Wednesday, 17 October 2012

REVOLUTION, 1.5 – 'Soul Train'

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

written by Paul Grellong / directed by Jon Cassar

Another decent episode of Revolution—which has become this TV season's nicest surprise. That said, the writing was noticeably blunter in many ways; particularly the pre-blackout flashbacks to Neville (Giancarlo Esposito), where it was revealed he was once a mild-mannered salesman with a noisy teenage neighbour problem. I appreciate the idea that this post-apocalypse has changed people—or allowed them to indulge dark impulses or chase power—but the script was a bit heavy-handed with Neville's back-story; So the quiet family man, who took out his daily frustrations on a punch bag, only became a bad-ass when a neighbour was caught looting his home and almost beat him to death in front of his wife (24's Kim Raver) and son (J.D Pardo)? Okay, I guess. Esposito made it work because he's a fine actor, but it just felt too predictable to me. Better was the climax's surprise, where Neville's comrade Nate was revealed to be his grown-up son Jason from the episode's flashbacks—which, I'll be honest, I didn't see coming. But even if you did realise this, you can't disagree that's a great way to bring Nate/Jason closer to the drama.

Away from the entertaining-but-flawed flashbacks, this episode revolved around a plot to sabotage a steam train taking Neville and Danny (Graham Rogers) to the Monroe Republic's capital in Philadelphia, with Nora (Daniella Alonso) devising a plan to destroy it up with an ersatz bomb and the help of local Resistance bookworm Hutch (Lost's Jeff Fahey). A plan that belatedly complicated when Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) and Miles (Billy Burke) realised their brother/nephew Danny is to be transported on the doomed train.

I must say I'm growing to really enjoy how the loss of electricity has sent America back to the days of the Old West—with this week's emphasis on a steam train even leading to a rescue mission on horseback. "Soul Train" also gave us some notable first meetings for many characters; with Charlie coming face-to-face with her brother's abductor Neville, and Neville himself getting reacquainted with deserter Miles at knifepoint. A map on Monroe's (David Lyons) table also revealed that his Republic sits alongside the Georgia Federation and the Plains Nation (see below-right), so already Revolution is preparing us for the world to widen in future episodes/seasons.

Overall, I haven't been paying too much attention to what other people think about Revolution until now, but yesterday I read a few reviews online and was surprised to see it's attracting a fair amount of negativity. Most of the common complaints don't seem very fair to me. This is a fairly ambitious sci-fi drama with a large ensemble, asking audiences to buy into a far-fetched idea, telling a story that includes multiple flashbacks... and considering we're only at the fifth episode, there's been more progression any other pretender to Lost's throne. It has real pace, it's not withholding so much information that it becomes annoying (the existence of the power-restoring pendant is made known to Monroe here, and we're told there are a dozen in total), and its surprises have been well deployed so far. Even if you may have predicted a few more than me.

Revolution's nothing special, but it's an entertaining genre show that's doing more right than wrong at an early stage... and I can forgive many of its problems because nothing about it feels too calculated or cynical. I just hope the writers start to strengthen Spiridakos' character, because Charlie's currently killing every scene she's in unless it's an action-orientated one. It's also fair to say episodes don't integrate flashbacks too well, which will hopefully get better over time.

15 October 2012 / NBC