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By Carl Stoffers · June 7, 2013
NBC’s post-apocalyptic, dystopian drama Revolution concluded its first season with an episode chock full of action, violence and conflict. The show premiered in September 2012 and was touted as a can’t-miss based on superstars Jon Favreau and J.J. Abrams being tagged as executive producers, and it has performed well enough that NBC has ordered a second season to begin next fall. It takes place in a world that has been without electricity for 15 years and features a hero, Miles (Billy Burke) who reluctantly gets involved with his idealistic niece, Charlie’s (Tracy Spiridakos), quest to rescue her kidnapped brother.
The idea behind Revolution is original enough for primetime television that it piques the attention of a viewer tired of the same “cops and robbers” clichés. Unfortunately, when the curtain is pulled back, Revolution is revealed to be simply more of the same. Instead of using the show’s core premise—the world’s electricity has been cut by a mysterious government initiated plot—and focusing purely on the characters and their interaction as they struggle to survive, the show’s writers have frequently made this into an “action” program. It seems as if every time tension is created between any characters, an outburst of violence follows, short-circuiting what was developing between the two personalities. The action sequences come across as cheap and over-used and desensitize the viewer. The show becomes very predictable and artificial because of the unnecessarily common violence.
One of the bright spots of Revolution is the use of Giancarlo Esposito, who plays Major Tom Neville, a menacing, manipulative opportunist who begins as a simple henchman but develops into a major antagonist in the story. The character is written to mesh perfectly with Esposito’s smirking swagger, making Neville both frightening and endearing at times. The character’s human side is on display when he interacts with his son Jason (JD Pardo), who is an underling of Neville’s in the militia. Jason is conflicted throughout the series, and especially in the season finale, as his loyalty to his father is matched against his feelings for Charlie and his sense of right versus wrong. It is a plot line that works because of the smart writing and the sharp performances of the actors.
The conflict between Neville and his son is a welcome break from the other story lines, which feature efforts to turn the power back on by Charlie’s mother, Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell) and a rivalry with a score to be settled between Miles and General Sebastian Monroe (David Lyons), leader of the “Monroe Republic.” Both of these are stale, recycled plot lines that are interchangeable in virtually any genre and, when combined with Mitchell’s uninspired, stone-faced demeanor, place Revolution firmly in the camp of ordinary television. It almost feels as if the actors know how predictable the script is and have tailored their performances accordingly.
Overall, the season one finale summed up the previous 20-plus episodes of Revolution quite nicely. Hand-to-hand combat, shootouts, explosions, and death feature prominently. The problem is that there is enough complexity in the characters that all this violence isn’t really necessary if the writers cared to develop them. Unfortunately, they chose to take the easier route and go with the explosions.