Now if Revenge can settle in and consistently deliver episodes like “Illumination,” it might just have a chance to get back on track. There weren’t any major deaths or high seas adventures in the Hamptons sudser’s latest installment. Just good, old-fashioned character development and the smart introduction of potential new complications--and villains. There were no Ryan brothers, no Padma, no Jennifer Jason Leigh as Crazy Mommy, no Initiative goons. Mind you, “Illumination” seemed like it could have followed the Season 2 pattern of “resolve nothing, just add new characters” with the introduction of Collins Pennie’s Eli, Emily’s former foster brother, and “The Falcon,” the mysterious hacker who helped frame her father. But these introductions somehow felt more organic to the story.
Not that the episode began promisingly, though. At this point, Emily VanCamp’s opening narration is practically the equivalent of Ellen Pompeo’s at the start of any Grey’s Anatomy installment: it establishes the central theme around which all the hour’s storylines will revolve. I mean, how can we accept writing like this: “Carrying a secret is like carrying a flame. Hold onto it, and eventually you’ll get burned.” Yikes. And, see, the flame motif is relevant because Emily was accused of burning down her foster family’s house!
“Illumination” quickly course-corrected by giving us a sight we’ve been craving for far too long: Charlotte in a schoolgirl uniform! It’s about damn time. She was all gaga for her parents, for once, because they were creating a charitable foundation in Amanda’s honor. Really, Charlotte? You think your parents have suddenly become all benevolent, charitable, and respectful of Amanda’s memory? Have you forgotten that your mother pushed her over a balcony? Of course, as soon as she left the room Conrad and Victoria began plotting how they could make Aidan the new David Clarke: they’d fabricate evidence to make it look like he was using Grayson Global to fund the Initiative’s next act of terrorism and funnel their own money into the Amanda Clarke Foundation to protect it in case the Feds freeze their assets following whatever investigation will inevitably follow.
Emily gave $250,000 to Victoria in a bid to be the fund’s co-chair. Yeah, that wasn’t going to happen. Before she could leave Grayson Manor, though, her foster brother Eli James (a name that sounds like what would happen if the author of Fifty Shades of Grey became the pastor of a Houston megachurch) showed up. He’s in the rare books trade and heard about Amanda’s death whilst in London. Odd that he would show up to pay his respects and not Amanda’s mother. Anyway, he threw Emily a knowing glance upon taking a good hard look at her, a glance that suggested he knew who she really was, even though he hadn’t seen her in 14 years. “Do you think we’re dealing with another Tyler?” Nolan asked. God, let’s hope so.
Eli continued to sniff around all the Suffolk county hotspots, which meant he inevitably strolled into the Stowaway. Lucky for him, Emily was there too. Just the person Eli wanted to see. She continued her charade, but, pointing to Jack, Eli said, “He’s not the footloose guy you told me about.” Then he flipped over her wrist to see her double infinity tattoo. Yep, it was his foster sister after all. “Lookin’ pretty good for a dead girl.” It turns out, though, that he had known about her identity swap some time ago, because when he showed up at the Beaver Dam looking for her, the girl with the name Amanda Clarke was decidedly different…as in, a completely different person.
But what did Eli want with this information? He’s obviously not a rare books seller. In fact he had a pretty extensive criminal record, and if he quietly left the Hamptons quietly Emily would employ a more technologically savvy friend to wipe his record clean. Plus, she’d give him a little money to sweeten the deal and really start fresh.
Meanwhile, Daniel’s on the verge of losing his mind. He’s the CEO of a company being used to fund major terrorism and he has to comply with the Initiative or he and his family will be killed. And yet he refuses to pin their crimes on Aidan. This can only end in terrible unhappiness. So he got into a scuffle with a guy at a bar, and who should be there to hold him back but Aidan himself. The 007-wannabe really wants that board seat. And who should also be there but Conrad Grayson, sitting behind a pillar. All schemers on this show hide behind curtains, outside windows, or behind pillars to overhear others conversations. Conrad, of course, really wants Aidan on that board, so as to pin their own crimes on him. Be careful what you wish for, Mr. Mathis.
NEXT: Let’s go Falcon hunting! Revenge just may have gotten the villains we’ve been looking for all season.
Jack’s been trying to figure out how he survived his high seas adventure. Who pulled him from the water and ferried him back to shore? So he asked the harbormaster and said the guy who rented the boat that brought him in paid cash to buy it outright afterward, so as to cover his tracks. He didn’t know his name but he was tall, had sandy hair, and blue eyes. It had to be Nolan, right?
You know when I knew that “Illumination” was really going to be good? When we had another big shindig at Grayson Manor. We’ve gone too long without a big party on this show. All were in attendance, and Eli indicated that he’d accept Emily’s offer of a one-way trip out of Dodge. Nolan wiped clean his record, Emily gave him a $100,000 check...and Eli didn’t leave. “I don’t think your faux bros intends to hold up his end of the bargain.” Cancel that check, Emily! So she decided that a better way to get rid of him would be to hint not so subtly to Ashley that the Graysons shouldn’t feel comfortable having this guy under their roof, especially with Conrad’s gubernatorial ambitions.
Eli decided to take the mic to talk about his relationship with Amanda. He said that the two of them were “invisibles” because their foster family didn’t really want them. So, to make certain there wouldn’t be other invisible children out there, he’d donate to the Amanda Clarke Foundation the sum of $100,000. Yeah, 100 Grand is a lot of money, but becoming a Grayson sycophant is worth even more. Then Jack showed up, took the mic, and obsequiously praised Conrad and Victoria himself. Nolan asked him what gives with all the Grayson love? Jack said he was “Practicing lying through my teeth like you and Emily. If you were my friends you would have told me the truth and wouldn’t be rubbing elbows with the people who destroyed her.”
The time came for Victoria to appoint her co-chair. And it was Mr. Eli James! When Ashley told her that Emily disapproved of Mr. James, that made her like him all the more. This guy is here to stay, folks. But it was a compelling debut. Having someone in the mix who knows Emily’s true identity but doesn’t necessarily have her best interests at heart could be just the wrinkle this show needs.
Oh, and after all of his hesitating, and a tearful meeting with Emily confessing everything that his parents had done to David Clarke and how they were planning on doing the same to Aidan, Daniel still decided to appoint Aidan to the board. When the chips are down Spaniel always doubles down on Grayson.
Conrad and Victoria were positively crowing over their success with the Foundation. I loved the smug little nursery rhyme banter they exchanged, with Victoria saying, “The King sat in his counting house counting all his money,” and Conrad’s reply, “The queen sat in the parlor eating bread and boozing.” Their overconfidence was their weakness, because just next door Nolan and Emily plotted to use the Carrion program—capable of breaking through any firewall and never leaving a trace—to break into the Foundation’s bank account and spirit away all of Conrad and Victoria’s money once they’d placed it in there. I mean, things were looking really good for Emily and Nolan right now. He’d just mocked up a fake deed showing that the boat that dropped Jack off at the dock belongs to Kenny Ryan, to deflect attention from him. And now they were about to hit the Graysons in their most sensitive area: their pocketbooks.
But as soon as Nolan executed the program to begin the cyberheist, a green firewall popped up, looking all like a Matrix-style code waterfall, blocking their access. Yep, there’s another program out there even more powerful than Carrion. And right in the middle of it was a bird of prey with wings unfurled: the mark of The Falcon. Consider him the “Anonymous” the Revenge-verse. The Falcon was the legendary, but forever unidentified, hacker who the Graysons hired to alter their digital footprint and incriminate David Clarke for their own crimes all those years ago. He’s still active, working for Conrad and Victoria again, and making it impossible for Nolan to steal their money. This is the man who, perhaps more than anyone, made it possible for her father to take the fall. And this season just found its White-Haired Man. Taking him down will be another way of avenging her father and sticking it to the Graysons, or as Emily said about The Falcon to close the episode, “Let’s go hunting.”
What did you guys think of “Illumination”? Did you think it was a step in the right direction? Are Eli and The Falcon the villains we’ve been waiting for throughout all of Season 2? And is anyone else as excited as me that Mason Treadwell is returning next week? Wouldn’t it be awesome if he were The Falcon?
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: Richard Foreman/ABC]