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.

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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.

Revenge needs a date

In the spring of 2007, Damon and Carlton did something few executive producers do with their television show: They told ABC they wanted to end it. They needed to assure Lost fans – and themselves – that the ever complicated story would some day achieve a satisfactory ending. ABC obliged and gave them 48 more episodes over three seasons to bring the epic to a close.

Halfway through its second season on the same network, Revenge feels like it is going through the same uncertainty. The clear presentation of Emily Thorne’s mission to take revenge on the family who framed her father as a terrorist has given way to a blurry mix of storylines that has viewers frustrated. Ratings have been consistently down since the return from its holiday break, and while that is in part due to the NFL playoffs the decline can’t be dismissed.

To ensure viewers they won’t be seeing Revenge’s equivalent of Sawyer and Juliet cracking rocks on Hydra Island, the minds behind Revenge need to sit down with ABC and decide how much longer their show will be on the air. Creator and Executive Producer Mike Kelley has to already have some plan for how the show will end, if he can get a firm answer on when that will happen he and his team can plot out how they will get there. Season three of Lost was panned at the time, and in many ways it deserved it particularly during the fall portion of the season. But if you re-watch it now it actually contained episodes that moved the story as swiftly as any before or after. Hopefully working out an end date for Revenge can provide the spark its laborious second season needs.

To the season itself, I think it is fair to assert that Revenge hasn’t been as good as last year. Part of the reason, I believe, is because the show hasn’t adapted well to a change in the way its episodes are built. Much of the first season gave us Emily’s takedown of the week as she went after people who played a role in the framing of her father. It was a great structure for telling all the back story behind Emily, Grayson Global and what happened to David Clarke. But it could only last for so long. The characters are established and new details only come as the show needs them.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the show has to be worse, but it does mean we are less surprised when one Grayson turns on another and less swept away by the luxury and excess of the Hamptons lifestyle. The writers have yet to figure out a way to replace the thrills those dramatics gave us last year, and the show suffers.

Whereas last year the smart, surprising and Machiavellian characters drove the plot, this year it feels like the needs of the plot are driving the characters. Nolan Ross is a prime example. He’s gone from a key player in Emily’s plan (thanks, we learned, to his close relationship with her father) to an unmanned drone deployed as the story needs him. First for Daniel’s takeover of Grayson Global. Then he abandoned all business sense in naming the vastly unqualified Padma as NolCorp’s CFO. It was wildly out of character for him to do something that ill-thought-out to his company, but the story needed her in place to find a piece of software Nolan was hiding.

Conrad is another case of a character seeming to lose his purpose. After being charged with Gordon Murphy’s murder and released, Daniel ousted him at Grayson and the Initiative dumped him. So, naturally, he’s plotting a political career. Why? I don’t know. It isn’t in concert with anything he’s done as a character thus far so presumably the plot needs him to run for office for some reason. So he is, with Ashley as his chief advisor. You know, the chief advisor who he slept with when she was dating his son. Uh-huh, riiiiight.

Meanwhile the really intriguing aspects that closed season one have played out flat. The finale’s shocking revelation that Emily’s mother is still alive was a complete dud. Instead of her mom being a dynamic character who can drive the story she is a psychological mess who did virtually nothing for the show and hasn’t been seen for months. A total waste of a character. The mysterious Initiative has been equally disappointing, although that might be changing now that we know its plan is to create and then profit from a disaster in New York City. Still, it doesn’t feel like one of those secretive world dominating conspiracies that only exist in televisions and movies (as far as I know). If both were better characters (literally or figuratively) the story would be making up for some of what it has lost.

Other aspects of this season’s story just aren’t interesting. Emily’s partnership with Aiden isn’t anything and his pursuit of his sister is totally irrelevant. In fact, the two of them making out in public after pretending to split is totally out of character for Emily, she is never that careless. It took way, way too long for Jack selling the bar to the Ryans to work its way around to Conrad’s usefulness. With new characters on the way such as Conrad’s ex-wife (not Victoria, his other ex-wife) there’s a chance yet we could get something interesting.

It might sound like I haven’t enjoyed this season, but I have. I have always been more open to the patience it takes to let a serial drama unfold (probably thanks to years of grooming from daytime) so these less-than-spectacular story lines haven’t turned me off. Revenge still serves up good excitement from week to week. I expect it to continue to ramp up the drama as it races toward May.

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.