Obviously we have to start with this line, spoken by Randall to Monroe before the title crawl: "I could have gone to Governor Affleck in California." This is the future, people — after being snubbed for Best Director at the 2013 Academy Awards, Hollywood icon Ben Affleck hunkered down, preparing for the inevitable blackout. And when it came? He was READY. Harnessing his network of powerful friends, like Matt Damon and Alan Arkin, and putting his creative goodwill to work, Affleck quickly gained in strength. And even the people who would oppose him — I mean they were just rooting for the guy, you know? Good for him finding another career that really suited him.
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But enough about Affleck, who won't be a featured character until at least the halfway point of Season 2. Last night's installment, "Ghosts," sent our ragtag group of rebels in multiple directions as they realized the need to TAKE THE FIGHT TO MONROE, or whatever tag next year's promos decide to run with. Lovers/fighters Miles and Nora hit Virginia to try and recruit one of Miles' old militia colleagues. On the home front, Rachel finally divulged a bit about the origins of the Blackout as their base* was infiltrated by her old boss, Randall.
*Echo Base. The Empire Strikes Back. Come on!
The part of Virginia we visited last night seemed like it had its s**t together! Very Woodbury on The Walking Dead vibe, minus the not-so-secretly psychopathic town leader. Hell, there were hand-painted signs everywhere and nerds to yell "hey, Shakespeare!" at while you're strolling the street. Even a library, which is where Miles found his buddy, Jim Hudson. Now, you don't expect to see Malik Yoba ("Yul Brenner" in the classic Cool Runnings) just hanging around stupid books, but this was his cover — "Henry Beamus." And Henry Beamus was married. Why any woman would believe that "Henry Beamus" could be a real name/person I have no idea, but "Henry" had nevertheless found happiness — something he'd prefer for Miles to not blow up (figuratively or literally, as is often the case on Revolution.
Within moments, Miles learned that he'd accidentally led a group of militia to the town and well shoot, man we're probably gonna have to sword fight our way out of this! Hats off to the choreography team who puts these together. Where the gun battles on this show often devolve into confusing sprays of bullets, each sword fight has felt fast, vicious, and logical. The only time I truly believe Miles as the "ultimate badass" we're constantly told he is? When they guy's got a sword in his hand, taking on a squad of militia.
Miles, Nora and Jim of course emerged victorious…but not without Jim's wife discovering his true identify (when he stabbed some guy to death in front of her, oops), and leaving him. "You ruined my life, Miles. Again." But by some combination of Miles' endless rogue charm and the realization that there was nothing else left for him in town, Jim decided to saddle up. Good choice, pal! Loads of sword fighting adventures ahead with quips aplenty from your old buddy, Miles.
Because the worst thing in the world would be to slow down for ten minutes and give us a walk-and-talk of the rebel camp or learn anything about our characters, Charlie's group came under almost immediate attack. How? THOSE DAMN PENDANTS. Turns out they can be accessed remotely, specifically accessed by Randall — who used the two in Rachel's possession to track her whereabouts. Why? Because Rachel was not merely a scientist, like she was on LOST, but a high-ranking developer of whatever "weapon" it was that may have (definitely) triggered the Blackout in the first place. She was working with her husband at the Department of Defense. Randall was her boss. Most of which spilled out of Rachel and into the ears of Charlie and Aaron while they evaded (and of course eventually escaped) the attacking militia. Once upon a time Randall was probably a decent guy. But the death of his soldier son, stationed in Kabul, reinforced his desire to "get the weapon built" and finally, in a still mysterious scene, order the it be executed. What is the weapon, exactly? What was its aim? 42 being a limited number of minutes in which to tell all this story, we got only hints. "There's this place," Rachel finally relented to Aaron. "It's called The Tower." And roll your eyes, snark it up (I sure do) but hey — there are worse shows to emulate than LOST. There are certainly storytelling lessons Revolution could still take to heart.
Let's backtrack a minute to look at one of the more interesting snippets of the episode, and maybe the series thus far. Randall had found his target, Rachel, and as he lead her to their fleet of trucks he told her with as many specifics as can be given at this moment what he wanted to do with a renewed power source. "Let's make this a better world, by putting power in the hands of the few." He summarizes what human beings had done with power up until the Blackout. "We just used it to wage war and kill each other." And now, starting over…maybe we can make a better world? I don't agree with him — and we're not meant to — but there's a thoughtfulness here, a sense of what this Blackout has actually meant to people and structures, that until this point I don't think had been raised. I like helicopter explosions. I like bras (and this "family" show seems weirdly willing to help me out!). I like mythology, even when it's LOST-lite. But any show dealing with BIG QUESTIONS has to be prepared to explore what they actually mean. "Ghosts" felt like a good start in that direction.
What did you think? Excited to finally hear the origins of the Blackout next week? Or bracing yourself for the inevitable disappointment of finding out two God figures tripped over an earth-shaped light switch as they were playing chess, and are still stumbling around trying to flip it back? Man, that would be a wacky season finale.
Follow Henning on Twitter @HenningFog
[PHOTO CREDIT: Brownie Harris/NBC]
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Speaking at PaleyFest 2013 a few weeks ago, Revolution co-creator and show runner Eric Kripke seemed very aware of the sluggish pace with which his show moved through its first ten episodes. "We see that fall run as…almost a prologue to a much larger story. Trust me, I was feeling a degree of impatience myself!" He went on to discuss what we're going to see this spring — namely the other militias that have sprung up post-Blackout — promising it would all be happening with great speed.
So there are worse ways you could kick off your second run of episodes than with a barrage of machine gun fire and the death of a character no one cared about!
Really, "The Stand" lived up to Kripke's proclamations. And if it's not so bold to suggest, reset the game board for what will hopefully be an exciting and story-rich Spring. It's cold to suggest that all a show needed to do to get back on our good graces was kill a poor teenager, but jettisoning Danny — the recovery of whom drove the plot of TEN FULL EPISODES — is the best thing Revolution could do at this point to move forward, and maybe generate some shading for its female lead. Charlie? She's great with a crossbow, and a decent foil for her uncle, Han Solo/Miles Matheson. But independent of those things she's a boring character, who was made all the more so by her constant calls to "FIND DANNY." He was found; now's he dead. And we can all move on with our lives, maybe more interestingly than before!
While I'm sure it's costing producers a pretty penny, the introduction of helicopters offered some much-needed action as well as selling the near-insurmountable threat the Rebels (just call yourselves the Rebel Alliance guys, it's totally fine) face in trying to take down Monroe. They straight-up fired missiles at Miles & Co.! It was awesome! The biggest tactical error this show made last fall was in assuming we were so invested in the characters, we could deal with long action-less stretches between benchmark episodes. You can give us thin characters — that's fine. But you can't be boring while you're doing it. Firefights go a long way to remedy this kind of imbalance.
We picked up right where we left off last fall — fleeing from the prison camp where Rachel and Danny were being held, tailed by newly powered-up helicopters. "We need to get as far away from Philly as we can get!" screamed Miles (but more accurately everyone, all the time) as they dodged missiles, a militia checkpoint, and passionate Nora kisses en route to the nearest rebel camp in, you guessed it, Annapolis, Maryland. How fast are these guys walking? Is that some sort of post-Blackout evolutionary adaptation?
Then: TWO ROADS DIVERGED. Having just reunited with her children after 15 long years, Rachel of course needed to get away from them as quickly as possible, and enlisted Miles to join her in a gun run to her buddy John's house. "I'm so proud of you guys!" she cooed to Charlie and Danny right before leaving, the oldest trick in the absentee parent book.
More great parenting soon followed when we caught up with Jason and Neville, staking out the rebel base. Their orders from Monroe: kill everyone they find. "There are too many people in there!" Jason cried, thinking of his girlfriend from camp, Charlie. Neville offered the kind of response any dad would, "bitch has you soft as a kitten," before slapping his son across the face. Like a dad. THAT'S IT — Jason tackled Neville. Neville tackled him back. Jason got in one solid punch. Then Neville pretty much took his son to the friggin' cleaners. "Don't ever come home again." Honestly that is perfectly okay with me, dad! I think you have some stuff to work through!
Rachel's friend John, like her a Keeper of the Power Necklaces, offered Rachel and Miles a tour of his weapons workshop. Rocket launchers. Submachine guns. A "sonic cannon," which fires noise. "I've got a lot of free time on my hands" John told us, deflecting criticism before we could dish it out. Then: betrayal. "Randall got to me." Before Miles could say something Han Solo-ish John had already knocked him and Rachel out with the sonic cannon. (Raise your hand if you saw that coming. Congratulations! You have seen television before.)
Meanwhile, alerted to an impending Monroe airstrike by the now fatherless Jason, Charlie, Danny, Nora, Zak Orth (whose name I've forgotten. Preston?), and the rest of the rebels gathered to make their stand. And sure enough, not one but two heavily-armed helicopters showed up to take care of business. Could this be it for the nascent Rebel Alliance?
NO! screamed Miles as he and his horse-drawn pile of insane weaponry came to the rescue. You guys need a rocket launcher? Now you've got a rocket launcher! Consistent, desensitizing violence filled the screen for a few minutes before Miles took aim with his new toy at one of the choppers. But not before the other one fired on him, knocking Miles out. Danny grabbed the rocket launcher instead. Fired away. And BLEW THE BIRD OUT OF THE FRIGGIN' SKY. Without the power amplifier contained on the just-exploded chopper, the other one immediately went down.
That is, before it fired about a thousand bullets into Danny's chest, making sure we understood there is absolutely no way in which this kid was alive.
Again — great, necessary move for the show. Less so for characters Charlie and Rachel (you know, his family) who grieved like no one was watching. But hey — plan of vengeance SOLIDIFIED. And no need for me to make a single joke about the returned power finally allowing Danny to get a buzz cut. Except that one, sorry.
QUICK POST-DRAMA BUSINESS: That "Randall" character everyone had been talking about showed up to Monroe's offices, asking if he could do anything to help stem the rebel tide. And Rachel, inspecting her son's body, cut deep into his pelvis to pull out…some sort of blinking device. As long as it doesn't take us nine episodes to start talking about what it is? We are all good.
RIP Danny. RIP Revolution 1.0!
[Photo Credit: Brownie Harris/NBC]
Follow Henning on Twitter @HenningFog
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Unless you've been living through your own personal blackout these past eight years, you're at least tangentially familiar with the show Lost. Sprawling ensemble drama set on a mysterious island populated by out-of-place polar bears and a UN coalition of sad sacks? Some of whom time-traveled? There were episodes (there were half-seasons) where the cliff-hanging wackadoo mysteries threatened to sink the human drama of it all. But that never really happened — straight through its (polarizing) final episode, Lost never truly sacrificed character at the altar of DID YOU SEE THAT?!
The many shows looking to ape Lost's formula and popular appeal did and today they're… well, still available for Netflix streaming. But definitely not on the air! In trying so desperately hard to be THE show, neither The Event nor FlashForward nor… I don't know, The Nine ever found their foothold with viewers. Near-instantaneous resentment met each one, no matter how hard producers cried that they "knew what they were doing." To know that their shows knew what they were doing — that was never the issue with audiences. Maybe what the people wanted wasn't the Rubik's Cube complications of Lost (at least not yet). Maybe what they wanted was Lost without the metaphysics… but with the same assembly of hot, ambiguously ethnic models… but with more and more overt Star Wars references… all wrapped in a package that says "I'm here to party, but I also like to think about stuff, you know?"
Welcome to Revolution, TV fans!
Last night's episode, "Chained Heat," continued the adventures of Charlie, her uncle Han Solo, British Chick, and Hurley as they formulated a plan to retrieve Charlie's brother, Danny Boy, from the clutches of Gus Fring. First things first: What show is Giancarlo Esposito acting in? The intermittent southern accent, the utter sincerity with which he discusses his militia dedication, the recollections of his wife's cooking — it's like a Ken Burns documentary he's stumbled into. It's weird! But it's also an acting choice he has made.
As in Lost, a flashback quickly illuminates what will be the central theme of the episode: killing in the name of protecting one's family. Charlie orders her uncle not to murder a militia member who threatens their lives in the first few minutes. Sure enough, this backfires when the man, who they'd taken prisoner, tracks them down to the Mos Eisley cantina (Pontiac, Ill.). It's no big deal — Miles, we've seen, is more than capable of taking down 30 guys at a time with room for banter — but hey, ammunition for Miles against his niece's "killing is wrong" appeals. As we'll learn, killing can definitely be alright!
Did I mention that Miles et al embarked on their Pontiac side quest in search of a woman, Nora, who Miles claims will help them take on Monroe's army? They did. Of course she's nowhere to be found and the group just has to deal, but each little bit of world-expanding can only be good for the show. The British Chick's iPhone rants can't hold our attention forever!
Interesting that so many of the commercials pegged to Revolution should be so… techy, up to and including a new iPhone spot. Didn't the British Chick just call that stupid, even in its Jonathan Adler case?! If I were Revolution's advertising arm, I'd be connecting with survivalist gear-makers and canned good manufacturers trying to promote a green, post-Apocalyptic lifestyle. There is NO ROOM for smart phones in this scenario.
What there is room for is a structure lifted almost entirely from Star Wars — if not an overt copy of the first movie, then at least enough of it to bolster some " …really?" accusations. To wit:
—Charlie/Luke Skywalker leaving home. First to find her uncle (HAN SOLO), who might help her track down her younger brother. There's a wisecracking computer nerd (Zak Orth/R2D2) who seems to be paired up with a blonde, cranky British robot (British chick/C3PO). They love to bicker.
—"YOU JOINED THE REBELS?!?" Han Solo/Uncle Miles asks possible rebel Nora. "CAN WE EVEN SAY THAT WITHOUT PAYING GEORGE LUCAS?!"
—The lingering "you shot first" tension between Esposito's character and Danny, which of course has sustained Greedo fans and detractors for 35+ years. And that's okay! Revolution isn't here to offer deep ruminations on the "state of things" or bask in the glory of its own overcomplicated mystery plotting. Rather, the show feels perfectly content to be simple; to not put on airs. The Taken 2 trailer tells me NBC has got its target audience pretty well figured out! Two big developments this week: One, of course, is the return of Elizabeth Mitchell, whose Rachel is NOT dead like her children think, but very much alive, living like a bird in a gilded cage with Monroe (or so it seems). Second is the introduction of Nora, played by Carlotta from Friday Night Lights. Is it any surprise that she'd be stuck in a post-Apocalyptic nightmare after ditching Dillon's preeminent nice guy, Matt Saracen? (We all know the answer to that one.) The former's role and motivations are still up in the air; Nora, on the other hand, is by the end of the episode revealed to be a freedom fighter. And a total babe, but we knew that from the get-go. The woman who housed then betrayed Danny (then typed on a COMPUTER) last week is back, this time confronted by some awful guy named Randall. He's got a TAZER. An ELECTRIC ONE. Wouldn't it be amazing if every episode ended on some kind of electricity cliffhanger? "Where did you guys find these awesome light fixtures?!" "Does anyone remember how to do the ELECTRIC SLIDE? They're going to kill us if we don't!" "How have you never seen The Wire?" Etc. Other things of note: —Kate, I MEAN Katniss, I MEAN Charlie is quite the tracker and bow hunter. Could she destroy that helicopter everyone was dragging through the jungle with one well-placed arrow? I have to believe. —Not once but twice is the expression "sonuvabitch!" offered during the episode, each time in appropriate reference to someone who's totally been a sonuvabitch. —The University of Chicago, so known for its well-structured and definite undergraduate academic requirements, would be the first or second institution to fall in the New World Order. Who cares about your rules now?!? —The only thing Uncle Miles loves more than himself, and probably Nora (we've all seen TV before, right?), is SARCASM. If you replaced hot dogs with sarcasm at the 4th of July Nathan's hot dog contest, Miles would crush everyone because dude EATS IT UP. All for this latest episode! Next week we'll attempt some actual recapping and organization. I look forward to being your eager partner in Revolution! [Image Credit: NBC] More: Revolution Really Needs to Rally the Troops Revolution Baddie Giancarlo Esposito On Life as a Post-Apocalyptic Villain TCA 2012: Revolution Stars on Creating Villains and a Brave New World