Last week I said, “the fight sequence was fine, but not the type of thing you can build a show around.” Apparently I was wrong, since this episode had three of them- one to start out the episode, one after the first break, and one right before the final break. Regardless of this probably being a harbinger for overuse of these moments, the second episode of Revolution (along with the preview of the third episode) gave me more hope for the future of the series than the pilot did. This isn’t to say that this episode wasn’t without its problems- it had more than its share- but most shows need time to work out their kinks. The positives came from what “Chained Heat” represents for the series as a whole.
In the second episode, we come to understand two important things. 1) The show is legitimately serialized, and 2) the show is interested in universe building. Although “Chained Heat” includes a plot of the week involving Miles, Miles’ friend Nora, and Charlie stealing a sniper rifle from a slave driver, some of the side plots remained open ended, and not simply for sake of mystery/suspense. Aaron and Maggie are now on their own and headed towards Grace’s house, as per Ben’s dying wish. We get some of Maggie’s backstory (she has a perfectly preserved iPhone because it contains the only pictures of her kids), but their bits after Miles and Charlie leave serve mostly as a bridge segment as they continue their quest from home. I like that the show feels comfortable having something like this– non-action, character-centric storylines that don’t need to end just because the 42 minutes are up. It’s not the most incredible feat, but it’s one I appreciate having this early in Revolution’s run.
As for number 2, this is shown in several instances. As Neville continues representing the needs of the Monroe Republic by searching people’s houses and killing those who betray the quasi-nation, one of his soldiers is shot by a landowner. After killing the shooter and burning his house and all his possessions, Neville gives the injured troop poison so that he may die painlessly and sends him off with comforting parting words. Afterward, Neville oversees a proper burial. This sequence, completely disconnected from the bulk of this week’s action, did a good job of making the militia more than inhuman monsters and letting us see their day-to-day lives. From the little we saw of it, Pontiac seemed like its own, well-defined community. We learn that there is a resistance group gathering arms to possibly overthrow the Monroe Republic, and that Nora is affiliated with them. Gold is used as currency. Also, Monroe has slaves throughout the territories. He uses the group we see to drag an armed helicopter to him on planks.
With those two elements apparent, it becomes easier to look past some of the show’s multitude of issues- the first and foremost being Charlie. Charlie is the type of character I generally dislike- the Last Shrieking Vestige of Morality. (I’m sure there’s a TV Trope for it; please let me know its name.) This isn’t to say that a TV show, movie, or book can’t have a moral core, but that character becomes a spoilsport and a nudge when they constantly cry “…but humanity!” every time somebody dares not to act with early 21st century morals in a post-apocalyptic landscape. (See also: Dale from The Walking Dead. And Charlie might be a worse example because she was only a child when the lights went out 15 years ago. Did their commune not teach survival and paranoia?)
Tonight, she criticizes Miles when he’s about to kill an unconscious bounty hunter (C. Thomas Howell, Soul Man) whose survival leads to them being briefly captured. When Miles goes to Pontiac to get information from an associate of his, she complains that he’s not going after Danny (who tonight, with his blonde hair style and white shirt, looked a bit like Luke Skywalker) instead because he’s her brother, he’s family, family comes first, and running around randomly is, I guess, a better plan than doing an investigation that could get them solid leads. When she kills two people- one to free a group of Monroe’s slaves, one in self defense- she has to lecture Miles about how it isn’t natural. These are all elements that can and should be explored in a post-apocalyptic show like this, but the discussion loses its power when it’s brought up by a character who beats the moral certainties of RIGHT and WRONG into our heads while refusing to accept or understand the changed circumstances they face.
Without her constantly Dale-ing Miles, this episode (and probably series) could have been stronger. Clearly inspired by Han Solo, Miles possibly has what it takes to be the anti-hero lead of this series, and setting him against the more value-d villain of Neville could produce an interesting dynamic. Burke brings a spirit to the role, and I think the show would be better served by him growing naturally and not being bogged down by lectures every week.
Aside from the problems with Charlie, I also have to wonder about pacing. I complimented this show on its serialized nature, but I have to wonder if it’s moving too quickly. Last week, I asked about the show getting to Miles so quickly. The reveal of Monroe in the last episode also felt like something that should have waited. Tonight, we learn that Rebecca- Charlie and Danny’s mother- is alive, “working” for Monroe, and possibly being raped by him. This is another revelation that feels like it should come much later than the second episode. Additionally, by the end of the episode Grace is attacked by an unnamed/unseen assailant who breaks into her house.
Of course, it’s hard to judge whether a show is moving too quickly or too slowly without knowing where it’s headed. The big picture of Revolution might be something vastly different from what one would expect based on the pilot, and it could be a very smart idea getting all the obligatory pieces into place as quickly as possible. Or it can lead to staleness very quickly. Revolution is still far from a good show, but I’d like to believe it could get to that area. Or it could collapse horribly.
• We do get flashbacks throughout the episode of the Mathesons (sans Miles) leaving their home after the blackout. Rebecca ends up killing a man who takes their food because Ben couldn’t pulled the trigger. The scenes harken back to the Charlie Theron/Viggo Mortensen/Kodi Smit-McPhee flashbacks in the superior end of the world tale The Road, but without anywhere near the emotion. Still, the flashbacks were not nearly as overbearing as they could have been. Hopefully, they’re used sparingly.
• As much as I dislike Charlie, I most want Not-Actually-Named-Nate eliminated. He might have saved Charlie’s life last episode, but he’s such an annoying character- the young, buff guy who exists so that Charlie can have a love interest and so that the show can have some eye candy. We know he’s going to betray the militia for the Mathesons. And we know we’re going to have the scene where Charley tries to convince Miles to let him tag along. And odds are he’s going to put himself in harm’s way to protect Miles thus ingratiating himself with the group or sacrifice himself thus leading to a temporary schism between Charley and Miles. But his smugness makes him too untrustworthy and bothersome to watch.
• The woman Grace was talking to on the computer was named Randall. I wonder if it’s an homage to The Stand‘s Randall Flagg.
• Everyone still looks way too clean.
• Next week we get Mark Pellegrino who played Lucifer on Kring’s previous show Supernatural and most famously Jacob on Lost.