'Revolution' Recap: The Power Outage Explained

Note: Do not read on if you have not yet seen Season 1, Episode 13 of NBC's "Revolution," titled "The Song Remains the Same."

This week, "Revolution" did something no one was probably expecting. In the thirteenth episode of the first season, they explained exactly what caused the blackout. What a refreshing change of pace for fans of serialized science fiction. It had begun to feel like "Lost" had broken the format, convincing writers that audiences wanted all of their questions unanswered for years on end.

When last week's "Revolution" ended with Rachel deciding to tell Aaron everything, it seemed obvious they were going to fake us out and have her tell Aaron without telling the viewing audience. But they didn't. Instead, she told him and us that the blackout was caused by a computer virus of sorts -- tiny machines the size of a virus.

They're pretty simple machines as well. "Two commands," Rachel told Aaron. "Absorb electricity and replicate." It was the latter command that apparently spiraled out of control.

And now, those tiny machines are in absolutely everything, including the air the characters are breathing.

I have to admit, I like this explanation. It's plausible in the way that good sci-fi can be, and it gives that glimmer of hope that there is a way to turn the power back on. If the nanomachines can't be shut down, then maybe they can be reprogrammed. Plus, it's nice to have that piece of the puzzle answered. What "Revolution" is proving for future shows is that it's still possible to entertain viewers even after they've gotten answers.

By the end of the hour -- after not killing Tom -- Rachel decided that she needed to even the playing field a bit. That meant going to "the tower" and seeing about getting the power turned back on. If Monroe is going to have power, then the rebels need to have power, too. So she decided to bring Aaron along with her -- and no one else. Yeah, this makes no sense at all. It felt like Frodo and Sam heading off to Mordor alone to save Middle Earth by casting the One Ring into the fires of Mordor. Charlie wanted to go with her, but she said no. How about some other archer, or anyone else who can be a better physical asset than poor, sweet Aaron.

And why is Rachel so certain that she's never going to come back -- did she tell Aaron that part, by the way? She told Charlie she'll never see her again, but that seems unlikely as they're both stars in the show. Or is Elizabeth Mitchell going to be a one-season-and-out star like Sean Bean in "Game of Thrones"? Even Frodo and Sam were reunited with the rest of the fellowship at the end of the story.

Actually, I'm getting a little worried about Giancarlo Esposito as well. With Randall Flynn on board as Monroe's new right-hand man, I'd been wondering what would become of Tom Neville. But while I was expecting some sort of power play for control of the Monroe Republic, there appears to be a very different plan in store for Tom.

Fans of Giancarlo Esposito's powerful and menacing performance in "Breaking Bad" were probably a little off-put by some of his sniveling in this episode, but there were glimpses of his terrifying Gus Fring persona. Tom had gotten himself captured -- while listening to Lionel Richie, no less -- during a routine mission. The rebels didn't expect to catch a big fish like him, and he certainly didn't expect to go down like that. Even worse, he got played by his own son, Jason.

That should buy Jason some street cred with Miles and the rebels. With that scene, Jason hopefully closed the chapter on his need to please daddy. It was a beautifully written and played vignette, as it certainly seemed that Jason had cowed to his father's warnings about Jason's mother and decided to free his father. It made it that much more satisfying when the truth was revealed.

Nevertheless, Rachel was probably right in wanting to kill Tom while they had the chance. He's caused nothing but pain, and he will continue to do so. Now though, Tom has much bigger problems: After being tricked into revealing the location of their bomb schematics and supplies to the rebels, he knows Monroe is going to come after him. And Monroe knows that Tom's weakness is his wife Julia.

And so, Tom facilitated that brutal escape so he could make his way back into Monroe's stronghold and get his wife out. (The rebel base and Monroe compound must be pretty close for him to cover that ground so quickly.) Julia didn't seem too keen to give up their luxurious lives in exchange for hiding in the woods and eating tree bark, but she's been ever-loyal to her husband up until this point. What's exciting as a viewer is that we have no idea what is in store for Tom and Julia.

I've talked about the fairly obvious character arcs on the show that reeked of cliche and lazy writing -- Tom's capture arc was yet another one -- so I'm pleased to see an uncertain direction for him. Granted, they've still got time to screw it up, but for now, I can't wait to see what Tom's next move is. Plus, I find myself fearing that Julia will betray him to feed her own ambitions. Theirs is certainly a twisted union.

All in all, it was a fairly quiet episode, focusing more on character moments. I was very glad to see the spotlight shine on Tom, as well as the return of his son, Jason. Now that he and Charlie are both playing rebel soldiers, how long before they're going at it like Miles and Rachel were this week?

Random Observations/Annoyances:
  • Lionel Richie, Tom? Really?
  • "What's a boy band," Jason to Charlie. I wish there were more humorous moments like these. Little nods for the fans at home who are still tethered to their smartphones.
  • Flynn certainly enjoyed putting Tom in his place with a scathing employee review. He said, "What I am most of all is a manager. I assess employees strengths and weaknesses, analyze their records. And your record demonstrates a staggering level of incompetence. You got Ben Matheson killed, let Miles Matheson slip through your fingers. If you worked for me, I'd fire you."
  • "Even though he was a dick about it, Flynn was kind of right about Tom, wasn't he?
  • "For the record, Aaron is totally Sam in my "Lord of the Rings" comparison above.

"Revolution" airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

NBC's New Shows