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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Spring 2012 TV review

Using one word to sum up the shows I watched this television season.

Terra Nova: Failed.

Terra Nova could have been outstanding, instead it’s off the air. That is disappointing but not surprising. Even thought it was ridiculously expensive, FOX said it made money off the show internationally and hinted it would try to sell the show to a different network or possibly Netflix. Netflix however announced it would not buy the show. Still, FOX is reportedly keeping everyone under contract in case the show does find a second life. Should that happen, the show needs a ton of work to become anything remotely worth anyone’s time.

Alcatraz: Lame.

Jorge Garcia is, like, adorable on television, dude. But Alcatraz sucked. Bad. The main character, a female cop lured into investigating the sudden reappearance of Alcatraz prisoners, was horribly miscast. Do real cops show that much cleavage or just TV cops? She was not believable for even one second. Sam Neil’s character was kinda interesting, but not nearly interesting enough to keep the show afloat. There was some interesting stuff here, though. Sam Neil’s character being a guard at the prison when whatever happened to it happened served as a nice tie-in to the story’s two time periods. His Richard Alpert-esque kinda-sorta love interest who was brutally shot and laid in a coma also set the groundwork for something that could have been very compelling. But on an episode-by-episode basis the show seemed to forget all of that.

BUT…I like to Google shows while I’m writing about them. In so doing I read about what happened in the season finale and I have to say I’m stunned. Stunned to the point where I might have to go back and pick up where I left off to see how it all turned out.

Revenge: Unexpected.

Just as Revenge was heating up, ABC inexplicably put it on one of its moronic hiatuses, although at only six weeks this one is shorter than the break that did in Flash Forward. The storyline had finally come back to the engagement party it started with in the pilot. I felt it was a little cheap, but still pretty good. It will have to transition from the summer-in-the-Hamptons setting that it used to augment the soap opera feeling, but I’m looking forward to what it has in store for when ABC eventually lets it back on the air.

Once Upon a Time: Disappointing.

The first two episodes of Once Upon a Time were really neat. Then it kinda wandered. The premise of an evil fantasy witch trapping real-life versions of fairytale characters in an idyllic seaside town is creative and fun. But then it seemed the show wasn’t even about that anymore. The first few episodes had clear connections between what happened in fantasy land and what happened in Storybrooke. After that it flattened out. It is so uninteresting now that I wonder why I even continue to watch it. Adam Horowitz and Mankato native Edward Kitsis earned a lot of loyalty from their work on Lost, but even that is slowly running out. This show needs to pick it up, fast, or else it’s off the list.

Awake: Intriguing.

I hadn’t even heard about this NBC show (maybe because it is on NBC) until Damon Lindelof tweeted about how much he liked the pilot. So I checked it out and damn if it ain’t really well done and really intriguing. The premise is this: An LA cop is in a car crash with his wife and teenage son. He wakes up to find his wife survived but his son died. But then he goes to sleep and wakes up in a completely different timeline where his wife died but his son survived. This is intriguing enough, but the way they weave together the cases he works on in both realities adds a second layer of interest that is really cool. On top of that they add two psychiatrists – one in each reality – who each try to convince him that what he experiences is the other reality is not, in fact, reality at all.

Awake has “it.” It is the rare show that takes a good story and makes it even better through perfect storytelling. Which reality is real? Both? Neither? What’s the deal with his wife-reality boss hinting that the accident wasn’t an accident at all? If there’s a mention of that in his son-reality timeline, I missed it. Does that mean it is the fake one? This show is so good and so superbly done that it will be on the air for a long, long time.

American Horror Story: Compelling.

Person of Interest: Exceeding.

The River: Stupid.

Revenge season one finale

I don’t like that they sort of threw Emily’s mom out there cold turkey, although I do recall her being mentioned once before.

Placing Victoria closer to the center of the David Clarke conspiracy didn’t feel right. It would also lead me to believe she is not dead. If she were really that close, the Silver Haired Man from the Initiative (come on!) will have gotten her away.

But more so it seemed to come out of nowhere. Victoria has always seemed to be the go-along in the Clarke manipulation, not the core manipulator.

The show transitioned nicely away from the sexy summer in the Hamptons.

It grew as a show from something soapy to something dramatic. The end of the finale was great and there were some great scenes along the way, notably Daniel’s television interview where he sided with his family.

About the story already being settled as I’d written before – that clearly pivoted around the engagement party. Things slowly but surely unraveled for Emily after that, or at least became less of her control. Because those were things that had NOT happened yet from the point of view we are being told to. Culminating in Victoria dying right as Emily learns there is so much more to her father’s story.

Who are they going to cast as Mom Clarke?