I want to put on hold for a second any Hunger Games references or cracks about what song they probably played at Danny’s funeral (DANNY BOY, obviously) and rap about something…not serious, really, but maybe less than completely sarcastic. Cool?
Everyday we hear and read and see and devour stories of all makes and models, running the gamut from an Onion news blurb to a 3-hour documentary and everything in-between (and beyond). Storytelling is the primary means by which we make sense of our world, our culture, ourselves — it’s the thing that helps us translate, to understand and process life in a way even objective facts can’t replicate.
But what connects us to story? What is it about the narratives we consume on a daily basis that keeps us so engaged? Opinions differ. Could be SPECTACLE — seeing that which we’d never seen before. RICH CHARACTERIZATION — a sense that we’re being given real characters with dramatic and psychological heft. A lot of other words fit the bill, too, all of which are in the index of every screenwriting guide at Barnes & Noble.
Ultimately you split hairs to try and break something big like “STORY” into its component parts. But I think, even acknowledging that, there is one thing we demand more than anything of our entertainment. Recognition. Seeing something of ourselves, or our histories, in these characters and plots to which we’re devoting our attention. Why do we like Star Wars? Laser battles and Leia metal bikinis, absolutely, but maybe more those intensely human moments we weren’t expecting — C-3PO trying to talk down to the far more competent R2D2; Han Solo, the ultimate cool dude, offering “I know” to Leia’s proclamation of love. We like The Great Gatsby not because we’ve experienced his financial status, but because we know the pains of a life in pursuit of something unobtainable. Woody Allen’s crisp dialogue would be nothing without the insecure (and relatable) characters speaking it; Jawswould suck if we didn’t empathize with Brody. On and on and on and on.
Revolution, to my mind, keeps butting up against this issue again and again. “We have sword fights and killer production values, all working in service of a totally EPIC story about a collapsed society trying to right itself. Sick, right?” I mean okay, sure! It’s not a bad show. It’s not the friggin’ FOLLOWING (read my recap!) But all the USB power pendants in the world can’t make me care about characters built of cardboard, or the dramatic situations they fall into that feel equally contrived. Only some sense of recognition can do that.
Maybe you’ll laugh, but it’s two small moments from last night’s episode that have me holding out hope for Revolution‘s end-of-season run, and whatever’s to come beyond. The first came as Neville, assigned to deliver a passel of diamonds to an old concrete factory, fired up Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” on his iPod. There’s so much to love in that moment. Lionel Richie, for starters — a great, not-totally-obvious music cue (as the show already did in their strange Zeppelin-soundtracked episode) that stands as something fun to listen to. But also the fact that Neville chose this, that it says something about his character. He could have picked a lot of different songs! Richie suggests a guy who — despite evidence to the contrary later in the episode — is not so far gone, not irredeemable. No one truly evil has ever loved Lionel Richie. (Then again, Hitler was an art fan.) There’s a sense of humor at play here. And you start wondering — you’ve just gotten power back after 15 years without it, without music. What song would you play. That’s recognition.
The next moment I won’t pretend is anything except a stupid little joke, but it was a good one. Jason, now a rebel soldier (just like his crush Charlie!), has just punched Miles in the face. Jason demands to see his father. Miles isn’t having any of it. “If you go anywhere near him? I will bash your little boy band face in.” Miles walks away, leaving Jason and Charlie to cogitate on this particularly agro comment. Instead: “what’s a boy band?” This show has a sense of humor after all! Nor, however, is it just a throwaway line. Realizing the young age of Charlie and Jason, you realize they wouldn’t know what a boy band is — that there are whole swaths of human history (recent and otherwise) of which they’d be totally unaware. We see ourselves in this situation making the same observation. And even for just a moment, Charlie and Jason don’t seem like the most boring, robotic teenagers in the world. It’s kind of beautiful!
OH RIGHT WHAT HAPPENED THIS EPISODE.
After the aforementioned Lionel Richie jam sesh, Neville’s militia convoy was blown up by the well-coordinated rebels, who then tied the unsinkable Captain up for questioning. His old boss, Miles, opened up his pouch of torture devices…but mostly just for show, since he was happier slapping Neville than going all Sayid with bamboo shoots or something. Rachel, on the other hand, just wanted to straight-up murder the guy for what he did (or allowed to happen) to Danny. “If we don’t kill him now, we may never get the chance,” she warned the NOT having-it Charlie. Did you guess these words would be prophetic? Nice job!
Neville did eventually escape, killing the rebel leader (a priest, no less!) on his way out the door and pretty much ruining any chance — for this season anyway — of reconciling with his rising rebel son. I say they’re not a compatible duo. Neville is far more comfortable with a gun than a crossbow, which seems to be Jason’s weapon of choice. “Sticks and stones versus nukes” noted new cast member Malik Yoba, a great name for my first prog rock album.
All of which, plot-wise, really just sets up the action for the weeks to come. Outgunned and out-powered, the rebels see that they need to do something to acquire their own power. As Rachel told Aaron last episode? That means hitting the “Tower,” stationed somewhere in the Plains Nations. Charlie, Miles, Nora, and Jason meanwhile are off to Atlanta, tracing the nuclear bomb they missed being sold into militia hands. Everyone’s got stuff to do! So let’s do it — and maybe as humanly as possible, because you guys did such a nice job in those two instances last night. Keep it up!
Follow Henning on Twitter @HenningFog
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