As I watched the fall season of NBC’s boldly hyped new drama “Revolution” I kept thinking that this isn’t really a show about how the world lost electricity. What is it then?
Is it a show about life without electricity? Not really. The story takes place 15 years after the power went off, so everyone is beyond learning how to live in a post-electric world. We aren’t seeing them struggle with the give and take between the modern lifestyle they were used to and the pre-industrial world they were forced to live in.
Is it a show about reuniting family? Maybe. In order to get the power back on (in a way that prolongs his power), militia leader Sebastian Monroe kidnaps the son of a prisoner whom he suspects knows why it went off in the first place, hoping the threat to his safety will force her tell him how to turn it back on. This prompts the boy’s teenage sister, Charlie, to chase after him with her step mom and a friend from their cul-de-sac village. She reunites with mysterious Uncle Miles in Chicago and they trek east to the heart of Monroe territory on what seems like a suicide mission. So it’s sort of a show about reuniting family.
But that would only work if I actually cared about them reuniting, which I do not.
As Lost showed us so well, stress reveals characters. It can also change them. We don’t know how the blackout changed these characters because we only met them after it did. By starting the show 15 years later, the writers forced themselves to put that journey on the back burner. The show suffers because of it.
Except when it doesn’t. The only story with any emotional resonance during the fall season was the death of Maggie Foster, Charlie’s stepmom. Here the writers took the time to show us what she went thru after the blackout. Knowing what she lost, what she gained and what she had to give up on, bought her untimely death just as Lost bought Boone’s death in season one. A one-episode look at Aaron Pittman revealed that he is more than just a tech wizard wandering aimlessly in a no-tech world. Before we knew his story, he was the fat nerd with a beard. Now we feel sorry for him but also happy that he has found self-worth in this group.
The show doesn’t do as well with its main characters, and that’s where it really falls flat. The flashback stories that are supposed to draw us to them aren’t compelling. Charlie, for example, is driven to rescue her brother after her father dies. The writers then take us back to show her mom abandoning their family, creating a redundancy that fails to show us anything about Charlie we couldn’t have learned from the death of her father. They lost valuable story telling time showing it to us twice. Sloppy.
Swordsman extraordinaire Miles Matheson doesn’t deliver either. He is a whiny military burnout who constantly threatens to leave, and most of the time you find yourself wishing he would. His only purpose seems to be to kill bad guys when Charlie gets in trouble.
With its two main characters being so uninteresting, Revolution failed to get the payoff it was hoping for as the fall plot came to a head. Charlie’s reunion with the mother she thought was dead carried no emotional punch whatsoever. We only knew her father long enough to see him get killed; we’re supposed to feel something when she finds out one of her parents is still alive? After she spent the entirety of the season forgetting about that and chasing after her brother? Please. This would be akin to seeing Walt get taken from Michael without knowing what they each went thru before the crashed on the island. Makes Charlie’s reunion look pretty empty, doesn’t it?
Miles’ confrontation with Monroe had an exciting start, but it again fizzled because Miles just isn’t that likeable. The show missed an opportunity to bond you to his character when it revealed that the Monroe Militia logo contains to Ms to represent Miles and Monroe. Had the writers delved more into Miles than just showing him as a cranky former bad ass, that kind of revelation would matter. Instead, it is an afterthought.
I won’t be watching Revolution’s spring season. Considering that it features the unfathomably gorgeous Elizabeth Mitchell and guest spots from Mark Pellegrino, that should be an indication of how much I feel this show flopped. There are three timelines it can play with – pre-blackout, immediately post-blackout and the present day. All three can help it showcase its characters. If it sounds like the writers figured out how to do this, I might catch up with it. But I’m doubtful.