spend the post-apocalypse being lectured by Charlie about how family is important. Unwilling to kill innocents, even if it will stop a big portion of the militia, Ken stabs her and places the bomb himself. Long story short, Miles fights Neville and prevents the bomb from going off, but they don’t save Danny, who is taken to be reunited with his mother on the East Coast. Aaron was also in the episode.
Danny remaining kidnapped was disappointing. It was a way to significantly alter the series and prove that it was willing to take chances. Maggie’s death didn’t change much, but rescuing or even killing Danny would force Charlie to re-establish her purpose. Her only goal is saving her brother, so with him no longer requiring saving, the show would need to develop a better long-term goal than “saving Danny.” Would she return to the commune? Would she remain with Miles? Would they try to overthrow Monroe, and if so, what would differentiate them from the resistance, who have greater numbers and weaponry, though probably little in the way of a coherent strategy. If “saving Danny” remains the central plot of the show, sending him much further away in an attempt to prolong plot development so they can keep searching just seems lazy and weak. Additionally, this further condenses the show. Previously, we had three ongoing storylines: Team Miles, Camp Monroe, and The Neville Posse; this move possibly merges the latter two into one. Alternatively, with Danny being super important, it might bring the developing energy angle to the forefront, which would make Monroe a bigger threat and give the show a greater sense of being.
On Soul Train‘s personal side, we got the backstory of Captain Tom Neville. His origin tale is disappointingly typical in stories like this. Before the blackout, he’s a meek, unassuming insurance investigator, but afterward he becomes a bloodthirsty leader of men in order to, you guessed it, save his family. Although Esposito is a good actor, the entire plot is too obvious and plays out too expectedly to rise above its commonness. I’m not looking for something with the power and surprise of the Locke wheelchair reveal in Lost, but something a bit cleverer would have been appreciated. Not even the reveal that Nate is Neville’s son was shocking because of how central the son was to the flashbacks. I just hope we don’t get a son-betrays-the-father storyline. Also, Kim Raver from 24 plays Mrs. Neville, so Revolution is quickly becoming the home to wayward actors of the past decade’s super dramas.
Speaking of Lost, I wonder how these flashbacks are going to continue as the story progresses. Are we going to fall into the Lost trap of feeling compelled to throw in flashbacks for sake of formula? I know that 15 years is a long swatch of time to pass, and one that must be filled with crazy adventures, but unless the cast or the scope expands significantly, I can’t see this element offering much in the long term. To that point, are they going to be adding new people whom can have flashbacks or, more unlikely, might each season focus on a different batch of survivors?
Charlie again reclaims her role as Dale from The Walking Dead, whining about humanity at every step of the way. At one point she complains that Miles is no longer the man she remembers when he used to visit and drive her around singing loudly and comically. I am seriously annoyed with her inability to recognize that the world has changed and the ability to relax and have fun is rare. Especially with her incessant squawking about the importance of saving Danny. I understand the purpose of this character, but I would better believe her desperation and faith if a) she was elderly like Dale who witnessed war and knows that mankind can overcome the worst hardships or b) if this was several months or a couple of years after the blackout and she could better remember what society was like before everything collapsed. It seems forced and unbelievable coming from someone who has spent the majority of life in the post-blackout world where people, people from her village, were allegedly, constantly ravaged and raped.
But with Nora bleeding and injured and Danny miles and miles away, we move onto…
Sex and Drugs
I try very hard not to be taken in by NBC’s promotions. I know that “Next Week On…”s generally try to play up certain elements of a show almost to the point of lying in order to attract the greatest amount of viewers. But I was stupidly hornswoggled by the ad, and even the title, for Revolution‘s “Sex and Candy.” To understand what I’m talking about, see above.
That ad made it look like Revolution was going to take a step towards the darker side of its world, the taboo subjects and lose-lose moral conundrums that make the post-apocalypse such an interesting area to explore. Would Charlie essentially allow herself to be raped in order to save Nora’s life? That’s a story with actual internal conflict, drama, and a way to show that Revolution was ready and willing to tackle deeper issues.
Instead, Drexel, the leader of the compound and a heroin grower/dealer, wants her to sneak into the camp of the Irish family down the block and kill their leader. Their crime? Burning his poppy fields. Way to play it safe, Revolution. Now, I’m not condoning murder, but it’s a far less controversial subject when it comes to TV than rape. Making the plot-of-the-week another Grand Theft Auto assignment is disappointing, especially when you have a 95% certainty that the show wouldn’t allow its protagonist to kill an innocent man. Especially one we first meet playing with a toddler. Now, I’m also 95% certain that, in the scenario I made up, Nora would have been saved while Charlie wouldn’t have been raped, but I personally think that having to make that decision is more compelling than what we got with “Sex and Drugs.”
I don’t mean to keep harping on the promotion, because as I said, I try not to believe them, but it really brought to light just how … easy and black and white this show is making the post-apocalypse. It feels weird to compliment The Walking Dead for its complexity, but after tonight, I kind of see the AMC zombie series in a new, more respectable light.
Needless to say, all of Team Miles gets out alive. Miles stops Charlie from killing O’Halloran in the nick of time after slaughtering several of Drexel’s men. Drexel forces a seemingly healed Nora and the still-there Aaron to have a duel to the death with pistols, which Aaron “rigs” by shooting himself point blank in the chest using a flask as a shield (shouldn’t this be Mythbusted by now? Then again, these are guns that can’t use electric sparks so…might it work? Similar to Teddy Roosevelt surviving an assassin’s bullet with an eyeglass case? Then again, I believe that bullet did penetrate Teddy Roosevelt’s flesh while this one just dented Aaron’s flask…) Anyway, Aaron shoots Drexel dead.
Aaron is the center of the flashbacks tonight, which I’m now thinking might be more like Battlestar: Galactica‘s than Lost‘s. The former series used flashbacks to show where the characters were during the Fall of the Twelve Colonies, and this show always flashes back to the night of the blackout (plus some time after). Of course, we’re now running dangerously low on characters whose pre-blackout life we would care to see, unless it really stretches to include people like Mark Pellegrino’s character from several weeks ago. I guess Nora should be up soon. The purpose of tonight’s flashbacks was to let us know that Aaron had a wife and felt insecure about protecting her so he left her with the group they were traveling with, which plays oh-so-subtly into him finding his courage and shooting Drexel.
Back in Philadelphia, Monroe is nice to Danny despite Danny’s lack of gratitude. Nate shows signs of discontent to his father. Neville, who is now a Major, becomes Chief Interrogator. And Danny sees his mother again.
• Drexel about Miles: “I lined his war chest with so much gold you can dive in there and swim.” Poor Charlie, too young and uncultured to get a Duck Tales reference.
• The flashbacks do a bad job aging (or de-aging) the characters. After 15 years in a world without medicine, they should look more worse for wear. Instead, it looks like they’ve barely aged at all.
• Aaron tells Miles to go save Charlie because she’s, you guessed it, family.