NBC has let the pilot for their new J.J. Abrams-produced series "Revolution" (filmed in Atlanta!) hang around on the internet for weeks now, which is a dangerous prospect anyway but even more so given how the pilot seems to be turning more people off of the show the longer it hangs around without resolution. While the first episodes of brand-new shows are usually a terrible way to truly judge whether a series will be good or not, the game is much harder for series looking to gain a foothold among the broadcast networks, who are quick to ax under-performing series whether critically acclaimed or not (few more so than NBC, whose quickness on the trigger has lead to protests over series like "Friday Night Lights" and "Community," series that make the network look good but don't apparently meet its profit point).
NBC seems to believe a great deal in "Revolution," but whether they should or if we should is difficult to gauge. The pilot episode hit upon everything that makes for compelling TV — a great hook (a world suddenly without electricity), a mystery (why did the power go off? What are these little flash drives and what do they mean for the future?) and a cast so good looking I had to keep questioning whether the series was on NBC or the CW. But it's exactly these expected devices that makes "Revolution" seem more boilerplate than, well, very revolutionary or interesting. Hit the jump for the highs and lows of the first episode, and why it may be worth sticking around with the series for at least a few more weeks.
The most puzzling thing about "Revolution" is not the little flash drives or how everyone's teeth are still so straight and white in a world without braces, but how a show that threw everything but the kitchen sink into its first episode could still be so boring. It's cold open felt more like a short-term gimmick, illustrating how our gadgets have turned us into zombies. The lights go out, and then what? A time-jump fifteen years in the future, where an entire generation has grown up without the joys of cat videos on YouTube. We're told in a voiceover that governments have fallen, militias have risen, and while some people have taken to a kind of agrarian utopian existence, things seem to have regressed more or less to the Middle Ages, plus guns (so maybe The Hunger Games meets "Game of Thrones"). Instead of dwelling much on how life has changed though (or the nitty gritty of how people are getting by, which would have been really interesting), we're thrown immediately into the fray of violence that sets off a journey that must surely be the main thrust of the first season — the quest to find Uncle Miles (Billy Burke), last wish of a dying father (Tim Guinee).
Turns out, it only takes about a day to walk to Chicago from wherever it is our three protagonists were holed up (they being Charlotte — "Charlie," naturally — the impulsive and idealistic young one played by Tracy Spiridakos, Maggie, the wise stand-in mother with a few tricks up her sleeve played by Anna Lise Phillips who doesn't even get a credit on IMDB, and Aaron, the former Google tycoon played by Zak Orth who seems so far to exist primarily as comic relief). It's also pretty amazing that even though "the cities are where you go to die," everything seems to be ok there, maybe a little rough, but no more so than any given Turkish market. The three — plus new friend Nate (JD Pardo), whose main purpose seems to be reminding us that hot people should be together — traipse into the first building they see, which happens to be where Aaron got married (no further explanation there), and, lo, who is tending bar? Uncle Miles! Wow, the future is so full of coincidence!
Here is where, I'm guessing, that most viewers' eyes started to glaze over. The hook was great, if rushed, but the whirlwind afterwards felt oddly trite. It turns out, like there was any doubt, that Nate is actually working for the militia (but already has conflicted feelings about Charlie), and eventually surly Uncle Miles gets won over to his niece's side after he slaughtered nine militia men at the suddenly empty bar. Then off they go, this ragtag bunch of misfits. How will they ever survive!?
The high point among this questionable offering — and there is one — is most assuredly Giancarlo Esposito as Captain Tom Neville. Esposito is most recently a veteran of AMC's exceptional series "Breaking Bad," and his acting as well as the inherent complexity of his character, is already easily the most interesting and compelling aspect of "Revolution." For you, Gus, I will stick around.
As for the rest of it, what we know so far in the series is that there are people who know why the lights went out — did they control it? Did they make it happen? — and who still have access to power themselves. Also, the most powerful militia in the Chicago area is run by a former friend of Miles', Monroe (David Lyons), who is looking for this power source and, by extension, Miles, his family, and our ragtag bunch of heroes. Despite the questionable nature of the pilot, the series seems worth sticking with, in the hopes it breaks out of some of its Scriptwriting 101 dialogue and wooden acting and starts really giving us something to get excited about. As such, I'll be recapping the next two weeks as well, so stay tuned.
Musings and Miscellanea:
— Didn't see any scenery particularly Atlanta-ish besides the quarry. The rest of the series was filmed elsewhere though, so that will be it for local spotting!
— So the militia checked out Grace's (Maria Howell) house but didn't bother breaking down the heavily fortified door? Isn't the first place you would look for suspicious things? And why not keep Danny in there?
— I was sad they already killed off Ben / Tim Guinee, who I like (from "The Good Wife"), but surely Elizabeth Mitchell's character isn't really dead, too, right? If this show really wants to be like "Lost," no one will stay dead for long (although both of them are listed as being in the first six episodes so, apparently I shouldn't get too upset).
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