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Revenge: Series Premiere

By Andrea Pilar Nevil · September 1, 2011

“An eye for an eye makes the world go blind”. Well, maybe Gandhi had the right idea because from my experience as a petty teenage girl, there’s no way revenge ends well. Maybe eyes are gouged out, boyfriends are stolen, girls are cyber-bullied, and yet we can’t seem to resist themes of retribution in entertainment. With this in mind, Revenge, a new ABC show will definitely reach it’s target demographic with its ever-tired theme of vengeance combined with a Desperate Housewives zest for dissatisfied wealthy women.

Revenge tells the story of Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp), a calculating young woman who moves into a beachfront house in the Hamptons (boo hoo – my heart is bleeding already) with the hopes of exacting revenge upon those who wronged her father. The Graysons, an influential family next door, seem to be the targets of revenge (and botched plastic surgeries) with Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe) at the center. The episode begins with present time, a fancy celebration contrasting with a murder taking place on the beach. A flashback to six months prior reveals Emily’s childhood attachment to her new summer home and her true name: Amanda Clark.

As much as I wanted to love this show and care deeply about the vapid characters and their insanely rich lives, I just couldn’t. The character development was altogether shallow, and I cared even less about “Emily Thorne,” seeing that she could only manage to muster a singular (and laughable) expression (as if she was suffering from the pungent smell of burnt rubber) throughout the entire episode. Maintaining the same facial expression is slightly ridiculous considering she has various flashbacks of different emotional nature, but unfortunately, not one of them affects her differently from the other. And it is understood she has been hardened by the past, but we have no stake in her success or failure. The attempt to make us less apathetic to her loss may have been in the flashback sequence where her father is brutally arrested in front of her and her sibling, but without much explanation or emotional response from Emily, we are left only with exposition and no visceral reaction.

If they had only found a way to create a more original setting for Revenge, or at least a more innovative way to tell the age-old tale. Though we do adore watching the wealthy struggle with infidelity, death, excessively large bank accounts, and the consequences of selfish actions, this version seems tired even at the start. The husband cheating on his wife with her best friend and suffering from a heart episode while doing so thus insuring his wife finds out isn’t exactly a new twist. I may have seen the same scene in It’s Complicated (Alec Baldwin has a similar scare at a hotel) or Desperate Housewives when Bree’s husband suffers a near fatal heart attack while having sex with a prostitute. Yep. Seen it. And while it can be a satisfying twist if written with the correct humor or drama, Revenge leaves us high and dry. We aren’t even given the opportunity to bask in the destruction of the best friend Lydia (Amber Valleta) as Victoria Grayson defames her at a charity function because we have seen this scene all too many times and infinitely better-written.

Overall, although Revenge may be a great guilty pleasure for those of us who yearn to see Desperate Housewives meets Gossip Girl, the weakness in the character development as well as the lack of originality within the world created, may just be the deterring factor when I (or more importantly you) decide whether or not to stay tuned.