Sep 5, 2013

[TV] Revolution: Season 1

Is it just me, or is J.J. Abrahms executive producer for like every other show on US television these days? I mean seriously, it feels like everywhere I turn, I'm bound to come across yet another show that has his name attached to it. I can understand why this might be desireable for a show since a good name helps launch just about anything. But at the same time, it sorta cheapens what he represents. And this is considering that I do like J.J. Abrams.

Revolution is another such TV show, but at least it wasn't too bad. I can't say the same for Alcatraz, which was another J.J. Abrams related project that sorta bombed and didn't get renewed. And I don't exactly feel bad that it didn't continue.

Revolution does show promise, but it does have a fair number of issues with it as well. But in a network television landscape that is rather starved for decent science fiction, I suppose beggars can't be choosers. So I'm making the most of this show while it's still on the air.

Plus it has Elizabeth Mitchell. And she's a bit more like her old Juliet self in this show versus, well, the V reboot. And yes, she will always be Juliet to me.

Synopsis: Revolution is a science fiction drama TV series created by Eric Kripke for NBC. The series has been renewed for a second season.

It has been 15 years since all electricity around the world ceased to work. Whether batteries, generators or whatever, nothing electrical works now. The cause of this global blackout is unclear but of course its effects on humanity have been severe. The initial blackout alone caused planes to fall out of the sky, trains to crash and other such accident. Now things have become almost feudal with various communities surviving as smaller towns and no true government able to rule as they once did.

Our story initially focused on the Matheson family - Ben (Tim Guinee), Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) and Danny (Graham Rogers). They're doing well enough without Ben's wife, Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell) in an area that was once Chicago. However the forces of the Monroe Militia arrive and kill Ben and forcibly take Danny. But before Ben died, he passed on a pendant to Aaron (Zak Orth), a former Google executive who was working as a teacher in the community. Charlie immediately swears to rescue Danny and Aaron ends up coming with her. They eventually connect with Miles (Billy Burke), Ben's brother and former US Marine Corps sergeant.

The core premise is a rather interesting one, although admittedly the whole global crisis concept does have me thinking about FlashForward, yet another failed science fiction TV series. But you have to agree with the similarities - an event with global effects with no immediate clue as to its origins. FlashForward just made sure to portray the events immediately after the crisis. Here, people just sort of moved on and tried to form new lives in their dystopian, powerless world. But we still get to see what had come before with a generous amount of flashbacks.

This first season was certainly seeded with a fair number of mysteries to reveal whether about the overall meta-plot, the origins of the blackout or the characters themselves. That shows some fairly ambitious writing in terms of seeding the story with all these possible tidbits and hoping that the audience appreciates how they eventually come to light. I liked the complexity it certainly added to the show and helped to ensure more character-driven storytelling.

However there does seem to be overall pacing issues that has one episode being rather cool and the next one feeling oddly long. There's a delicate balance that needs to be struck between the flashbacks, the character reveals and the overall plot. And that's not something that the show has proven to be good at on a consistent basis. It doesn't help things along that we regularly get to see what the "enemy" camp is doing, which means even more plots to keep track of. And given how some of their ideas are actually rather stupid, seeing both sides of the story doesn't exactly result in something to look forward to as a viewer.

Burke is a pretty competent lead, although he's practically a Batman character given his general skills with combat. The character of Charlie feels too much like a stereotype though - a tough young woman who is handy with a bow. I mean seriously, is that the only concept that comes to mind when telling a story with a dystopian setting? I think we could see a lot more.

The writers certainly have a general plan for the show, but at times we get distracted with fluff episodes that have us going to weird angles. The episode "Sex and Drugs" comes to mind given the characters get waylaid trying to find antibiotics. This leads to a rather lousy story that includes an awkward duel to the death. We really didn't need that one.

On the whole, Revolution isn't quite that bad, but it also does not have a wider range of appeal that will help ensure its continued broadcast life. I'll still watch the second season but I don't imagine people tuning into the show in droves unless they do something to radically change things. At the very least, the writers have shown that they have no qualms about killing off named characters, which is probably a major point in their favor. For now, this first season only gets 3 seemingly magic pendants out of a possible 5.

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