I’ve always been an advocate for giving new TV shows, especially serialized sci-fi, time to find their footing. In these type of shows, often times simple people have been thrust into extraordinary circumstances, and characters are built on how they react to such incidents. It takes many adventures to truly get a grasp of the character, and often times that’s just scratching the surface. Heck, we’re in season eight of Supernatural and I’m still trying to figure out Sam and Dean Winchester.
It’s because of that belief that I have been extremely patient with Revolution. It’s very hard not to use Eric Kripke’s other series, Supernatural in comparison. That show got off to a slow and rough start as well. Chances are I would have given up after “Bugs” if I didn’t have two seasons of DVDs in front of me. So one very bad episode, like last night’s “Sex and Drugs” will not deter me, but this series is now on some very shaky ground.
Here’s just some of the lingering issues I’ve had with this series that “Sex and Drugs” brought out with an exclamation point:
1. What’s up with the “Crazy Ass Homicidal Bastard” of the week?
In “Sex and Drugs” yet again, we were introduced to a new character who was a little insane, didn’t mind killing people for useless reasons other than amusement, and trapped our intrepid survivors in the “no win” scenario. Oh, that’s so original except for the dude with the dogs that rigged the arrow trap to Charlie’s head (oh why did it miss?). And Jeff Fahey’s rebel leader Hutch from last week who had no problem stabbing Nora and attempting to kill everyone on the train. There’s also Mark Pellegrino as the heartless and homicidal commanding officer who threw everyone in harms way. What about the militia guy that kept beating on prisoner Danny until he found some balls?
Todd Stashwick, who is actually a great actor, didn’t do half bad with the total pile of crap thrown at him in “Sex and Drugs.” But still, the gun catch 22? One has to shoot the other? Seriously? Oh come on. Then Aaron shoots him and suddenly all his men just casually let him and Nora go, like they found a heart or something? The title of the episode should have been “Deus Ex Machina.”
2. Why are guest actors outshining the regular actors?
I know there have been some very legitimate complaints against how bad the acting is by Tracy Spiridakos, JD Pardo, and Graham Rogers (major kudos to Maureen Ryan for mentioning the name for these three, the Abercrombies), but let’s look beyond the painfully obvious.
A lot is going into building the stories of the guest characters, and they’re finding great actors to play them. As a result, we are learning literally nothing about the characters we’re supposed to be invested, and it’s kind of killing our interest in them. I know that Charlie doesn’t have much of a background, but geez, Miles seems to have a never ending reservoir of past mysteries. He was the freaking general of the militia. They aren’t running with that story too wildly, are they? How is he still walking the earth without crazies coming after him every second? We also got to see a bit of Aaron’s story finally last night, but what has he been doing since the blackout? He commits a cowardly act of abandoning his wife 15 years ago and it’s only now he’s getting courage to stand up and fight? We really don’t know anything about this guy other than he got rich off Google. The question now is, do we want to know more? I’m not sure about that. Why is he here?
Billy Burke makes a great Miles, but what have we seen from him other than the predictable winning every single hand to hand combat fight no matter how many people come after him? How can this guy not come up with a clever way to beat Drexel and his men instead of sending his niece into certain death? (There’s that no win thing again). How did this guy best a ton of people single handedly in the pilot but couldn’t handle this crew? His character, and the strengths this actor brings, has been woefully underutilized. Ditto for Elizabeth Mitchell, who aside from her flashbacks in “Chained Heat,” saves an entire episode just by sitting in a fancy room doing nothing but resisting. I can’t comment on Nora, who looks like she’d be a great character if the writers would give her something like, I don’t know, a personality.
The only main character that is really getting a proper backstory is Captain (now Major) Tom. We’re still wondering how he went from pacifist insurance agent to sadistic psychopath soldier, and that’s the only back story I’m currently following with some investment. I loved the bombshell that “Nate” is his son. Giancarlo Esposito’s casting is a major coup for this show. Anyone who’s watched “Breaking Bad” knows that no one does chilling psycho better.
The most memorable acting performance of the series so far for me though came from Mark Pellegrino. We know very little about his character other than he was saved by Miles and Sebastian and has risen up in the ranks to commanding officer in the Militia. Quite frankly, given his performance, that’s all I needed to know. I heard Mark will be back, but unless they put him side by side with Miles and they become “never say die” heroes together, I don’t think future guest appearances are going to save this show.
3. Where’s the hope?
I sat in a room with Eric Kripke at Comic Con and heard him tell me this is a show of hope and family. The new intro also eludes for “Finding someone to light the way.” Stories of hope usually result in warm fuzzies at the end and, well, a feeling of hope. You know, through the breath taking adventures the likeable and relatable characters at the end of the episode live for another week, going on the with sentiment, “The world sucks but at least we have each other.” Supernatural excels at this better than any other series I’ve seen. So far in Revolution, the world just sucks.
No character has any redeeming qualities, and that’s making it hard for us to root for anyone. Sebastian Monroe, the leader of the Monroe Republic, is an unstable nut job. Why? Wouldn’t it have been better if he turned out to be a good guy who is fighting insurmountable odds? Miles Matheson is a jerk that isn’t doing much either. The rebels are no better than the militia. Everyone they meet is a maniac and wants to kill. I’m just so lost in the crap I can’t tell who the good guys are. Moral ambiguity is a common theme in Kripke’s stories and I’ve liked that, but the lines are so blurred between both sides in “Revolution” there’s no distinction. That type of ambiguity should only exist with some characters, not everyone. When you are actually rooting each week for the villains to off the main characters, something is getting lost in the translation.
4. Believability is still a problem.
There are two main issues with this concept that nag the crap out of me every time I watch.
First, I would think by now, 15 years later, someone would have found some alternate forms of energy. If anything, the show could have tried to nip that notion in the bud in say episode two by having some expert say, “I tried, but nothing works,” and that person list reasons as to why. If bullets can still be fired, if fire can still be generated through sparks, if the sun still shines, then energy exists. It doesn’t take jet fuel geniuses to harvest that energy, but hey, where did the jet fuel geniuses go anyway?
Second, I’m especially curious why 15 years later everyone are savages and no real progress in the world has been made. Even cavemen were getting along better than this in the ice age. I just have a hard time accepting that a sense of community in most places has been lost. Absolutely everywhere has become “Every man for himself.” That’s one mighty cynical view of the world. Anyone who watched Firefly even saw a war ravaged world that still had remote communities getting by and ran into people who wanted to do good. We haven’t seen any of that yet in Revolution and by now, there should have been some.
Third, does anyone have a sense of humor? Going back to Supernatural even in the most horrific of circumstances there was some humor and smiles. It has been 15 years. Why is everyone so mopey? The adjustment period is long over. There haven’t even been a few wisecracks.
Truth be told, I want desperately to see Revolution succeed. I like the concept, and I adore the people behind the show. That want has been the driver of a lot of my patience. Though I used the show for comparison, I definitely don’t expect Revolution to become Supernatural, even if there are some similarities. I believe there are others like me that are sticking with the show just because we’re rooting for it. So, the question becomes, how long does someone like me wait before being completely deterred? While I’m very patient and I’m willing to ride this out for a while, I’m also very disappointed in the sloppy execution so far. I’m hoping they’ll find a way to pull it together soon and live up to the potential.
Hope. There’s that word again. I often recite the quote, “Where there’s life there’s hope.” Revolution can start heading in the right direction by sticking to that simple concept and meaning it. Only then can all that wrong in their world begin to be right.