Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 1, Episode 11 of NBC's "Revolution," titled "The Stand."
Four months later, "Revolution" is back. I was certainly anxious to see if the minds behind the show had been paying attention to what's working on other post-apocalyptic shows like "The Walking Dead" and "Falling Skies," because it was a show with great potential squandered through much of its first half. Characters walking across desolate landscapes for weeks on end, facing the occasional conflict, doesn't make for very exciting television. This isn't "The Road," and "Revolution" can't get away with that kind of bleakness.
It's the ugliness of man -- best personified by Giancarlo Esposito's Major Tom Neville -- that is at the heart of "Revolution." Sure, Monroe is the "big bad" of the drama, but Tom Neville is the viper in the pit. He's the devil you know and the devil who's perfectly willing to give his own son a beatdown for daring to show a conscience. Scenes like this show that "Revolution" is trying to get things right.
Tom's son, Jason, was always a bit of an odd character. He seemed to have an awkward crush on Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) and helped her from time to time, but he also kept betraying her to the militia and his own father with little explanation as to why he was flip-flopping. Finally, he chose a side and his character was immediately stronger for it. Not strong enough physically to be able to stand up to his father after he defied him, but stronger as a personality.
He even told Charlie that Tom was calling in an airstrike to take out the resistance headquarters. Charlie said she wasn't ready to accept him just yet, but it was only a matter of time before those two crazy kids are knocking boots! After all, this is television and there are certain expectations.
"Revolution" plays to those expectations a little too closely at times, making it more akin to a big popcorn summer action flick than an art house picture like "The Road." Danny's "boy-becomes-a-man hero" arc alone in this episode has been seen hundreds of times. But just because it's familiar, doesn't mean it can't resonate emotionally, and Danny's ultimate fate was an important one.
For 10 episodes, the focus of the story has been on saving Charlie's brother, Danny. Charlie didn't even know her mother Rachel was alive, so rescuing her as well was a bonus to be processed later. Poor Danny never really elevated beyond a plot device through the first half of this season. Just as he came into the show as a two-dimensional plot device, he went out as a cliche -- and still a plot device.
Rachel had another resource for limited power in a friend with another medallion. Despite him selling her out, Rachel still managed to get the cache of weapons, including a rocket launcher. As the dashing lead in this action adventure, Miles was going to fire the shot to take down Monroe's choppers, including the amplifier Rachel had built, but he got knocked back and lost his chance. Of course he did.
Danny rushed in to pick up the missile launcher and finish the job. Of course he did. He saved the day. And got shot. And then died. When that air strike arrived, Danny stepped up as a man. Charlie tried to talk him out of it, but he was determined to be his own man. And he died a man. He died a hero. As it should be. So that everyone else could get this plot moving.
All Charlie cared about for 10 episodes was saving Danny. Danny got the chance to serve the plot one last time as his death gave everyone the catalyst they needed to unite against a common enemy and give the show a new direction. Now they would go after Monroe for personal reasons. Do it for Danny! That's classic battle stuff right there.
One thing a long break like this can do is help a show's creators figure out what wasn't working and fix it. What wasn't working was a boring "Revolution." The word implies battles and action and tension, but viewers just weren't getting that. It's certainly not boring anymore.
With the focus away from rescuing Danny, Charlie and Rachel can work on their own relationship. That helicopter Monroe used to kill Danny? Rachel made that happen. That could put a real dampener on the happy mother-daughter reunion. Rachel certainly has a lot of guilt already for abandoning her kids all those years ago, and this only added to it.
"Revolution" needed to reset itself into a high-octane action series with real stakes and a sense of direction. In one hour, they seem to have done just that. But the pilot was pretty damned good, too, so we've been here before. Next week will show if they've figured things out, or if it will start to get off track again. Here's hoping!
- There were some convenient temporary devices to generate power this episode. I'm hoping this doesn't become a plot crutch in future episodes as the world without power is what makes it interesting still.
- "We're gonna kill him. You and me. For Danny." -- Charlie to Rachel (corny lines are classic lines, right?)
- "Don't ever come home again." -- Tom to Jason, in case the beating didn't get the message across.
- What was the powered device Rachel pulled out of Danny? What will she do with it now?
- What's Randall's ultimate goal, and how come both he and Tom come across as more menacing than Monroe?
- What's "The Tower" and what is Level 12? Desmond had better not be down there, brother!
- "I love you to the moon and back."
"Revolution" airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.