New TV: Revolution

The Fall TV season started this week. I’m a big TV buff; I regularly watch 20+ hours of scripted television each week. It’s a lot of time to invest in sitting around, so I don’t do it lightly. Every season (0ften twice a season), I check out a few new shows to see if they can earn a spot in my rotation. This week, it was a couple of early series premieres: NBC’s Revolution, and FOX’s The Mob Doctor. Given the hype around the Abrams/Favreau show, I figured I should do a little write-up on Revolution.

Within a minute of Carson Daily’s lead-in (he’s on The Voice, I guess), the premise of the show was delivered – a world without technology. It wasn’t a classic cold open like LOST; to which this show has been compared. It wasn’t even a soft-cold open like the children narrating the start of Falling Skies. We got a quick picture of today, and the abrupt sense at which ‘today’ became 15 years post-techno-apocalypse (known as “the blackout”). The rest of the pilot was about the first steps into unraveling the mystery of the blackout.

The premise is clear: a world without technology. Everybody loves a post-apocalypse story (see: The Walking Dead). Some of the scenes feel straight out of Discovery Channel’s Life After People series. Since it’s a J.J. Abrams and Jon Favreau thing, I’ll just go with it. Plus, they claim to have answers to the big arc already. I’ve even heard that J.J. Abrams himself stated they’d make the big reveal before the end of the first season. Part of me wants to believe this, but part of me doesn’t think the show could last if they took away the magic. After all, would we have kept watching LOST if we knew that the island was a time traveling magic cork controlled by some immortal brothers, one of whom is a smoke monster with no name, and everyone simply died for no reason other than… because magic cork?

The characters are hit-or-miss. Gus Fring, whom I have the utmost respect for, got another henchman role. He was the Magic Mirror on Once Upon A Time. I just couldn’t watch him as Wicked Queen’s sniveling yes-man. It was too far from the cold ruthlessness of his role as meth kingpin in Breaking Bad. The same goes for his mid-ranking military role in the Monroe Republic.

Tim Guinee is (presumably) a scientist with the key to unlocking the mystery. Side note: Tim Guinee has been in pretty much every TV show since the mid 80’s. He’s like the white, less famous, TV actor version of Samuel L. Jackson. I suspect we’ll see many, many flashbacks of him and his pre-blackout wife (the lovely Elizabeth Mitchell) in future episodes. Both he and his wife seemed to know about the impending blackout.

Tracy Spiridakos was actually very watchable. It’s not just because she’s easy on the eyes. Her character has a solid motivation, and acts towards it. Need to get my idiot brother back from the militia? Okay, better go find uncle Myles, who is “good at killing people.” Saved twice by militia teenage heartthrob guy? Better trust him. She’s probably the only character acting on her immediate needs, and not guarding some future plot point around the blackout mystery. That makes her relatively relateable.

Then there’s the doctor, the Google millionaire, the techno-resistance algebra teacher (she probably wasn’t really a teacher pre-blackout), and a few other characters. A 43 minute episode really isn’t enough time to get to know everyone. The Google millionaire, however, is an interesting paradox. While I feel like he’ll be pivotal on the whole “technology” front of the blackout arc, he seems entirely out of place. Even 15 years post-blackout, he carries himself like he was just on Reddit an hour ago. That makes him really stand out. Hopefully they can “dirty him up” a bit in future episodes.

Some scientific qualms: Why did the airplanes, after having lost power, still have their wing lights on? Then, why did they fall straight down, instead of on a ballistic trajectory? Why do fire, candles, gunpowder, and the sun still work, but internal combustion doesn’t? I’m not gonna bother questioning the magic USB locket. Not yet, at least.

Magic USB Thing

So that’s my take on Revolution. It’s getting a really split reaction on the rest of the internet. While the ratings were excellent, the critics weren’t as kind. Personally, I’ll keep watching. I’m investing in the promise of a good mystery. Plus, I need to know more about the magic USB locket, and I really want to believe that the writers already have the big reveal written-in before the end of the first season. Now, if I could only be so certain that the show will actually survive to the end of the season.

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