Welcome to the final Revolution of 2012…and of the first quarter of 2013. In NBC’s infinite wisdom, they decided to put Revolution, I believe its most successful scripted show, on hiatus until the end of March. Whether this scheme will work out for them, I don’t know. Probably not. But, before I discuss “Revolution at Midseason,” let’s go into tonight’s episode, “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.”
In “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” Team Miles finally makes it to Monroe’s camp where they split up, get caught, and eventually escape. Unlike all the other times this has happened- I think the total is at 42 now- they leave the compound with two more members of their party: Rachel and Danny. Before we get to that point, however, we have to endure several scenes of varying levels of interest … and quality. While some of these moments are good, many of them aren’t, and even the better ones fail to provide Revolution with much-needed nutrients to feed us through the long winter.
One of the most successful sequences of the night has Charlie discovering that her mother’s alive after so many years. She’s understandably in shock, even if Rachel doesn’t realize that Charlie needs time for this information to sink in. Although Charlie/Tracy Spiridakos is one of the weaker members of the cast, there is a sense of emotional impact to this scene, which none of tonight’s other sequences can pull off as well.
For example, at one point, Rachel is put in a “Sophie’s Choice” situation where Monroe and Strausser attempt to inspire her to make the amplifier by saying he’ll kill one of her children. Charlie is willing to sacrifice herself for the greater good, but Rachel agrees to listen to Miles instead. Along the scene being horribly acted by everyone involved, it served no point. Rachel already agreed to work on the amplifier, and Charlie was the one challenging her reasons for doing so. Rachel should already know that Monroe would harm Danny unless she did what he wanted…especially now that her time bomb scheme blew up in her face. And at that point of tonight’s episode, he has double the leverage to use against her. I thought it would be more logical for the “Sophie’s Choice” to be for Charlie to stop interfering with the amplifier plans or to choose between her mother and her brother’s life. I mean, it still wouldn’t have made sense, but still…
Another scene that doesn’t really have the power it needs involves Neville taunting the captive Nora and Aaron. Aaron, who apparently was the super genius behind Google and who had appeared on the cover of Wired magazine countless times, is taken to task by Neville because he was rich and powerful while Neville worked in a cubicle. While the mild-mannered nature of pre-blackout Neville was earlier established, it still felt like a weak attempt to force characterization on Neville’s part by giving him this bitterness. After all, it’s been 15 years since then, and he is comfortable following authority.
However, Neville did take part in another of the episode’s better scenes where Miles forces information out of him by threatening Julia at bladepoint. While it’s not particularly suspenseful, and information gathering on this show is kind of rote, it showcases the show’s two strongest actors: Billy Burke and Giancarlo Esposito. Disappointingly, Neville’s threat that he’ll kill Miles comes across more like something that’s supposed to be said rather than something truly intimidating.
Speaking of Miles, the heart of this episode involved the Miles/Monroe relationship. We see them as kids. We see Miles comforting Monroe after his family was killed by a drunk driver, since it wouldn’t be enough for Monroe just to be a power mad villain. We see Monroe tempting Miles with reinstatement as the military’s leader, as was brought up last week and which no viewer would reasonably expect Miles to accept. To the show’s credit, though, the Monroe from Miles’ hallucination is a much more toned down and sane version of the character, which makes sense considering how Miles would likely picture his former friend and ally.
But my biggest problem with this part involves their confrontation. At first, they hold each other at gunpoint, but Monroe lays down his sidearm because he realizes how much he missed Miles. Miles seems unwilling to shoot Monroe, lowers his rifle, and says, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t kill you the first time.” Then, they just stand there before engaging in a protracted sword fight sequence that ends with Monroe running off and getting to live to fight another day. Moments like this make me feel insecure about the show. Killing Monroe would have brought a big change to the series and shattered the balance of power in the Monroe Republic. Yet Revolution could barely give a reason as to why Miles didn’t pull the trigger, and the best I could come up with was that he wanted to give a movie-style speech to the bad guy.
With Team Miles (+2) out of the compound and Monroe watching from above, a helicopter, flown by an unknown pilot, takes off from the ground. Its cannon readies and … cut to black. It’s a good cliffhanger, and I was certainly glad that Monroe wasn’t flying off like a supervillain, and I was even gladder that he didn’t re-kidnap Danny and/or Rachel, but overall, this episode lacked the “appointment television” quality that Revolution needed before the lights go out for four months.
• Who’s flying the helicopter? My money’s on Neville. Maybe he learned to fly while still an insurance adjuster. It’s not impossible.
• Rachel kills Strausser after he attempts to rape her … or rape her again. The show never makes clear just how much torture Rachel has gone through. Despite this and all her experiences, the show still feels the annoying need to make her damsel-ly.
• It was nice seeing Mark Pellegrino again. He seems to be the only one to even attempt to provide levity to this show.
• What happened to everyone else at the facility where the bulk of this episode takes place?
• No sign of Grace or her Department of Defense captor tonight. Unless they’re in the chopper.
Revolution at Midseason
For better or worse, “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” is a typical Revolution episode. Unfortunately, typical means “not bad at best.” As a series, Revolution does not plunder the depths of Terra Nova or Alcatraz, but it also doesn’t reach the heights of even lower tier shows such as FlashFoward and V. While those latter two series had their share of problems, there was also more of a spark to them. I ended up wanting to see them succeed because I could sense that something better was lurking not too far beneath the surface, even if it was just based on me liking several secondary characters. With Revolution, I don’t want to see it fail, but I don’t have much of an investment in or hope of it getting better.
With Team Miles, the show has already fallen into bad habits. The characters will consider a mission, argue about who will perform it, and then they’ll escape by the skin of their teeth. Odds are they’ll be walking into a trap, and even if they’re not ambushed, someone will be taken hostage. While you’d expect a show like this- part serialized, part stand-alone- to have conventional plotlines to fall back on, after only ten episodes, Revolution almost seems exhausted trying to come up with something to do while being unwilling to really delve into the horrors of living in a post-apocalyptic world under a dictator. As I said in my review of the sixth episode, “[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.”
However, repetitive plots would be less of an issue if I liked watching the characters getting into scrapes. Unfortunately, it’s hard to say that about Revolution. In Kripke’s previous show Supernatural, the demon-of-the-week format didn’t seem bothersome because the key was enjoying Sam and Dean Winchester, along with ample support by Bobby Singer and other recurring characters. While I find Miles decent (though he definitely needs someone to banter off of) and I think Giancarlo Esposito gives more to Neville than the character deserves, the rest of the regulars still fall flat for me…even the increasingly hammy Monroe.
Nevertheless, I wonder how strong a fan base this show has. While I know it’s one of NBC’s most watched series, I don’t know how enthusiastic people are about it. Is it a show people that watch or is it a show that people follow? As in, is it just something to have on in the background, or are people legitimately excited about the adventures of the Matheson clan? Are there Revolution obsessives out like many other less popular sci-fi series have? I guess we’ll find out in March.
Thanks for reading.