Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: NBC’s new plants-growing-on-buildings show Revolution is not Lost. Yes, they share J.J. Abrams as a producer, and they’re both big mysterious dramas with a multi-racial(ish) cast, but there is no way that Revolution is going to take the crown of “the new Lost” that everyone has been squabbling over since Jack first woke up on that beach with a flaming plane. This is both a good thing and a bad thing, but mostly a bad thing.
The problem with Revolution is that it doesn’t seem to have the singularity of vision that Lost did. It’s 15 years in the future after a mysterious event knocked out all the electricity in the entire world. Now the world is run by warlords and the country is divided into fighting republics. There was one scientist who knew why the power went out, and maybe how to fix it, but he’s dead after a member of the militia accidentally shot him. Now his daughter Charlie, his dangerous brother Miles, his second wife Maggie, and the fat funny guy Aaron are off to ostensibly save his son Danny from the authority, but you know they’ll end up having to figure out this whole mess with the energy. Also, Charlie and Danny’s mom plays into this, and there is a black lady who lives on a farm with a working computer, and a hunky member of the militia who may or may not want to do it with Charlie (oh, he totally does). But to what end?
That is the problem with Revolution that was built into Lost. It’s much easier for us to imagine crashing into an island in the middle of the ocean. We’ve all been on planes and we all worried that they would crash, but we never really worry about losing the world’s power. Maybe in the middle of the thunderstorm, but not when we’re mid-email on our Blackberries. And the conceit of the island drew all these different people together and gave them a natural goal: surviving to try to get back home. It’s from there that all the mysteries spring.
On Revolution, we have all these characters flung to the four winds and not much of a reason to care about them. We don’t know what their motives are or how they’re going to play into this future that we know nothing about. The show really needs to get us to know more about these people and to give us a reason to care about their successes or failures. Right now, we’re at zilch.
But the show does have a lot going for it. The premise is interesting and exciting, and the cliffhanger ending with the working computer definitely makes me want to hang around for more. But the premise is also the show’s Achilles heel. There has been a lot of care to think about what the world would be like in the future, and it tries so hard to get everything right that the things it gets wrong seem so glaring. They live in a world without much of anything, where front yards on a cul de sac have been planted over with corn… but why is the pavement in the street turned to soil? They have a hard time getting water, but why are candles so easy to replenish and plentiful?
And the sets. We need to talk about the sets, because for some reason (maybe it’s the “natural” lighting used to make this world without power) they look like the chintzy back lots of a ’50s melodrama. I don’t mean that in a good way. Yes, there are some great action sequences, but when they unfold in something that looks like it was made for an eight grade production of Brigadoon, it’s not really helping.
Revolution has heaps of promise, a few interesting characters, and a new world that many will want to explore and inhabit. It just needs to figure out a way to get all their characters pushing toward the same thing, and to give us enough answers so that we can become emotionally invested on its own terms. Until it can do that, we’ll just keep comparing it to Lost. Yes, it may be a little lost, but Revolution is no Lost.
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[Photo Credit: Bob Mahoney/NBC]