As you may or may not know, I am a big fan of the CW’s show Supernatural. I have been watching the show first run since the beginning of the Fourth Season, and writing reviews for the episodes since Season Five’s “99 Problems”. When I heard that Eric Kripke, Creator of Supernatural and Show Runner for Seasons One through Five, had a new show he was working on with J.J. Abrams (Alias, Lost, Fringe) and Jon Favreau (Iron Man), I knew I had to check it out. But I was scared. The whole “blackout” concept sounded very Dark Angel/Jericho to me. And both of those shows only got two seasons. The show was also slated for NBC. If it wasn’t for the fact that J.J. and Jon are also on the Executive Producer list, I’d be certain that this show was slated for early cancelation. Maybe I should just hold my hands up in a defensive manner and back away slowly…
I’m not going to lie to you, I have some serious questions as far as the plot was concerned. Do we have that negative an outlook on today’s society that we believe that loss of modern conveniences would cripple us so horribly that society would completely crumble? And how is it that NOTHING works? I mean we have solar power technology, and why did batteries stop working? So how can I put my cynical, logic and fact based mind at ease on this?
I think that one of the things I really like about this is that after showing the “Blackout” (very cool special effects by the way that never would have been possible if strapped with a CW show sized budget), we leap ahead 15 years. Anyone that would have died because of the lack of refrigeration for their insulin, or the need for an air machine, etc. would already be gone. Even if batteries did work, they would be long dead by now, and the unavailability of electricity means no mass production of any kind. We are back to knitting our own clothes and growing our own food. We are no longer safe leaving our respective residences alone because of highwaymen and militia keep the peace by collecting “protection” taxes.
The thing is, step back and look at your life. How much do we rely on modern technology? Here I am, in the public library which has lighting and climate control, downloading an episode of Warehouse 13 and Dr. Who via their wifi, checking my phone compulsively every few minutes for a new text or email, tweet or facebook update. I got a retouch on my ScarJo red hair last night and before leaving for the library I had a couple cups of my processed Taster’s Choice instant coffee…Oh, and I’m not borrowing books from the library today, I’m borrowing a couple back seasons of Dr. Who. Hell, this library doesn’t even keep a card catalogue anymore, everything is online. The only green thing I’ve done all day is walk the two miles here. Eric, your show seems quite timely, actually.
The pilot episode, written by Eric Kripke himself, shows all the makings of the exposition we know he hates from his talks about the pilot of Supernatural. But that being said, we immediately understand that Ben knows something about what is happening. He has evidently told his wife Rachel, but what in fact it is will not be explained. In this set up, it seems Kripke was trying a little take on keeping “it” mysterious to the watcher, but giving us enough to understand what is important–that everything is shutting off. How this has happened is still a mystery. The beginning set up is brief, but well done. I can’t mention the cool thorough effects enough. The way everything went off in a wave, it looks like a time thing. At a precise moment, all the power went off, but the effect is like a wave, as since the Earth is rotating, it is as each spot hits that moment exactly. Before that moment though, we see Rachel’s house and that Charlie has this transfixed expression staring at the television. She doesn’t even want to interrupt her viewing of Bugs Bunny long enough to talk to her grandmother for a second on the phone. We see her little brother Danny also in the television room as well, playing a video game on an iPad. Both children are completely ignoring human contact giving their undivided attention to these gadgets.
The episode was directed by Jon Favreau who directed both Iron Man movies. Because of the need to learn the various characters and the situation, there were areas that seemed a little slow to me. The action scenes were intense though. The scene at Ben’s house when the militia comes and then the scene where the militia comes for Miles in Chicago are amazing. After the episode ended, I said that Eric, J.J. and Jon had me at sword and crossbow fight…
Of course some watchers I have talked to wondered why they weren’t fighting with guns. After all, guns go back to the 1700s Revolutionary period. We do, however, know from the dialogue that it is illegal to own guns. Most likely the militia went through homes and seized weapons. Clearly the Bill of Rights is no longer in effect. It looks like they would have to forge their own swords and make their own bows to hunt and crossbows for protection. Actually, this is perfectly fine with me. I grew up with G.I. Joe cartoons and my favorite weapon was Scarlett’s crossbow.
After the Blackout, we jump forward 15 years. No more power. Cities are dangerous. Militias are in control. Ben Matheson (Tim Guinee) has a nice little enclave set up with gardens, friends, etc. He comes out of the house sipping coffee. The militia comes in, lead by Captain Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito), not for taxes this time, but for Ben and his brother Miles (Billy Burke). Miles isn’t there, but the militia wants to take Ben anyway to General Sebastian “Bass” Monroe (David Lyons). Danny (Graham Rogers), Ben’s son, doesn’t want the militia to take him, and pulls out a crossbow. All the settlers start pulling weapons of one kind or another when Ben gets shot by the militia. Ben’s daughter Charlie had gone out after an argument to be alone among her memories of their past life. Because of this, she was not there for the altercation. The militia takes Danny instead as leverage for Miles. When the trouble started, Ben gave something to Aaron (Zak Orth) to get to his brother. After the militia leaves with Danny, Charlie returns. As he is dying, Ben tells Charlie she has to find his brother Miles in Chicago. Charlie, her father’s girlfriend, Maggie and Aaron take off to find Miles.
Kripke has said that this is a show about family–the family you are born into and the family you choose. This theme is seen throughout the episode. Ben calls his brother to tell him everything is shutting off. There is this township/compound that Ben had set up with friends. Charlie very obviously is unwilling to accept her father’s girlfriend. She is also very “tunnel vision” on saving her brother. Danny gets help from Grace (Maria Howell) at the farm and given the inhaler that was her son’s. Miles wants to talk to Charlie alone because she is his niece. Charlie goes back to the hotel to help Miles fight the militia. The list goes on.
Looking up in IMDB, I am very intrigued as to how this show is going to continue going forward. At some point after the pilot was filmed but before the series started shooting the decision was made to downplay the role of Ben’s girlfriend and town doctor, Maggie. It seems she will only be in a few episodes. Maggie isn’t even a listed character on the IMDB board for Revolution. I noticed, however, that Tim Guinee and Elizabeth Mitchell (Rachel) are series regulars…but how is that possible if they are dead? Either they aren’t really dead or J.J.’s flashbacks will come largely into play….so maybe a little character summary is in order:
Charlotte “Charlie” Matheson: You may or may not recognize Tracy as coma Callie in Supernatural’s “Bedtime Stories” episode. She reminds me of Olivia on Fringe with her dry, guarded demeanor. That is just her personality to outsiders though. Charlie seems to care about family first and foremost. She is intrigued with life the way it was before the Backout, and has her Jedi lunchbox full of old keepsakes–an iPod Nano, postcards of various cities, etc. She is believably strong and has heart. I’m excited to see strong female role model material here. It also makes me wonder why they chose to get rid of the female doctor, Maggie. I really liked her character in the pilot and hope they have someone equally awesome lined up. Maybe Rachel isn’t dead after all? She is in the promotional pictures…guess we will have to wait and watch!
Rachel Matheson: I will admit that when the comment was made that she “died out there” I was a bit upset. Elizabeth’s Julia was one of the characters I really liked on “Lost” and was excited to see her in the pilot. Hearing that she died made me feel like I felt when I saw the pilot episode of Lost and was convinced that J.J. pulled a Greg and that she would only be in that brief beginning. I can’t wait to see how her character comes into play. We know that Charlie gets her wanderlust and her strength from Rachel, so I’m excited to see how she gets worked in.
Miles Matheson: Miles and his swagger are Ben’s brother who is ex military and knows General Monroe from their life before the Blackout. There is most certainly a story there. We don’t know it yet. According to Aaron, the only thing that Ben has said about his brother is that he is really good at killing things. I repeat: He is REALLY GOOD at killing things. That sword fight at the end in the hotel had me all kinds of fantasizing about him. At the end Miles agrees to go with Charlie to find her brother, and the games have begun.
Aaron Pittman: The friend of Ben’s who was given that little pendant gadget. He worked for Google back in the day and is very rich. Not that money means anything anymore. As he said, he’d give it all away for a role of Charmin. Seems like Aaron will be that quirky personality we are used to having in J.J. Abrams shows.
Grace: Among the most mysterious characters we have seen is Grace. She helps Danny, but then gives him up. We know she had a son who is dead now. I was surprised she gave up Danny so easily to the militia. Apparently though, she didn’t have a choice–there was something bigger she was hiding. And what is that pendant thing anyway? Is it some kind of wifi version of power? If all the lights come back on we have the idea that the military would take over completely…so why did the power go out? Was it somehow to save us from something? At the end when Grace pulls out that pendant thing, the lights come on and we see the computer screen, I seriously had tingles. There is more going on here than we know!
Nate (JD Pardo): He’s listed as a series regular, so this Taylor Launter look alike is going to be around a while. And what is his story? We can easily chalk up him saving Charlie from getting raped on the plane to him needing her to find Miles, but when he saved her from the militia? Could this be a star crossed lovers scenario?
I was seriously afraid that all my questions and my need for a logic that makes sense would keep me from liking this show, but that pilot episode made me eager to find out where it is going. It has even given me a new t.v. boyfriend!
Episode 1.02, “Chained Heat” airs Monday at 10pm, 9c. I definitely recommend checking it out. If you have not yet seen the pilot episode, you can purchase it for free from iTunes. Oh, and I forgot to mention–”Chained Heat” guest stars C. Thomas Howell.
Screencaps taken from http://scifi.grande-caps.net