Revenge “Confession” recap: Conrad rises, Emily sinks

Through confession and forgiveness, redemption.

“Some believe confession helps a guilty soul find peace, releasing us from the shame and regret of our mistakes. In the face of mortality, many feel the need to seek this closure to make things right. Because if death doesn’t kill us, our demons will.”

That is the Emily Thorne voiceover to begin last Sunday’s episode, Confession. Here is the one that closed it:

“A guilty heart is silent, it’s pulse muffled by the secrets it keeps. While some believe confession can release a tortured soul, others view it as a sign of weakness. Because ultimately whatever you say, however you feel about what you’ve done, it’s irrelevant for the hand of death is equally unforgiving.”

In between Revenge stuck to the religious theme it established last week as Emily manipulated Conrad toward a confession. I love this and think it’s great for the show. Creator Mike Kelley described the show as a modern day telling of The Count of Monte Cristo and chose to open it with a quote from Confucius. But those themes were rarely referred to and I would say forgotten by the end of his time as producer. Adding a religious base reminds me of the way Lost’s writers made heavy references to religion, literature and philosophy. All three provide universal themes from which you can tell any story and give it much more depth.

Revenge could have spent several episodes developing a plot line that led to Conrad’s decision. Instead it mixed themes of confession and forgiveness to do it in two. In scenes with Emily and Father Paul, Conrad is very much a man representing the Bible verse I cited in last week’s piece. He believes confession will wash away his sins and tells Father Paul, “I welcome death now.” Conrad’s decision is sealed by believing a confession will give Charlotte back the father he took from her in sin. Through confession and forgiveness, redemption.

This is such an improvement over last season that I am almost ready to declare Revenge to be “back.”

But of course while Conrad attempts to find God, Emily continues to defy it. Instead of seeking forgiveness and redemption for framing Father Paul, she doubles down on her alleged regret and blackmails him into working on Conrad. Convince him to confess or be exposed again, she tells him.

He succeeds, but their journey to confession ends in a fiery crash. Father Paul is dead. Conrad, though weakened from Emily manipulating his drug regimen, survives. What happened? We don’t see. I believe Victoria Grayson happened.

Scroll back up to the final voice-over. “A guilty heart is silent, it’s pulse muffled by the secrets it keeps.” That is Victoria, a heart turned so wicked by guilt that she hurts her own children without flinching. “While some believe confession can release a tortured soul, others view it as a sign of weakness.” This line is meant to symbolize the perspectives Conrad and Victoria hold at this point in the story. Remember what she told Patrick last week when she sold her painting: “The world I live in, if they sense this vulnerability they will use it as a weapon. So, I part with the things I love.” She believes facing mortality made Conrad too weak, and therefore vulnerable to what she would perceive as religious foolishness. Enough so that she would “part” with Conrad? Consider her rationalization to Patrick: Some sacrifices are easier than others.

The final line in Emily’s voiceover should convince us that the crash was not a case of reckless driving. “Because ultimately whatever you say, however you feel about what you’ve done, it’s irrelevant for the hand of death is equally unforgiving.” Sorry, Father Paul, you do not get to confess, there will be no cleansing for your soul. The hand of death got you first.

Now Emily’s twisted sense of redemption has led a reformed man to his grave. She continued her moral downward spiral by laying a new layer of lies on her relationship with Daniel and leveling Victoria with a humiliating public revelation of the Grayson’s financial troubles.

Emily Thorne’s descent resembles Walter White’s in Breaking Bad. We began the show rooting for her to get revenge on the evil Graysons, but now she has turned into the people she came to the Hamptons to destroy. Her takedown of Father Paul is meant to represent what happened to her own father and show that she has, for all intents and purposes, become a Grayson. She lies to the people she loves. She plots with no regard or remorse. I can’t root for her to win any more than I could root for Walter. She is sealing her fate in one of the graves Confucius warns about. Maybe not representing physical death but a life with no one to turn to. The life Conrad tells her of when he admits he has no relationships to fall back on in his dying days. Father Paul told Conrad no one wants to die alone. That is exactly where Emily is headed and right now it is exactly what she deserves.

If death doesn’t kill her, her demons surely will. Two graves, equally unforgiving.

Revenge is actually mine, says Emily Thorne

Season three, episode two takes a turn for the church

I’m out of town and don’t have time to do a full write up for Revenge S3E2, “Sin,” so we’ll jump right into some Memos to a Character.

Dear Emily, Romans 12:19: Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” When you decided to devote your life to this course of revenge did you foresee the way it would turn you into a cold and remorseless villain? You may not see yourself that way, but the people who lived at the generosity of Father Paul do. This was the first of your takedowns that gave you the opportunity to see what you do to people. Will it change your way of thinking or will you continue to take from the Lord his vengeance?

Dear Charlotte, Ezekiel 16:44: Behold, everyone who uses proverbs will use this proverb about you: ‘Like mother, like daughter.’  Despite all that he has done to tear apart your family, what you said to Conrad was exceptionally hurtful. You are the only Grayson with clean hands. Don’t become your mother.

Dear Jack, Galatians 5:13: For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Keep this in mind as you and Charlotte grow close. She is your dead brother’s ex-girlfriend who is the biological sister of your childhood sweetheart after you thought she was the biological sister of your dead wife who you thought was your childhood sweetheart. Also mind the age difference. I would like you two became close friends because you are the only decent people in this saga, but that is as far as you should really go. She has the genuine qualities of the father she never knew. You were also shaped by your father and became a father to Declan. As a team I think you two could be good morality checks for Charlotte’s parents and Emily. They need it.

Dear Nolan, I John 2:16-17: For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. Who do you think you are Derek Jeter? Do you send your conquests home with a basket full of autographed computer disks? Keep trying to rein in Emily when her quest for revenge takes her down a dark path. That is where you will find your purpose, not in the arms of strangers.

Dear Conrad, I John 1:8-9: 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Your visit to the church tells me your exposure to mortality is causing you a crisis of conscience. Follow it. Confess your sins. The ramifications will shatter your family and the world around you, but you will experience the truth you need if these indeed are your final days.

Dear Victoria, Ecclesiastes 5:10: He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. I’ve never learned more about you than when you said you have to keep up the appearance of being wealthy. You spend so much of your life trying to keep up appearances. Family, happiness, wealth. It’s almost like a job for you. There will come a day when you realize these things are not appearances but values.

Dear Daniel, 2 Timothy 2:22: So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. I am in awe. Resisting a redhead the way you did was damn near a miracle. You are strong where I am weak, and it shows you are beyond a life of youthful passions. I am very happy to see you pursuing work with Margaux’s magazine. Stepping away from the Grayson shadow will bring you rich rewards. I am, however, suspicious of the timing though I can’t quite put my finger on why.

Dear blueberry muffins, Zechariah 9:12: Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double. Watching you be passed around the Hamptons summed up the Hamptons better than I ever could. Come to Minnesota. We will treat you right and give you the reward you deserve, the reward of being eaten.



This bridge goes somewhere

I had The Bridge all figured out.

Detective Sonya Cross is weird. Not goofy weird. Borderline psychopath weird. Her world is black and white. There are rules, there is breaking rules. It is against the rules to let an ambulance take a dying man thru a crime scene, so she tells the man’s wife to turn around. She can’t notify a husband of his wife’s death without starting her investigation, asking for his cell phone and about infidelity. She asks him in his own home if he would like a glass of water, multiple times. She thinks this is expressing emotion. She apologizes if she lacked empathy as he kicks her out.

Sonya Cross can’t process other people’s feelings. Her partner’s wife makes her dinner, she tells her it tastes bad. She tells a crying mother her daughter must remain in custody because she is on drugs. Later, when the girl’s father is killed, Cross interrogates her as if she isn’t in shock from seeing her father’s tongue pulled out thru a slit in his throat.

Cross has a sex life but no love life. Late one night she gets dressed, goes to a bar and asks the first man she talks to if he wants to have sex with her. Her style is submissive, as if she is fulfilling a role she thinks she is supposed to play even though she doesn’t understand why. The next morning she walks into the office and matter-of-factly tells her boss, “I had sex last night,” to which he replies in a way that sounded like this is a repeat occurrence. A few days later her conquest shows up at the police station to get her number and she reflexively responds, “I can’t have sex with you here,” right in front of her partner and her boss.

What’s the point of my amateur psycho analysis? I couldn’t understand why The Bridge made her this way. The show has enough mystery and drama to function just fine with its main character being normal. What about the show needed her to exhibit such a bizarre personality?

Then it hit me. The show features Cross and a Mexican detective trying to solve the case of a murder victim placed on the bridge between El Paso and Juarez. Half the body is in Mexico, half in the United States. Their investigation leads to a mission-oriented serial killer. My theory after a couple of episodes was that Cross is the killer. Based on her weirdness I posited she would experience complete psychological breaks and commit these horrible murders without even realizing what she was doing. Imagine Dexter with a split personality.

Under my theory they would investigate deeper and deeper. Nothing would make sense. Then, like a bolt from the blue, her boss would realize what was wrong with this strange young cop he mentored for so long. Talk about a snake in the mail box, what a great twist that would be! It had to be the reason they made her the way she is!

WRONG. Sonya Cross is not the killer. Her personality is the result of her sister being brutally raped and murdered when she was 15. She proves she is capable of emotion sitting in prison with the mentally disabled killer, holding his hand and crying as he draws childlike pictures of her sister with black eyes.

The first time I tried watching The Bridge I didn’t make it 10 minutes. Cross was that annoying. I gave it another shot, though, and I’m glad I did. It’s not a great show, but it’s a very good one. Diane Kruger does an excellent job as Cross and Demián Bichir is enjoyable as her partner from Juarez. Ted Levine plays her completely Texas boss who is mentally ready to retire. Annabeth Gish, who I think is just the best, plays the wife of the dying man in the ambulance. Her story unfolds separately from the murder investigation but it becomes clear that the two storylines will intersect at some point as the show nears the end of its first season.

I used On Demand to catch up with The Bridge’s first 10 episodes. Judging by the ratings I am not alone in watching it on delay. According to The Hollywood Reporter  its most recent episode gained a whopping 67 percent increase of viewers when DVR was taken into account.

With ratings like that, characters that are enjoyable and a good set of storylines, The Bridge is a solid addition to your TV lineup. Its full season is available thru Comcast’s On Demand so you can catch up as it reaches its last three episodes of the season.

Branch Comes Forward

A&E’s Longmire is drawing out the Absaroka County sheriff’s election longer than an actual election. As someone who worked in five election cycles, I can assure you that is a very, very long time.

The race between incumbent Walt Longmire and Deputy Branch Connally was an undercurrent to season one and only rarely the focus. I was happy about that because the last thing I wanted in a summer television show was for it to be all about politics when I was working in politics for real life. While that experience was unique to me, I think the decision to downplay it for the first 10-episode season was a good one. It let the show establish and showcase its main characters without forcing them all into a storyline as formulaic as an election.

But in season two the campaign is assuming center stage. In last week’s “The Great Spirit” Branch was as forward about his desire to be sheriff as he has ever been, and Walt finally let his frustration with it, bubble over in front of his deputies.

The episode opened with Walt learning that Branch called in sick to get out of repossessing homes before an election, only to have Walt hear a delinquent trailer owner drop Branch’s name as a friend. In total Walt fashion, he applied a parking boot instead and called it “Compromise.” When a recovered Branch showed up at a murder scene, Walt went passive-aggressive in a way that any Minnesotan can appreciate.

It’s been hard to pin down whether Branch is a genuine public servant or a slime ball. A major casino builder and Branch’s developer father are bankrolling his campaign, which we are led to believe is blanketing the county with advertising. They expect a return for their support, but Branch the candidate hasn’t always obliged. Would he stand up to them as sheriff? We aren’t really sure.

If how he handled his friend’s repossession is any indication, he may not always make the right decision the first time. He and Walt had their biggest verbal altercation in the office when Walt sent Branch to go act like a sheriff and repossess his friend’s trailer. Branch cut his friend a check to cover his late payment with the implicit insinuation that he would pay it back on Election Day. Later, after the friend still didn’t pay the bank, Branch went back and kicked his ass, proclaiming, “I’m the next sheriff.”

After Walt left his office following another argument, Branch got comfortable in Walt’s chair. Actually, Walt didn’t leave the office just yet. Henry stopped him on his way out the door to let him know the detective investigating his wife’s killer’s murder was in Durant. The two set their stories straight right there in the hallway, and it’s safe to assume Branch heard it. If and how Branch leverages that against Walt will show how badly he wants to be sheriff and answer questions about his integrity.

Who will win the race? It’s hard to see the show’s title character losing, but they’ve shown Branch to be the more active, engaged candidate. I don’t know how they will resolve it. There was a strange occurrence a few weeks back when Branch made a reference to his dad about needing his “coffee” during a discussion about his campaign. At the very end of that episode Walt and his daughter were listening to a tape of his late wife when the camera panned to a box up on a shelf in Walt’s house labeled “tea.” The shot’s meaning wasn’t clear and hasn’t been referenced since, I wonder if it is related to some kind of ace Walt has up his sleeve.

No matter who comes out on top, there will be plenty of stories to tell after the election. As someone who worked through five of them, I can assure you that is when the fun really starts.

Who’s got a shovel?

“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”

So Confucius warns us in philosophy, so Emily Thorne warns us on ABC. If they are correct, can one of them be for Revenge? Creator Mike Kelley is out as showrunner, will that satisfy the bloodlust of ABC’s grim reaper?

I defended season two earlier this year when no one else would. That was before dead Padma turned Nolan Ross into a whimpering pile of nerd alert. This show has gone off the rails in so many ways. Let us count them now.

Emily’s mom. The revelation that Emily’s mom was still alive bombshelled last year’s finale. This will change the show and everything for Emily. Where has Mom Clark been? Does she even know she’s Mom Clark? Is she in [scary music] The Initiative? [/scary music]. No. Mom Clark is crazy under the manipulation of the silver-haired man. Aaaaand thaaaat’s allllll. She was in and out of the story so inconsequentially fast that it leaves you wondering why they brought her in in the first place. What a waste of a potential character and storyline.

Padma. Dear, sweet, stupid and dead Padma. [scary music] The Initiative [/scary music] kidnapped her dad so it could force her to steal a piece of unfinished software from Nolan that [scary music] The Initiative? [/scary music] would then use to, well, to something. We got a hint at what the software was, but then dear, sweet Padma found herself at room temperature. Gone from the story and from our lives. How ever will we move on? (This is a marker so if she turns out to not be dead I can come back and say I told you so. They never showed Aden checking her pulse.)

Trask. Trask was the new handler for [scary music] The Initiative [/scary music] in charge of the Graysons. He took over for the sultry Helen Crowley, who Victoria killed. But then Aden killed Trask. Now [scary music] The Initiative [/scary music] has no one.

Wait, what the deuce is The Initiative??? Oh, right, it’s the thing we found out about in last season’s finale that forced the Graysons to frame David Clark. Um, yeah. We know exactly nothing more about it now than we did then except that two of its staff members are dead and it wants some software from Nolan Ross. Oh, and it tried to control Daniel Grayson, too.

Ahh, Daniel. His alignment with his family last season was the high point of the show, and we were so excited (squee!) that he would finally be more than just really, really sculpted muscles. He even orchestrated Conrad’s ouster from Grayson Global…only to fall instantly under the direction of The Initiative. Buzzkill. He started doing Ashely (or was that last year?) but is now so totally hot for Emily again and back to being dumb and hunky.

Speaking of dumb, let’s talk about Jack Porter. He was annoying when he was the barkeep who couldn’t get over a girl he knew when he was 10 – move on, loser – but then when she was killed he started to do some plotting of his own and now he’s even more annoying than when he was the stupid bartender! When he comes on the screen, I swear to god. Can’t there be a freak CO2 canister accident at the bar or something?

Conrad. Is running for governor. You don’t care, and neither do I. Like Padma, this storyline is time that could be better spent on something interesting.

I forgot to mention Emily’s foster brother. I wish they had, too.

Revenge has fallen so far from its first season highs that even Victoria Grayson is a shell of her former self. With her abortion exposed as actually child abandonment, she went crawling to Nolan’s office to ask him to track down her missing son. I used to watch scenes with excitement for what she might do next. Now I feel sad that Madeline Stowe is being given so little to work with.

No one is. The season is half-assing so many storylines that it’s not whole-assing any of them. I touch on the marks above without mentioning Jack losing the bar, faux-Manda’s public outing as Emily, the Ryans or Emily’s secret affair with Aden. Last week it sunk far enough down to have Charlotte making out with another girl at a bar. When it goes lesbian kiss, you know the creativity at rock bottom. They are also killing off another major character in the season finale. I think death can boost a story (see: Boone Carlyle) but others see it as a cheap gimmick boost sagging ratings.

Speculation about Mike Kelley’s ouster includes his push for the show to be in condensed seasons like FOX gave The Following. ABC should look at this season and realize that he was onto something. Had the season picked any few of these storylines and run with them, it could have been very good. But it is really hard to fill 22 episodes and Revenge is showing us exactly why.