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Maybe We Should Be Afraid of the Dark

December 6, 2012
by

Emerging from the ashes of last year’s television season (which saw the birth and subsequent death of such gems as Pan Am, Good Christian Bitches a.k.a. GCB, BFF, The Playboy Club, I Hate My Teenage Daughter and a reboot of Charlie’s Angels) Eric Kripke’s Revolution is fighting to prove that it is in fact worth watching.

Produced by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions (perhaps best known for its acclaimed ABC series Lost) Revolution is a part of a much larger post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian trend that has spawned, for example, The Hunger Games series and The Walking Dead. It seems that we just can’t help but be fascinated by the idea of our own sticky end.

The Main Cast of “Revolution”

The premise of this series is quite simple: one evening, there is an inexplicable blackout; the power grid shuts down in its entirety. Fifteen years later everyone is strangely clean and plump and there are two factions seeking to find an end to the darkness. There are the warlords and their militia–in the series we focus on one, General Monroe (played by David Lyons) who has seized control of much of the northeast, renamed quite appropriately the “Monroe Republic”– and the rebels who want to restore much of North America to it’s former glory: The United States. In the middle is everyone else, who initially struggled to survive following the initial die-off, but have since adapted to a way of life sans electricity.

A cul-de-sac transformed. Image courtesy Entertainment Weekly.

Society has been reverted to an archaic version of itself yet simultaneously transformed. In case viewers could not discern that for themselves, during the title sequence “evolution” flashes for a moment before the “r” preceding it shows up. Subtly does not seem to be the strong suit of major television networks. The audience is not allowed to figure things out for themselves but are instead made aware of everything; there are no nuances, it is all a little too straightforward. Unlike the case with Abrams’ Lost, we are not even given time to ask questions before the answers are handed out. There are these pendants, for instance, that can restore power for a brief moment. Rather than slowly coming to realize the true role that they play, we are told explicitly through not-so-clever dialogue so that we can get to the show’s true purpose: flashy action scenes that are dispersed quite evenly (almost formulaically) throughout every episode.

At each episode’s beginning, we are reminded of the shows premise (just in case we have suffered some traumatic brain injury): “We lived in an electric world. We relied on it for everything. And then the power went out. Everything stopped working. We weren’t prepared. Fear and confusion led to panic. The lucky ones made it out of the cities. The government collapsed. Militias took over, controlling the food supply and stockpiling weapons. We still don’t know why the power went out. But we’re hopeful that someone will come and light the way.” Once would have been enough when the show premiered, but it seems that this is the only effective way to set the show’s mood.

Because all technology reliant on electrical current is completely useless and firearms have been declared illegal, everyone has turned to more archetypal weaponry: it is not uncommon to have a sword sheath on one’s belt or to be rather skilled with a crossbow or a bow and arrow. The archery craze of 2012 seems to be getting even bigger. Even battery cells that function because of a series of chemical reactions do not work, but for the purpose of the plot it seems that this is something that must be overlooked. If not for this ignorance, then every time someone feels threatened he or she would not feel inclined to whip out his or her machete or katana. Miles Matheson (played by Billy Burke) is the poster-boy for the show’s sword fights, unnecessarily whipping out his blade even if the crunching of leaves in the distance turns out to be nothing more than a squirrel foraging for acorns.

Literally anything will be done to return society to the power grid with which we are all too familiar, but for what purpose? On one side it is all about national and eventually worldwide domination and on the other it is all about restoration through guerilla warfare (“for the greater good” is the unofficial motto of the rebellion). While the warlord Monroe is obviously evil, it cannot be said that the rebels are necessarily good. It is only from the aforementioned middle that our heroes emerge, fighting for something greater than power: love and a sense of consistency. The only person for whom we truly root is Matheson’s niece Charlie (played by Canadian newcomer Tracy Spiridakos) and even then there are times at which we do not feel like being on her side.

From Left to Right: Zak Orth, Anna Lise Phillips, Tracy Spiridakos, Billy Burke

Charlie is a little too headstrong, a little overzealous.While she is in her late teens and would not/should not know any better, one would think that in this post-apocalyptic world a girl would pause to mull things over. While she does have good intentions honoring her thought-to-be-dead mother’s (played by Elizabeth Mitchell) wish to protect her younger brother (played by Graham Rogers) , her angst and want to fight is far too conventional. Other than backstory revealed in flashbacks, there are very few surprises; all we really want is to be surprised.

In order for this show to work, there must be a greater sense of mystery to match the suspense and big-budget action. It could go either way: slowly fading into nothingness or shifting and becoming a truly remarkable show. That being said, the show does have an extremely interesting premise that is sure to make us all contemplate what would happen were the lights to go out. For now, it’s just a matter of continuing to tune in and see if things make a move in the right direction.

Revolution airs on Mondays at 10:00pm (Eastern Time).

 

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