Revenge season finale delivers needed change

The season two finale of Revenge was everything its preceding episodes were not: Fast, dramatic, intriguing, surprising. The two-hour ride was creator Mike Kelley’s last time at the helm after having left the show following taping. It was like a game seven of the World Series – leave nothing in reserve. His goodbye was a throwback to the early days of the show that viewers longed for too often in season two.

Like the best season finales it converged its storylines in an explosive fashion that will fundamentally change the show starting next season. Conrad is Governor of New York. Conrad is part of The Initiative. Daniel and Victoria are disillusioned with Conrad. Charlotte is pregnant, Declan is dead. Jack knows Emily’s true identity.

Waitwaitwait – what?!?

Emily revealing her identity beyond her circle of Revenge-minded friends fundamentally alters the show. Fans who hated this season should welcome her confession. I opined earlier that Revenge needs to set a firm ending date so its writers can know how they have to pace the story. It also needs to show that it is about more than when Emily reveals her true identity. The best way to do that? Tell Jack, her childhood friend.

It’s a cat they can’t put back in the bag. For the rest of the series, Jack Porter will know that Emily Thorne is really Amanda Clarke. Their relationship is changed, so is her journey of revenge. So is the story itself. That’s a good thing. Revenge needs this kind of change. Lost’s storylines exploded in every direction when it revealed that getting off of the island would not wait until the series finale. Revenge’s story is flatter than Lost’s was but it can still see improvement from changing one of its fundamental relationships.

Disgruntled viewers can come away encouraged from the finale’s other changes as well.

Conrad’s character had fallen off this season after Daniel ousted him at Grayson Global.  The half-hearted attempt they made at a political storyline didn’t give him much to work with. In this episode, Conrad the mastermind is back. From the midst of the blackout to his closing speech and the bombing at Grayson headquarters Conrad seemed as if he was waiting out a script, not bouncing around amidst chaos. The calm confidence he displayed when Daniel told him the family fortune was wiped out came off as almost crazy, as if the pressure of his campaign and trauma of the bombing had driven him mad.

Then it all came pouring out on the balcony with Victoria. There is no Initiative, only business elites profiting from the creation of fear and Conrad is fully vested in their sick manipulations. The blackout, the bombing, the aftermath, all of it done to create a fear that will drive government to act in ways that the orchestrators are perfectly positioned to reap the benefits from. Billions upon billions of dollars, surpassing the wealth the Graysons earned from framing David Clarke. Even Victoria Grayson, party to David Clarke’s demise and perpetrator of so many misdeeds of her own, cannot seem to stomach her husband’s revelation.

The Initiative’s missing role in season two was one of the things I criticized in summing up where Revenge went off the rails. Now that we know the full story, that criticism has to be re-examined. Was Conrad’s revelation a bombshell? Thru the lens of the story, yes. But dramatically speaking it could have been a lot better if The Initiative had been given a strong presence throughout the season.

Think back to how Lost handled The Others. The entire second season was about building up that mystery and anticipation so that by the time Live Together, Die Alone aired we were practically on our knees begging to know who they were and what they were doing on the island. Revenge didn’t do that and as a result never gave us one of those, “We’re the good guys, Michael” moments. I’m not criticizing the revelation as it affects the story, I think it will be great in that regard. Rather, the way it was handled throughout the season is a clear failure of creativity, which robbed us of the kind of epic dramatic twist that makes a finale memorable.

Setting that aside, it will still change the story. The Initiative (let’s still call it that) isn’t just in position to profit from fear, it has the Governor of New York to help make it happen. Not so fast! Victoria is non-plussed and Daniel doesn’t even know what to think. Dumb Jack (more on him shortly) is clued-in to Emily’s big secret. Nolan Ross is in custody and won’t just roll over and take the fall. There is a lot threatening Conrad’s re-emerged dominance.

Before we chronicle Jack’s Machiavellian ineptitude, a quick sidebar on what happened to Nolan. Someone obviously had this all set up to unravel the moment he drained the Grayson’s bank accounts. But whom? Maybe that’s a mystery to unfold in season three. Padma’s involvement indicates she may not be room temperature after all, but why would she have turned on him? Is she somehow part of The Initiative? I have a bold theory: Aden did it. He was the only one who saw supposedly-dead Padma. But what does he have against Nolan Ross? Nolan is a key element of Emily’s quest for revenge. With his moral support and computer wizardry behind bars, Aiden must see he has a better chance at convincing her to abandon the Hamptons with him. Remember: Aden was the one moving Grayson Global’s money around before Nolan drained it. I refuse to believe that a character we only saw in one episode, Falcon, will be allowed to frame a major character.

Okay, now on to Jack.

Jack and Victoria are together at the bar when the blackout hits, giving us a great look at Jack once again showing he just doesn’t have the brains to compete with the Graysons. He breathlessly tells Victoria that he knows Conrad framed David Clarke, brilliantly reminding her that she loved him. Yes, Jack, she loved him so much and is so clueless about her husband’s life that she had no idea David was innocent. Dolt. Victoria played along the way an adult pretends to enjoy playing Go Fish with a five-year-old.

Back at the mansion, Jack is so eager to find the computer in the safe Victoria never knew about that he throws his own file on Conrad’s desk without even knowing it. His Brilliancy then accidentally reveals to Victoria that he is working with Ashley to sabotage Conrad’s campaign. First rule of being a schemer: You gotta remember who knows what, Jackie boy.

Why did the good Porter have to die? Revenge fans have lambasted Declan for two seasons, but I dare any of them to not love him and love Charlotte’s love for him after this episode. His death and Charlotte’s pregnancy will probably elevate her as a character, which would be good for the show. That doesn’t mean I have to like it. We will probably never know why Declan was in the Grayson office when it blew up, maybe it doesn’t matter. My only last beef is that he didn’t get to tell off Victoria in their last conversation. It would have been a nice parting gift to the character for enduring all her uppity crap. Here’s to hoping Connor Paolo gets more work.

Speaking of death, is it just me or was Takada’s role in the show severely wasted? The finale briefly diverged from its core storyline to tell us that his fiancé was on the flight The Initiative bombed, revealing that Emily and Aden were really a part of his grand scheme to get revenge for her death. That had a Jacob-like feel to me and could have been used to great effect later in the series, just like Jacob and Man In Black were. A reveal in later seasons that our main character is just a pawn in a larger game would rock our world. Instead it’s a few scenes in season two. Blame it on that failure of creativity again.

For some fans, no finale will be enough to fix the mess Revenge made out of its second season. I think this finale should at least earn a look at season three. With a new show runner coming on board and big changes to the storyline, Revenge has a chance to get back on top as one of primetime’s sexiest dramas.

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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.

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.