Wednesday, May 22, 2013

This Revolution Should Not Be Televised

If you were a first time watcher of NBC's Revolution this week (and given the dwindling ratings, that's unlikely), you may have been confused. 

"I thought they had no power? No one seems to act like it."

Indeed, with all the helicopters, cars, automatic weapons, computer screens, glowing pendants, you'd think at least one of these characters or the people they meet who spent the last decade-plus in the dark would be fascinated and perhaps a bit hopeful by the newfound presence of electricity. But like the writers of the show, they seem to have stopped caring much about the concept of a world without power after the first few episodes. 

However, this is not a show undone by the lack of devotion to its core concept. It's a show undone by shoddy internal logic and woefully insufficient character building. This is a show where characters do mind-numbingly stupid things just to advance the plot. Where a flashback seemingly designed to inform a character's backstory (ala LOST) lasts about a minute and is largely cliched and pointless (the big baddie's backstory thus far? He once slept with his former best friend Miles's girlfriend. Ooh.)

Fine actors are absolutely wasted in their parts. The biggest example--besides Juliet from LOST seeming angrier to be on this disaster with each episode--was the show's use of Mark Pellegrino (Jacob from Lost). When he first appears, it's as little more than a background character... But his acting ability instantly marks him as someone more capable than the actor he shares scenes with, the one-dimensional Monroe. When he finally does get significant lines in the script, it's to explain that he's "one of Monroe's oldest and closest friends," something not even hinted at in the previous episodes. Pellegrino is so good he actually sells it with the hurt, wounded look in his eyes. But no matter. Spoiler Alert: He's killed a few scenes later, illustrating something that we already know: Monroe's a paranoid crazy man who kills pretty much anyone he's ever had a one on one conversation with. 

That brings up another crucial failing of the show. Monroe is so one-dimensional that you question why anyone would follow his lead. In one episode, he orders the townspeople to be rounded up and locked inside a building, which he then orders to be set on fire. Mark Pellegrino briefly questions this, but no one seems to want to stop this lunacy. Are they all just as crazy as Monroe? What is it about the guy that inspires his followers? Couldn't anybody else do his job better? The guy has ELECTRICITY for goodness sakes, and instead of rebuilding his territory and giving the power to his people, instead uses it to ineffectually pilot helicopters that are no good at targeting anything but extras and redshirts with efficiency. Do you know what would happen if the Monroe republic was the only place with electric light, heat, tv, Internet, etc? The other countries would surrender to Monroe immediately. Their people would demand it, in order to access the technology. Instead, Monroe treats it like a toy. And not even an important toy. The number of pendants and generators that have been easily slipped out of his camp must number in the hundreds at this point. 

That's another thing. Juliet from Lost and the-random-scientist-we-forgot-about that was shot in this most recent episode (another good actor given little to do and dispatched this week) both are able to put together these portable electric amplifiers pretty easily. WHY AREN'T THEY DOING THIS? Why didn't they start doing it from minute one of the blackout? They could have sold these things and made billions. Or given them to the Georgia federation and Governor Ben Affleck in California (the show's best moment). Heck, why even make the trek to "The Tower" at all?? (The Tower, obstensibly, has the ability to turn the nanobots off and restore power everywhere) Just build a million of those generator thingys and it becomes a moot point.
 In this last episode, the characters all find themselves in a contrived "who-done-it?" plot at an airfield in the middle of nowhere. Despite knowing their final destination would be out of range of their gas tank, they don't bring extra fuel. At this abandoned airfield, characters WE DIDN'T EVEN KNOW WERE ON THE HELICOPTER start dying in gruesome ways. Someone is killing them. Guess who?

No, seriously, guess who? They story briefly becomes interesting, because the fact is, everybody except for Charlie and Miles could be the killer. Nora's coming down from hallucinogenic drugs after being tortured for no apparent reason (seriously, how hard is it to find Miles? Monroe bumps into him every other episode), Neville's an established villain who's tried to kill everybody multiple times, his son was offered some shady job by a Monroe spy, the scientist-we-forgot-about was just torturing Nora a few scenes back, and Hudson... well, I guess he's mad about losing his wife, but he's apparently okay enough to joke about it.

How does this crew figure out who the murderer is? Do they set a clever trap? Analyze the scene and evaluate the clues (Clue was the title of this episode)? No. The scientist-we-don't-remember sees that the knife used to kill the guys was manufactured in Maryland, and Hudson happened to be in Annapolis a few days ago. How this proves anything is beside the point, and it doesn't really matter, because Hudson shoots and kills the scientist before attempting to kill Miles. He's shot by Neville's son, and Neville seems kind of proud. It's a heartwarmer.

The AvClub recap commenters weigh in: 

"So I don't get how the knife's origin proves saying..."Hey, this was made in China...who's been in China recently."

"And why on earth are people making knives? There must be a thousands of knives lying around from before the collapse that would be of far better quality than could be made without electricity."
"The knife was clearly manufactured, i.e pre-power outage, unless they've adapted steam power to again enable mass production of uniform, interchangeable parts, which would be interesting if only the show's creators gave even a single thought to creating a believable, consistent world!"
All valid points.
"Monroe just blew up Miles' last campsite, so how would Nora [tortured in a windowless room for 21 days] even know where he'd go next?"
" instead of just shooting Miles in the head at any opportune moment in Georgia, Hudson concocts an elaborate scheme to strand everyone including himself in the middle of nowhere and pick them off one by one. Assuming he succeeds, how exactly is he going to get word to Monroe's people with enough evidence to get his wife back?"
So true.
Is there any saving this thing? Can it be more than a vehicle for hate-watching? 

Sure. Kill all the characters, refocus the show on a mysterious island, and make a plane crash happen. Rename the show Lost and hire a writing staff that knows how to make believable characters.

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