Revolution: Catching Up and Breaking It Down

Spunky heroine, hunky love interest with Daddy issues. Check.

Spunky heroine, hunky love interest with Daddy issues. Check.

One of NBC’s bright spots this season has been the futuristic drama Revolution, which imagines a life fifteen years in the future when the power has gone out – and never come back. It did well enough in the ratings to get a second season pick up, which is about as rare for NBC at this point as a sighting of the sacred White Buffalo.

The mid-season break – a hearty three months gone from screens – seemed a huge gamble. Would people remember every detail of the show, with its large cast, numerous mysteries, and ongoing mythology? It was a risk, and when Revolution came back to decent numbers, it seemed like a good one.

Unfortunately, the past few episodes have pointed to some issues which need to be fixed before the freshman series moves on to its all-important second season.

The characters are not the main problem at this point – what they’re doing is. From the tortured Miles – military man turned violent Militia General turned reluctant hero – to the equally tormented Rachel – scientist, mother, reason the world is dark – the heroic side of this story is ripe with folks you want to follow through the war. Will young heroine Charlie keep any semblance of innocence or humanity? Will she and Jason – the boy literally from the other side of the tracks – manage to keep their spark of tender romance alive amid the craziness? Nora, Aaron, and the collection of folks they encounter – anyone making it to the next round?

The big boost for Revolution is two fantastic villains. Thanks to their excellent use of flashbacks, we get to know the men Sebastian Monroe and Tom Neville were before the blackout. The comparison between the sidekick and the coward – and the murderous men they’ve become – makes a slam dunk case for “power corrupts.” Both men have been betrayed, both men have betrayed in return, and collected body counts that are high even in a time of war. And you just can’t stop watching them.

Miles is a fantastic character - he doesn't have to use a sword to be interesting.

Miles is a fantastic character – he doesn’t have to use a sword to be interesting.

So with this amazing cast of characters, why the sudden slow down?

While we’ve been getting tons of revelations, they aren’t as tightly delivered as the first half of the season. They’ve also been delivered in the middle of explosions and drama, which makes the impact a little less intense.

We’ve discovered that Miles and Monroe shared a girlfriend, and that Monroe is the father of her son. This was delivered in the middle of a loud, intense episode, where we met Annie, watched some flashbacks of her with both men, and then saw her die in Miles’ arms. The emotional gut punch was lost amid the chaos, and since we only met Annie once, it was hard to feel her death that deeply. Was she a nice person or did she play two men against each other?  Compare that to Maggie, Charlie’s stepmother, whose death early in the series was heartbreaking and meaningful, because we got to know her and what she represented.

It also seems like a very soap opera plot to throw into the mix. Monroe is busy trying to kill Miles, defeat the Rebels, keep his power, lose his mind, and now he has to find his heretofore unknown son. Let’s take a guess on how long before the kid ends up under Miles’ wing… Do we really want Monroe to take time out of his busy schedule of being a Grade A villain to go searching for his kid?

Speaking of soap opera plots: are we really going to have to watch Tom Neville, fabulous complex bad guy, spend any time at all trying to break up Jason and Charlie? No, no, no. What happened to his potential power grab from Monroe? That’s interesting, as is his complicated relationship with his son. Don’t muck it up with a plot taken directly from General Hospital.

Odd couple Rachel and Aaron bring us closer to the Tower.

Odd couple Rachel and Aaron bring us closer to the Tower.

As Rachel and Aaron attempt to reach the Tower and turn the power back on, we’ve been thrown another curve ball. What exactly is that murderous thing that exists on another floor of the massive installation, and why is it ripping people apart in elevators? Do we have a “Smoke Monster” (Lost shout out!) in the midst? Why am I suddenly feeling Super Soldiers Gone Wrong (Buffy shout out!) for season two? “Yet another enemy” seems like overkill, particularly as we are sure to meet the folks in the dreaded Texas territory soon.

As all the journeys converge in the Tower, we see a lot of things spinning larger and larger. When managing a genre show, the trick is to keep the focus on the characters and how they’re navigating this fantastic world, whether it’s outer space or a future Earth. The relationships are what keep viewers engaged. Kripke should know this. He created Supernatural! To throw everything into a crazy complicated soup – which means less time for the little moments between characters – is just begging viewers to get confused and switch the channel.

Human moments make the explosions mean something - stop forgetting that Revolution!

Human moments make the explosions mean something – stop forgetting that Revolution!

Revolution might want to reign it in before things get out of control. The constant explosions and violence without character moments and connections weaken every episode. A dramatic revelation doesn’t have much impact if you don’t have time to process it. The first half of the season was about establishing connections; thinking you can push those aside for another round of machine gun fire is a sure way to end up like many other genre shows that started off strong.

Come on Kripke – you know this!


Catch up with Revolution on Amazon Instant Video.

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