If you happened to have caught the title of last night’s episode — “The Children’s Crusade” — before it aired, in all likelihood you were able to guess the entirety of the plot and could skip the latest Revolution entirely. Congratulations on your bye week! The rest of us sat through an episode that was somehow more predictable than we’re used to, as well as a frustrating reminder of the show this might be if only the writers chose to focus on anything remotely interesting. Before you can say it, I know — I’m working on it myself, too.
Revolution, I think we can all agree, has one of the cooler premises of the fall (maybe the coolest) and perhaps since Lost, if we’re taking strictly about science-fiction(y) shows. A world without power, 15 years later, struggling to cope with the reality of the situation while glimmers of electric salvation appear to a select few? That’s awesome! There’s so much fascinating material to engage with under that umbrella. Why, then, focus your storytelling on magic pendants? On kidnapped children, none of whom we’ll ever see again?
Just over 10 years ago now, the first issue of Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s Y The Last Man hit comic store shelves. The series follows an unremarkable guy, Yorick Brown, navigating an essentially post-Apocalyptic world that just lost all its men. Yorick, as the title suggests, is the very last one. The overarching plot of the 60-issue series is pretty airtight (even if some would suggest the big answers are ultimately “unsatisfying”) but what defines Y‘s power is the episodic way it manages to explore every facet of its particular world. Revolution‘s environment is defined by its lack of electricity; Y‘s by its lack of men. And via a natural road-trip skeleton, Yorick and Co. see the ways in which that new order has affected every bit of society. What does religion, an intensely male-dominated pursuit in our world, look like without men? How might entertainment change? WHO WILL OPEN ALL THOSE TIGHTLY SEALED JARS? Every question is taken seriously.
We’ve seen Revolution try to tackle this at least a little bit, but seven episodes in I’m not sure it’s ever done so effectively. For as expressive as Zak Orth’s eyes might be, the characters just aren’t interesting. I mean, we care about Miles’ redemption (because we cared about Han Solo) and we’re not eager to see Danny die, which is as close as we’ll get to investing ourselves in him. But everyone remains an archetype — something no one in Y could be considered even pages into the first issue — and, more problematic for a BIG IDEAS show like this one, the world’s issues aren’t treated with much sophistication beyond “things are s**tty, huh?”
Last night’s problem: orphanages and child kidnapping are s**tty. Charlie et al stumble on a band of kids desperate to find their friend Peter (PAN?!) who’s just been taken by the Monroe Militia. “Where are your parents?” Charlie asks because you are of course required by TV law to ask this question, at which point the whole Children’s Crusade steps into the light. Wearing looks both wearied and determined, defiant and scared, they explain their plan to retrieve the kidnapped Peter. Charlie immediately volunteers Team Danny to help.
Back in Philly, Danny is straight chiiillllllling with Rachel/Mom, who isn’t much for breakfast conversation. Cheer up, Mom! You just reconnected with your son who you haven’t seen in for freaking ever. Monroe, all-business all the time, interrupts to talk POWER PENDANTS. He’s right now torturing a colleague of Rachel’s to get more information! (I think what I like most about Monroe is his shading as a character.) Flashbacks to several years before the Blackout, when Rachel worked with her husband, the late Ben, to build electricity-generating devices. Here’s the pendant for the first time, which actually shuts down electricity. A visiting Department of Defense rep senses some kind of military application, and offers a deal to Ben and Rachel’s fledgling startup. Rachel’s skeptical, but Ben counters. “In another month, we won’t be able to keep the lights on.” FORESHADOWING + IRONY.
Some wiener kids — a fat one, a Rue from The Hunger Games one, and a few others — tag along on the mission to free Peter (Pan). Miles leads them to a “conscription” facility where the Militia brainwashes/reprograms its new, mostly young recruits. How does he know about this place? Because he helped set it up, dammit, and it’s here that he’s going to atone for another sin of the past. Always making those amends, Miles! He and Charlie get into one of their now-classic Charlie-Miles standoffs about the merits of sending Charlie in to disrupt operations at the facility. “It’s too risky.” “I can handle it.” “You don’t know these people like I do.” “He’s my brother.” “We’re still talking about that?” “Pout.” “I don’t know why I even bother.” Long story short, Charlie’s quickly dressed in Militia cadet duds and ready to SABOTAGE all kinds of stuff.
“Reorientation” could have been one of those great, world-specific moments we know the show is capable of if only it digs deep but proves instead another boring scene with predictable pontificating. “This will be the greatest thing the world has ever seen!” says the jerkwad lieutenant to his conscripts, in what might as well be a speech about anything and not specifically a MILITIA THAT HAS RISEN UP IN THE WAKE OF A CATASTROPHIC WORLD-CHANGING BLACKOUT THAT FOREVER ALTERED THE RULES OF WHAT “SOCIETY” EVEN MEANS ANYMORE. A kid who tries to leave is savagely beaten, which I guess demonstrates the severity of this particular lieutenant as well as that of the Militia at large but more feels like dramatic flexing. Moments later Charlie gets into a fight for some reason and is punched in the face. Oh, and then she’s strapped down by Militia doctors and branded. Women, right?
Miles, meanwhile, has assembled his crack team of Lost Boys and Girls, Aaron, and the amazingly silent (and amazingly beautiful, never forget) Nora to take down the facility. They do this with relative ease! There’s a sword fight, because of course, and somehow Aaron gets separated with the fat kid and his pendant acts up which gives a nearby lighthouse electricity and Miles notices and demands to know what’s up and Charlie shish kabobs the jerkwad lieutenant (if there’s another episode about Charlie’s loss of innocence I’m GOING TO F**KING SCREAM) and the children all rejoice like Ewoks at the end of Return of the Jedi. There’s a lot to mention at the same time there’s absolutely nothing to unpack.
Back in Philly, Rachel has been struggling to reconcile her duty to the Rebellion (I think, but who knows, right?) with her allegiance to her son, who flashbacks reveal presented a complicated pregnancy. Her friend, The Doctor, has his daughter’s life threatened should he not cooperate with the pendant search. Neville means business! Basically: PENDANTS. Everybody wants them.
Including Aaron, who recounts to Miles his own experiences with the device Ben gave him as well as coming clean about that woman, Grace, and how she might be important toward retrieving all of them. At the EXACT SAME TIME, Grace is cornered by the Department of Defense guy who was all over everyone’s business in the flashbacks. The race is on to find the ten remaining pendants and save Danny and get back to Miles’ bar in Chicago before closing time! Can they do it?
Three episodes left in 2012 and HOOH BOY here we go.
[Image Credit: NBC]