After practically four months (the last episode aired on November 26, 2012), Revolution returns to the airwaves. Before watching the latest installment, entitled “The Stand,” I decided to evaluate my thoughts on Revolution up to now without going back to any of the previous episodes or my earlier reviews.
Overall, Revolution is a very unmemorable show. I recall the plot of the series and how we got to where we are (a battle-copter about to fire at someone), but it’s hard for me to pinpoint any particular moments of interest or amazement. Three years later, I can still recall a couple of brief bits of Flash Forward, while three months later my recollection of individual scenes in Revolution is flimsy at best. This becomes especially problematic when it comes to characters. Captain Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito) and Miles Matheson (Billy Burke) are above the rest of the cast, but that comes more from the actors actually having some sort of presence than Revolution‘s writing or adventures. Beyond those two (and arguably go-to cad Mark Pellegrino as one of Monroe’s henchmen), none of the characters stand out. You’d at least expect hefty computer nerd (Aaron played by Zak Orth) to be suitably snarky, but no.
The other big problem is NBC. They are treating the show as though it’s event television, but a series either a) needs to earn that title or b) be backed by one hell of a promotions department. Despite good ratings, Revolution has not become appointment television after 10 episodes. It doesn’t offer something unique, with The Walking Dead being superior apocalypse television, nor does it provide any real hook. “Why did the lights go out?” is really not all too compelling. The flashbacks, which hopefully will go away, just inspire negative recollections of Lost and remind us how, after 15 years of no technology, adults seem not to age in the slightest.
Comparing NBC to other networks, it hasn’t handled Revolution well at all. ABC’s Lost and FOX’s 24 made their bones, and then forced people to wait for a new season. Going back to Flash Forward, because it was the last show of this type to take an extended mid-season break (Dec. 03, 2009, to March 18, 2010), ABC gave that show an hour-long special (“What Did You See?”) prior to its return to build hype and remind people of the series. It didn’t work, but the network tried. NBC has done nothing of the sort. Additionally, FOX appears to have sneaked into the void and produced Monday’s event show with The Following (and yes, I know it airs an hour before this series). I’ve seen significantly more buzz about that series than I ever did about Revolution, and FOX knows how to market it better. It’s a midseason replacement, and they started running ads saying, “8 episodes left.” That’s more episodes than have aired of the series, and most shows will at most do “three episodes before the exciting season finale!” I haven’t even seen many banner ads highlighting Revolution‘s return.
However, I do want Revolution to be good. I liked creator/showrunner’s Kripke’s previous show, Supernatural, so I know he knows how to make compelling characters with snappy dialogue. I also like having shows to look forward to, and this season hasn’t really produced many. (Though The Neighbors has become surprisingly pleasant.) I would also like to add, I will not challenge the technical specifications of this series unless something egregiously curious happens, such as the burst of light from a lighthouse after over a decade of nighttime darkness not blinding the people staring directly at it. Hey! I do remember a scene from the show.
And with that…let’s take a look at “The Stand.”
“The Stand” is simultaneously the type of episode Revolution needed to return with and the type of episode that highlights its shortcomings. Like many episodes, “The Stand” puts the vast majority of its marbles into a single sequence- this time being a dual Monroe helicopter attack on a resistance compound. It’s a mostly successful, well-done action scene, particularly for a network television show. However, the repeated use of heavy artillery (including missile launchers) makes me wonder if the show is going to back away from its use of more simplistic weapons to become just another shoot-’em-up. This is a shame, because reliance on muskets and swords was one of the series’ more unique features. Also unfortunately, this portion highlights that Revolution might be one of those shows that just bides time until the week’s big action sequence. While “The Stand” featured what I presume is its biggest budgeted one yet, an emotional component felt notably lacking…but I’ll get to that later.
Picking up exactly from where we left off last time with “Nobody’s Fault But Mine,” the helicopter begins firing at Team Matheson, but they escape. The helicopter is flown by some random pilot in Monroe’s camp and not Neville using this distraction to take control of the Republic, as I originally thought. Not even considering the increasingly unhinged quality of Monroe, I’m surprised at the loyalty he inspires in his followers. The helicopter pilot essentially becomes the only person with superpowers in a mortal world, and he continues following orders? (I’ll also just assume he and the other pilots later in the episode were trained in the use of this advanced machinery before the lights went out. And their skills never atrophied.)
After Team Matheson escapes, Monroe sends his new fighter to obliterate one resistance base. Luckily, it’s not the one our heroes are headed for. Neville and his son Nate – who are doing reconnaissance alone apparently- discover another base 12 hours away from home, which is where eponymous Stand occurs. However, Nate (I know that’s not his real name, but I’m just going to keep using that) is disgusted with what the new equipment does. As he puts it, “Those choppers. We’re not fighting. We’re butchering!” It is a line delivered as terribly as it is written. In response, Neville exiles his son.
As the majority of the gang remains in the resistance camp, Rachel and Miles visit one of her contacts (John Sanborn) due to his impressive weaponry, including sonic guns and missile launchers. This brings up another issue with the show- the timeline. How long was Rachel with Monroe? How long was she involved with the Cyber-Resistance? Why wouldn’t she assume that her contact, who lives in a really nice house when everyone else seems to live in what amount to shacks, had moved considering how many people have been after them? Why wouldn’t he have moved? Revolution fails to realize just how long 15 years actually is. It also fails to realize just how amazing and literally deafening those helicopters would be to people who have not seen lights in over a decade.
Sanborn betrays them, so Miles knocks him out, steals some equipment, and they head towards the fight. There, Miles is knocked unconscious, so Danny takes up the cause and brings down one of the helicopters (luckily the one with the amulet) with the missile launcher himself. Then the second helicopter barrages him with bullets before it goes down itself. That’s right. Danny, the catalyst for the first half of the season, is killed already. Dead. It’s hard to say that it’s sad to see him go because he was such a snivelly non-entity in the first place. Not to mention dedicating the flashbacks (yeah, they’re back too) to showing how sick a child Danny was did not endear us to him any more.
With Danny gone, my biggest concern is now with Rachel. I’m convinced she’s legitimately going through some form of post-traumatic stress disorder, even if the show won’t mention it. There’s a level of warped thinking to her portrayal that I can’t tell if it’s intentional or just sloppy writing. She seems unable to comprehend that things are as bad as they are and confused that people wouldn’t trust her immediately or act suspiciously around her- even though she has betrayed her allies before. Was her line to Charlie following Danny’s death (“What was I thinking? I never should have let you come here. Let you fight.”) the remorse of grief-stricken mother or someone who has actually forgotten that her children thought she was dead for years up until about a day ago? I don’t want to give the show too much credit for Rachel because it often shies away from subtly and human emotion, but I’ll be watching her. After all, she’s the only one who knows how to get to DoD Randall Flynn’s Tower, which is apparently one of the main plots driving Revolution Season 1, Part 2. I’ll try to come up with a cleverer name for it next week.
• Monroe wants to make the entire country the Monroe Republic. His enthusiasm for it is almost endearing.
• Monroe’s outfit is looking increasingly more like Conan O’Brien’s “In The Year 2000” one.
• Neville tells Monroe that his son is dead. That trick never works. Haven’t Merle and Michonne taught us anything?
• Nate warns Charlie about the upcoming attack. When Charlie goes back to camp, she says, “I don’t see why he’d lie.” Because he’s lied to you before. A lot.
• Sanborn and DoD Randall Flynn decide to join Monroe’s side, which leads to the best line of the episode. Monroe’s guard *on why his boss should meet with the visitor*: “Because he drove here. In a Cutlass Cierra.”
• When people ask Rachel about what’s been going on the past few years, she claims, “I will explain everything. It’s complicated.” Ah. The annoyingly obvious vagueness of a writer who hasn’t figured out what to do yet and wants to create a mystery in the most simplistic way possible.
• Everyone still looks too damned clean.