Catching up with Revenge, Season 1

Catching up with what I said and thought about Revenge versus what actually happened. The first piece came about halfway thru the season.

I don’t know how many episodes Revenge has left in its first season, and I’m not going to make an effort to find out. I said in my initial thoughts that we are not watching a story unfold, but are being shown a story that already happened. It’s bourne out by the fact that we saw the end of the summer in the very first scene, and it is the only way to have everything go smoothly for Emily Thorne without venturing into the ridiculous. Everything in her plan goes off just as she intended, obviously, or else we wouldn’t have a story.

Post-finale addition:

I think this came out well. The series began with that engagement party looking backwards like it was really reviewing what happened up to that point. Everything worked out in spades for Emily’s plans. But after the party, when the story was going forward instead of looking backward, things started to go awry. Emily’s seeming iron grip on circumstances slowly came undone, from Fake Amanda’s unpredictability to Daniel choosing his family over her hopes for him. This played out during the finale when Emily sent Daniel packing, saw Victoria die and took the ultimate kick in the gut when Fake Amanda showed up pregnant. Oh, and she learned her mom is still alive, which probably she didn’t plan for. /addition

But does it? I’ve watched and re-watched the scene from Emily and Daniel’s engagement party, and it is still too hard to tell what we are seeing. Obviously on some level it is a ‘whodunit’ as we are left to wonder who shot Daniel on the beach. I think we are getting hints there as we get closer to the end of the summer. Looking at screenshots of Taylor wielding Emily’s gun next to a close-up of the gun from the pilot, it is clear even to a non-gun user that they are the same make and model weapon.

Addition:
This was irrelevant. The show was a whodunit for about one episode. That’s a good thing, it was better off the way they did it. /addition

We also learned that Charlotte is Emily’s half-sister from her dad’s affair with Victoria Grayson. This came in the same episode in which Daniel tries to get at his trust to hell his mother in her divorce from his father. I don’t think this is a coincidence. If Daniel dies, his inheritance would probably fall to Charlotte. That gives Emily an angle at the Grayson’s fortunes. It also gives anyone close to Emily hundreds of millions of reasons to move her closer to them. Emily clearly wants to exact ultimate revenge on the Graysons, particularly Victoria. I don’t think that includes killing her prized son, but getting her hands on both shares of the family fortunes definitely could be part of her plans.

Addition:

Never came to be. Way off-base with regards to Emily’s intentions and the storyline.

Initial review:

I had very, very low expectations for ABC’s racy Wednesday night drama “Revenge.” That’s probably why I like it so much. I didn’t even intend to watch it, but after I downloaded ABC’s iPad app I figured I would only be out 42 minutes if I watched the pilot and confirmed that it sucked.

I ended up watching the entire first season to date in one day.

Revenge is set in The Hamptons, one of the few places in America where it could be set. The story relies on its characters having bottom-less bank accounts, which most residents of The Hamptons do, and the seaside summer setting doesn’t hold back anyone from being sexy and vivacious. Revenge would be flat and missing its flare if it were set on Wisteria Lane or even in Beverly Hills.

That flare comes from the leading character, Emily Thorne, played by Emily VanCamp. Just like I can’t imagine the show set anywhere other than The Hamptons, I cannot see anyone but VanCamp playing Thorne. She plays a character who is driven, cunning, wealthy, sexy and a tad bit evil, and she mixes all of them perfectly. That’s no easy task. Neither is her character’s agenda: exacting revenge on the people who set up her father to take the fall for financing a terrorist attack. No easy task, but doable if you have unlimited funds courtesy of your massive inheritance.

Thorne finds her equal next door in Victoria Grayson. Or does she? For years, Grayson has played herself off as the queen of The Hamptons, throwing the ritziest parties, living the magazine life with her hunky husband, the head of an international finance conglomerate, and two beautiful children. But underneath the facade she is nothing. Victoria’s best friend is also her husband’s mistress, her daughter hates her, her son’s drinking nearly killed a girl, oh, and she was having an affair with Emily’s father. All the Grayson’s dirty work, and there’s been a lot of it, is done by their hired henchman, Frank Stevens. Over time, Victoria seems to have convinced herself that she is the brains behind the family’s illicit operations. In reality, she isn’t smart enough or resourceful enough to complete with Emily Thorne.

Addition:

We saw toward the end of the season that Victoria was definitely not nothing. She is very much capable of cunning and manipulation. In hindsight, my saying she was just an empty dress was totally wrong. The video of her, Conrad and the Silver-Haired Man showed that she was every bit a part of the David Clarke conspiracy as Conrad. The question that remains to be answered now is (look, there’s no way she’s dead) did she work with SHM to take down the plane so that there would be no testimony and no evidence against the Graysons, thus preserving her children’s fortunes? Or was SHM working for Conrad and Victoria just plan outfoxed him? /addition

At first it’s easy to take issue with the plot for always working out in Emily’s favor, but then you realize this game of revenge between her and Victoria Grayson has already been played. We are just watching what happened, so it’s not that it does workout in Emily’s favor, but that it did. They’ve already shown us that, by the end of the summer, Emily and Daniel are engaged — the show opens at their engagement party. Daniel is murdered on the beach while Emily is inside, mysteriously wiping bits of sand off her wrist. The open ends with Victoria wailing over her son’s lifeless body and leaves us wondering if killing Victoria’s beloved son is the climax of Emily’s revenge, or if it’s her plan gone horribly awry. Everything shown after than is the lead up to this event, which you have to imagine will be resolved in the season finale.

Addition:

Way wrong on this one in regard to the story arc. The shooting was not the climactic event of the season, just the thematic turning point. Huge difference with huge ramifications. /addition

Week to week we see Emily nipping around the edges, picking off one ancillary character after another who somehow wronged her or her father, while slowly tightening the circle around Victoria as her ultimate target. This gives the show an ability to have short-term resolutions while Emily plays out her long con. Without them it would be easy for the show to become a drawn out mess. There are secondary characters who are actually enjoyable like Declan Porter, the boyfriend of Victoria’s daughter. Connor Paulo plays Declan as a teenage gangsta wannabe who you can’t help but like and root for as he plays in societal circles far above his roots. Declan’s brother, Jack, was Emily’s childhood best friend and, though he hasn’t yet recognized who she really is, he has quite the crush on her. You have to think at some point his memory will kick in. It might happen soon. He is the one who killed Daniel Gayson in the opening scene. Did he do it out of jealousy? As a favor for his friend? Or was Emily’s plan about go spiral out of control and he stepped in to put it right?

Addition:

Emily’s ultimate target is now bigger than Victoria. It is the Grayson family, Daniel included. I was also off about assessing Declan. He’s not a gansta wannabe. I like him quite a bit as a character, much more than Jack, and I hope they can find a better role for him than Charlotte’s sidekick. I would be interested to learn how many episodes of Revenge were in its initial order from ABC to see how well that lines up with when they moved away from Emily’s target-of-the-week storylines. /addition

We don’t know, and that’s what makes Revenge intriguing, and worth watching.

Now my reflective thoughts on the finale.

Revenge season finale

As it wore on I started to think ABC’s marketing machine had over-hyped the Revenge season one finale. It really lacked punch and didn’t even have the kind of story-altering action that finales need. The sterling final 10 minutes made up for it as characters rose (Victoria, Daniel) and fell (Conrad, Emily) and the writers set the state for season two.

Wait…Victoria is a rising character? Is that some kind of allusion to how she died in an airplane crash? No. Victoria Grayson is not dead. If she is, the writers are either profoundly stupid or very, very confident in what they are doing. Victoria is far and away the best character of any show I’ve watched this year and Madeline Stowe deserves all the awards she is qualified for. Her character is rising because we saw – in the final scene with Nolan and Emily – that Victoria was far more involved in the David Clarke conspiracy than they had revealed to that point. She wasn’t the love-struck victim of her husband’s jealousy and greed, she was an orchestrator in on it from the beginning. The video of her, Conrad and Silver-Haired Man established that.

That means he may not have been at the hangar on Conrad’s behalf to eliminate the evidence against him. He could very well have been there in tandem with Victoria, taking down the plane to eliminate Lydia and the evidence against the Graysons while faking Victoria’s death so she can be free to continue pulling strings. This is what I would bet on. In the confrontation scene at their house, Conrad was way too out of sorts to be putting on a ruse to scare her out of going to Washington. That is why he is a falling character. Likewise, Victoria was far too composed and confident to have not known something was going to happen. The only questions now are how soon will we learn Victoria’s fate and how long will it be hidden from the characters.

Revenge matured as a show during its first season. It started as a sexy primetime soap and ended a well-crafted television drama worthy of the Sunday timeslot it will inherit from Desperate Housewives. Again the turning point really seemed to be when the story caught up to the engagement party and moved into the winter. Viewers had every right to be skeptical about whether the show could survive snow and cold. It not only survived, it improved.

The scene that exemplified this most for me was Daniel’s television interview after returning from prison. His character emerged as more than a hunk who walks around looking dreamy. By virtue of voicing loyalty to his family, he adopted the Grayson mantle and all that comes with it. The camera pacing across each character’s face during this pivotal moment was real television met by great acting by each cast member to convey their reaction to Daniel’s commitment. The finale’s climax further delivered the dramatic punch it needed to in order to put the show into its restless summer break.

The big reveal – the snake in the mailbox, if you will – is obviously that Mom Clarke is still alive and possibly an integral part of The Americon Initiative (oh please with the name) to the point that Emily might not like what she finds. I am excited to see who they cast to play that role, it will be a key piece of entertainment news to watch for over the summer.

I labeled Emily as a falling character. Why? She fell apart emotionally in the finale. From the moment she spared SHM nothing went right for her. She let an enemy live, her intended confession to Jack blew up in her face and Victoria’s death spun her dizzy. She was so in control and confident all season. Sitting on the couch in her cottage watching news of the plane crash she was totally and completely undone. It is a good change.

Conrad is facing his worst nightmare: justice. He has only Daniel on his side now. Victoria is long gone, Lydia slipped away and is likely dead, his daughter is unconscious having overdosed after hearing about her mom’s death.

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