Snap reaction: Revenge finale

SPOILER ALERT!

Live reactions to the Revenge season two finale.

Nolan just happens to have a satellite.

Jack and Victoria together for the blackout.

Dumb Jack doesn’t know Victoria knows everything about David Clarke. She even smiles a little when she plays along.

Clearing the Grayson’s accounts did trigger the blackout which was awesome. It also framed Aden for it all.

Dumb Jack didn’t even see his own file.

Then he accidentally reveals he’s working with Ashley.

Conrad seems to know what The Initiative was doing.

Does he not understand the visual of sending a helicopter to retrieve his wife?

Conrad seems smarter, back again.

Emily is a profiler now? About Takada’s body being moved and why.

They are really clueless about Aden.

Jack finds out Amanda was in Japan, is this the beginning of the revelations?

Takada’s fiancé was on the plane that her dad was framed for, she was in the jump seat.  So he did all this to get revenge for her? Okay that’s pretty interesting mythology.

Is this tech guy the man from Takada’s photo? Ha boom I typed that like two seconds before.

I wish Declan would have told off Victoria. If he shows he can hold his own his purpose in the show would be more clear.

Gee Conrad could you look anymore like you used Ashley’s phone?

Is Aden going to do in Nolan?

There is more to life than revenge.

Of course Jack is walking into a trap. He’s dumb.

He’s there to shoot Conrad? That’s Takada’s revenge?!?

Nope, apparently not. Weird. Is someone framing Emily?

This is fast and dramatic, everything the season hasn’t been.

Really Jack? You’re pissed at Nolan?

Jack is going to have to learn about Emily. How can the story hold up without him knowing?

Wait who is in the Grayson office?

The deuce was Declan doing up there?

Conrad is confused.

Oh hells no, if Declan dies I am throwing shit.

“Jack? Why are you a nurse?” Hilars.

Really? Bedside conversation and the reveal is Declan telling Jack that Carl is going to have a cousin?

HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE DECLAN?

Now dumb Jack is in the wind.

Wait what? What Conrad just said there didn’t seem to lineup.

Victoria is back as well. Everyone is tougher tonight.

Daniel thinks Conrad is in with The Initiative? I’m confused.

Oh. He is.

That’s why he was confident when Daniel told him about the money.

Conrad is one evil f*****.

It’s so bad that Victoria can’t stomach it.

Jack just gets into the governor-elect’s house?

Okay I kind of like Jack right now. Awkward.

They framed Nolan? How’s that work? If it was Falcon I will be pissed. A character we only saw in one episode does to get to frame Nolan.

Nolan is the new David Clarke.

Hey Daniel this fight will not work out for you.

Nolan you sound cray cray.

Is this what Aden and Emily were talking about in Aden’s house several episodes ago, that they regretted had to be this way?

Okay good.

Can you hear me?

Person of Interest makes it difficult for fans to draw conclusions from its season finales. Its two so far have done more to upend its story than resolve it. Season two’s “God Mode” gave viewers a nice mix of excitement before a good cliffhanger left us with questions about what comes next in the story, not who may or may not be dead. Open some new directions, close up some old ones, that’s what I like to see from a season finale.

God Mode began with a vicious video game style shooting rampage directed by The Machine to enable Reese, Shaw, Finch and Root to escape the library where Reese and Root answered The Machine’s phone call. This and its subsequent actions directing them all to safety reveal the show’s most exciting new direction: The Machine’s emergence as a full character.

For most of the first two seasons Harold’s baby has been fairly static. In this episode it became true artificial intelligence, which is exactly how Shaw described it after Reese revealed it to her. Instead of just spitting out numbers The Machine is now a service for whomever it allows to access it. To illustrate this, the writers sent Reese and Shaw after some non-relevants as a way to show what the sentient machine can do. Need a car? Just ask. Need glasses? Just ask. The combination to Harold’s safe? Anything The Machine can know it can give you. Characters don’t just react to it, they interact with it. The Machine is not just numbers anymore.

The ensuing race to find The Machine supported an episode that threw a tremendous amount of storyline at its viewers and reshuffled its setting for next season.

Root leads Harold to a nuclear waste facility in Washington State where they believe The Machine is located. Finch warns her to keep her expectations under control and when the door opens we find out why: The Machine is missing. Yeah, missing. The largest, most powerful computer system ever developed ain’t where it’s supposed to be.

Or is it? Harold explains that he designed the virus Decima unleashed, which in itself was not a surprise to viewers. He goes on to explain how he programmed The Machine so the only way it would alter its code would be in response to an attack. By building the attack himself, he was able to implant instructions within the virus that directed The Machine to relocate, in essence teaching The Machine how to hide from its enemies. Putting the virus into the world with reliance on the fact that someone would someday unleash it shows how building The Machine dampened Harold’s faith in human goodness.

We learned where The Machine used to be, and chasing after it could easily be one of the storylines that bleeds over into the start of next season. But I hope the writers are approaching The Machine’s existence the same way Lost’s writers approached explaining their story. Darlton used the example of midi-chlorians in Star Wars ruining the mysterious nature of the force as proof of why they never wanted to fully explain the show. Star Wars sucks so I don’t know a lot about midi-chlorineians or whatever, but I feel the same way about The Machine. Don’t ruin it by trying to tell us every last detail.

After Special Counsel learns The Machine got away, a phone call from a woman we only know as Ma’am instructs Hersch to eliminate him. Knowing what was going to happen and resigned to the fate he long ago consented to, Counsel stared down the barrel of Hersch’s gun and said simply, “Fair enough.” Near the very end of the episode, Hersch (outlined with a yellow square) tells her The Machine has sent a new number, she instructs him to put a team together.

With Counsel gone we need a new figuree for the government’s use (or abuse) of Harold’s invention, expect Ma’am to fill that role. Now that Hersch knows Finch was the brains behind Ingram, Harold isn’t safe. I would look for next season to feature the paths that will eventually bring Harold face-to-face with Ma’am.

One of the things we are left wondering is what kind of number The Machine gave out? After the reboot and implementation of Harold’s new code, he explains that no one controls The Machine anymore. It and only it will decide if it keeps giving numbers and whether they will be relevant or non-relevant. Its decision – there it is being its own character again – will shape the show going forward.

To give us one last teaser going into the summer, a psychologically-broken Root wanders down the hallway of a mental hospital when a phone rings. She picks up the yellow receiver. “Can you hear me?”  This wasn’t like the call pre-programmed to ring in the library regardless of who would answer. The Machine located her in that hospital and called her specifically. Why? We do not know…yet.

The only small surprise in the finale was the way the wrinkly man and Decima Technologies disappeared. Instead of a real player in the future of the series and a rival to Finch it turned out to only be a storytelling tool for unleashing the virus. That would be too bad but there are plenty of other storylines, so it won’t be missed.

 

For Person of Interest to wrap all this material together without letting it collapse on itself is proof that it is one of the best shows on television. There’s every reason to expect it will continue to be in season three.

Once upon a flop

My original thoughts on Once Upon a Time with additions now that the season is over.

Emma Swan does not belong in Storybrooke.

Her look is all wrong. She wears red, deep and rich leather. Her hair falls carelessly across her shoulders. She wears a tank top. No one in Storybrooke even has a tank top. Storybrooke, Maine, has the visual style of a seaside small town. Its people are pleasant and content. Its colors are subdued in blue, green and gray. That is not Emma Swan. In the city, where she is supposed to be, she would not look the least bit out of place. But this is Storybrooke. Nothing is at it should be.

Addition:

Once Upon a Time really fell apart for me as the season wore on, in part because little things like this were discarded. Or maybe it wasn’t even there to begin with. /addition

ABC took this risk before, once upon a time. In 2004 it put a show on the air unlike any viewers had seen in some years, maybe ever. Perhaps because of their proven storytelling as writers on that show, the network gave Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz the green light for a project they conceived together before joining Lost midway through its first season. For Once Upon a Time to prove itself a success, they will have to have some creative magic left in their tank.

Addition:

I don’t think they do. The ratings say otherwise and it got picked up for a second season, but it lost my interest for being too juvenile. /addition

We meet Emma doing her job as a bailbondsman, er, person. She finds people. On her 28th birthday, she is found by the son she gave up for adoption 10 years prior. Henry is one of those children Hollywood always seems to find who is sufficiently smart. He convinces Emma to bring him back to Storybrooke, where he is the adopted child of a single mother, the mayor. With dark hair and grayscale fashion, Regina Mills is the epitome of an ice queen. She’s been the mayor of Storybrooke for as long as anyone can remember, and that’s exactly how she wants it to stay.

Henry wishes otherwise. We don’t yet know exactly why or how, but Henry believes his birth mother is the child of Snow White and Prince Charming, escaped from the fairy tale at birth right before the Evil Queen’s dark curse brought ruin. He brings her to Storybrooke on her 28th birthday, the time it was foreseen when she would return to break the evil curse. Emma sees enough to want to stick around, much to the delight of Henry and the despair of Regina.

Addition:

We never seemed to really get the why or how, one of this show’s many failings. /addition

Lost’s finger prints are all over Once Upon a Time. Like Lost, Time’s story bounces between to worlds — one the placid Storybrooke and the other a fairy tale. Although, Storybrooke is more like the flash sideways in that its inhabitants don’t know that their lives are not at all what they seem. Just like the escapees from the island, they are waiting to see, even if they don’t know it yet. The black smoke the Evil Queen conjures for her curse needs no explanation. And in probably the most blatant homage yet, Emma wakes up in jail after a car wreck in a way we saw someone on the island awaken and, ultimately, go back to sleep.

Kistis and Horowitz pledge Once will be a show steeped in character rather than mythology, and that’s good. Being based on one of culture’s most famous fairy tales gives the show all the mythology it needs. If it is going to keep viewers it will need the hooks that compelling characters provide.

Addition:

It doesn’t have those hooks. The characters are boring and shallow. It is as if they went too far away from complexity in trying to not trip in Lost’s pitfalls. In doing so they created a show better fit for Saturday mornings than Sunday nights./addition

Once Upon a Time is a daunting challenge. A fairy tale told to a prime time television audience? In 2011? Amidst the sprawling family of crime tech from CBS and more mature offerings of FX and premium cable channels? Once has to convince viewers to suspend their perception of what is and can be real so the show can have unfettered access to their imaginations, where it must and can only survive.

I will grant it because I like fantasy stories with unbelievable fictions, and my imagination is free to anyone who knows where to find it. Once Upon a Time has shown through two episodes to feature charming acting, intriguing curiosities and something else. Something not found in the gritty alleyways of dark and mysterious dramas. Something…Storybrooke.

Addition:

People are obviously buying it. I’m not. Once Upon a Time was too rambling in its week-to-week stories to keep my interest. The main characters are Emma, the kid, the queen, Mr. Gold, Snow White and Prince Charming. Way too many episodes about people other than them. In the aftermath of Revenge’s season finale, I can’t help but think how different and how much better the show would be if Madeline Stowe played the queen. 

Boring, meandering, shallow. It will be nice to have an hour to get things done on Sunday nights next fall before Revenge. 

Catching up with Person of Interest

CBS landed as many Lost graduates as any network in the post-island era. Daniel Dae Kim and Terry O’Quinn stayed in Hawaii for the seemingly dull remake of Hawaii 5-0, and now Michael Emerson is limping (literally – the character has a limp) his way thru Person of Interest (Thursday, 8pm) with Jim Caviezel. Emerson’s character is a billionaire technology wizard who developed a vast electronic surveillance network designed to catch terrorists. Now living off the grid, Emerson exploits a back door to the system that alerts him to people who are in the path of a possible crime. The kicker here is that the machine isn’t too smart for the show’s own good, it can’t tell whether a name it identifies is going to be a perpetrator or a victim.

Enter Caviezel, the reclusive former Jason Bourne-type military fighter who Emerson hires to be his brawn and creeper. He is, of course, a phenomenal combat fighter and a marksman. His job is to follow the names the machine spits out and determine their role in the crime the machine sees them committing or being the victim of. And the machine is never wrong.

Person of Interest is a variation of the crime-tech shows that CBS has perfected with CSI and NCIS. Lost snobs like me scoffed at those shows over the years for being too simplistic and lacking compelling serial stories, and thus far P of I doesn’t appear too concerned with satisfying us. But that’s not a bad thing here. It uses an inquisitive New York Police Department detective trying to piece together clues about this mysterious man who appears at seemingly random crime scenes to build a story that you can see lasting for the duration of the first season. The man is, of course, Caviezel.

Addition:

Got this one kind of wrong. I think Person of Interest is very much trying to not be a week-to-week who-dunnit cop show. I think it is succeeding at being deeper. /addition

Early episodes have also left enough open storyline possibilities that you can count on future episodes being more important to the larger story than the person of the week plot. At some point the machine will get a name wrong and either Caviezel or Emerson will have their sheltered world punctured by the inquisitive detective or the uber-character that is smarter than the usual villains.

Addition:

Bingo! /addition

If strong stories aren’t enough to keep Person of Interest on the air, Caviezel’s magnetic portrayal of his character will. He portrays his reserved but quietly tortured character with ease, giving him a mix of confidence and mystery that can’t be ignored. He’s simply someone you want to see on the screen as much as possible. Emerson’s character isn’t as strong – yet, which could be the show’s effort to lure fans with the more well-known Caviezel. Lost fans watching for Emerson will give the show enough time just to see him, so they can afford to neglect his character at the outset.

Addition:

They got more into Emerson’s character as the season went on. Ending the season with his apparent kidnapping shows they are ready to have him be the show’s most powerful storytelling character. /addition

With a curious premise, strong stories and impeccable acting, Person of Interest has a chance to curate the kind of loyal following that will keep it on the air for years to come.

Addition:

Person of Interest is the best new show of the season that I watched. It is more mature than Revenge but gives something back for straight drama. Now that both main characters are established I wouldn’t be surprised to see next season move toward more explanations of the machine and how it came about. The season finale and mystery women who made herself visible to the machine in order to find and kidnap Finch would seem to indicate that. I wasn’t wild about how they handled that character in the finale, but I’ll get over it. I hope she doesn’t displace the two cops – both of which are now in on the game – because I view them as very much part of the show’s core. 

Prediction: Finch will stay off screen for a notable number of episodes to start season two. We know they aren’t going to kill him off, but I think they will leave us wondering for a good long while so Mr. Reese can take a more aggressive lead. 

Carrie Preston had a spot role in season one, amusing of course because she and Michael Emerson are married. She had one scene in Lost playing Ben’s mom before she died shortly after giving birth. Here, she played Finch’s ex-fiance who thinks he is dead.

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.