A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot in the spring and the production of episodes for the regular season: a writing/producing team is hired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics begin to rear their ugly heads. The results can include changes to tone, pace, casting, and even story. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.’
REVOLUTION: Monday 10PM on NBC
Previously… on REVOLUTION: The lights went off. In fact, all electricity abruptly went dead 15 years ago. Now the cities are overrun and society is controlled by evil militias under the command of warlords, most notably Monroe (David Lyons). Our heroine is Charlie Matheson (Tracy Spiridakos), whose father Ben (Tim Guinee) was murdered in the pilot–although still present in flashbacks–by militia Captain Neville (Giancarlo Esposito), who also took Charlie’s brother Danny (Graham Rogers) captive. Before dying, Ben told Charlie to find her uncle Miles (Billy Burke), a burnt-out samurai type who reluctantly agrees to help his niece and her ragtag group, which includes doctor Maggie (Anna Lise Phillips) and former Google executive Aaron (Zak Orth), in whose care Ben has entrusted a necklace with a thumb drive hidden in it. There’s also Nate (JD Pardo), a militia member who’s stalking Miles, but has feelings for Charlie. The pilot saved its 2 big reveals for its final scenes. Charlie’s mother Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell) isn’t just alive, she’s apparently working with Monroe and the militia. And–you’ll never guess–there is electricity out there, with at least some working computers in the hands of the resistance.
Episode 2: As viewers of Terra Nova and other purportedly epic television series have come to learn, networks spend a lot more on shooting pilots than they can afford for regular season episodes. The second episode of REVOLUTION, written by series creator Eric Kripke and directed by Charles Beeson, was a far cry visually from the Jon Favreau-directed pilot. Mostly we followed various groups as they pursued other groups. Charlie and her band were tracking Danny, but then Miles decided he had to find another ex-soldier he knew, Nora (Daniella Alonso), so he struck out on his own to find her… except that Charlie decided to follow him. Then Maggie and Aaron, who were supposed to stay put, went in search of Grace (Maria Howell), the woman with the computer. Add Nate following Charlie and Neville on the way to Monroe, and it was practically a non-musical version of Into the Woods.
Not much was accomplished or learned along the way. Charlie, we were reminded, is a determined teen in the mold of Katniss Everdeen (Spiridakos, sadly, is no Jennifer Lawrence). She, Miles and Nora all out-toughed each other for a while, until Charlie proved herself by killing a couple of vicious militia prison guards. Since there’s no high-tech around, the show feels more like a western than sci-fi, with much excitement over the sight of a working gun. The script, as with the pilot, left its big moments for the last couple of scenes, as we discovered that someone named Randall appears to be bad news for Grace, and that while Rachel may be part of Monroe’s entourage, it seems like she’s not one of the bad guys after all.
Revolution simply isn’t very compelling so far. The characters aren’t even as well drawn as those in Falling Skies (which it greatly resembles), and so far there’s no forward motion to the story, just a lot of circling about. The question of what caused the blackout isn’t all that fascinating, and it feels like the show revealed the existence of electricity too soon. The premiere, launched against preseason competition, did extremely well last week, but it’s hard to believe that the series will hold up unless it can start delivering more interesting and surprising storylines. The last word a show this indebted to other postapocalyptic adventures should invoke is “revolution,” because at this point, it’s another installment of a very old and familiar regime.