Revolution (2012) – Episodes 1-5 – Starring Billy Burke, Tracy Spiridakos, Giancarlo Esposito, Zak Orth, David Lyons, Anna Lise Phillips, Graham Rogers, J. D. Pardo, Tim Guinee, Daniella Alonso, and Elizabeth Mitchell.
First off, this isn’t the first review of REVOLUTION that’s been posted to Atomic Anxiety. A couple weeks ago, Eric Woodard was nice enough to let me post his thoughts on the show. If you haven’t given that review a read, I suggest you go take a look. Eric administers a scientific beatdown on the show, so I’ve decided to take a look at all the non-science stuff. The basic approach to this review is to ignore the science and just look at the narrative and see if it makes a difference.
It really doesn’t.
Forget the science, REVOLUTION is a show full of dumb people and that’s an unforgivable mistake. If the show wants to play loose with physics and the natural laws of the universe, I can look past that if the actual story was good (if you can get past rubber suited monsters, you can get past pretty much anything), but REVOLUTION does not tell a good story.
Or, rather, it does tell a good story, it just tells it with so many stupid characters, and tells it in such a clumsy manner that it’s like watching the world’s longest train crash.
Now, you may be wondering how I managed to make it through the first five episodes if I’m clearly not a fan of the show. Fair question. I keep watching because the story is intriguing. There are glimpses here of a show I could get into, and seemingly every episode has a scene or two where REVOLUTION starts gaining some traction before the wheels slip and the show slides back into Dummyville. I like this idea of a post-apocalyptic America where nature is reclaiming the world, and mini kingdoms have sprouted up. I like the idea of a ragtag group trying to fight back. I like that characters die. And I really like Giancarlo Esposito.
The biggest problem with the show, however, is it’s primary protagonist, Charlie Matheson (Tracy Spiridakos). Now, I don’t mean to disparage Ms. Spiridakos’ acting ability; she’s not great but she’s certainly qualified to make this show work if she had a character to work with, but she doesn’t. Charlie is one of the most annoying lead characters I’ve experienced on TV. She’s so bad it’s like she’s wandered in from a CBS sitcom. Or New Girl. All she does is whine and b*tch and moan and make weepy eyes and toss around moral judgments.
I know people have called her out for being a Katniss knock-off, but the problem isn’t that she’s a young woman with a bow and arrow in a post-apocalyptic setting and that somehow makes all of REVOLUTION come off as NBC making a cash grab for some of the Hunger Games money. No, the problem is that she makes everyone else around her stupid.
REVOLUTION is just chock full of dumb people. Captain Tom Neville (Esposito) isn’t dumb, but the people that surround Charlie are all made dumber by her mere presence. Why a group of adults continually lets itself get jerked around by a kid is beyond me. Miles (Billy Burke) is this bad-ass killer who used to be in the militia – heck, he used to run the militia – but he’s turned his back on that crowd and was living/running a bar in Chicago. And then this damn kid Charlie walks into his life, tells him her father (and his brother) are dead and the bad guys have captured her brother and Miles has to play reluctant rebel.
But he’s a killer. He’s a bad-ass. People fear him for what he did setting up and training Monroe’s goons …
And he lets this kid stop him from killing a bounty hunter just because she doesn’t yet know the world is a big bad scary place.
This is the same world, I remind you, that just came to her doorstep and killed her dad and kidnapped her brother. Yeah, that world is the one that Charlie doesn’t want her uncle – the guy her dad told her to go find – to hurt it.
Time and again, Charlie is here to keep REVOLUTION from being a show for adults. The YA-ness of Charlie is something the writers don’t know how to handle and so what we get is a bunch of adults acting stupid to bow to her whims. If REVOLUTION was properly set up as a battle between Miles on one side and Neville on the other, we’d have something here worth watching, I think. Burke doesn’t give the performance Esposito does, but Esposito isn’t weighed down by having to deal with Charlie.
The difference between the two characters demonstrates how REVOLUTION gets it half-right. Neville has Charlie’s brother Danny (Graham Rogers) as his prisoner, but it’s Danny who has to change to keep up with Neville, while on the other side it’s Miles who has to change to Charlie’s way of thinking. It’s maddening.
REVOLUTION is also incredibly repetitive. Issues that are seemingly resolved one episode are back the next, whether it’s Charlie’s morality or Miles threatening to quit. I mean, honestly, REVOLUTION is the kind of nonsense where we have to sit through Miles telling everyone he’s going to leave because … wait for it … it’s safer for everyone else if he goes away, when we all know he’s going to stick around. Maddening. I think we get the exact same scene between Monroe (David Lyons) and Charlie’s mom (Elizabeth Mitchell) 18 times in 5 episodes where he comes into the luxurious room he’s keeping her prisoner in, threatens her, and she looks sad and says no.
And why is everyone living in building that were built in the 19th century?
REVOLUTION is the kind of insipidness where you know which character Miles has come to save simply by finding the most attractive person among the prisoners. Wait, what? You mean he’s here to save the hot woman who looks like she showered two seconds ago instead of the ragged dude next to her? Seriously? I never saw that coming. Never. It’s also the kind of show that completely wastes its guest stars. C. Thomas Howell shows up just to get killed. Jeff Fahey shows up just to act a little weird than stab one of the regulars.
Like Lost, REVOLUTION spends some time doing the flashback thing, and while that got a bit annoying early on, by the fifth episode it … yeah, it’s still annoying. They don’t overdo it but I do think the show’s creators think it’s more clever than it actually is. We can figure out that the Militia guy who’s following them is Neville’s son long before the big reveal. When a show gives you that, “A-ha! Aren’t we clever?!?!” moment and you’re all, “Figured it out 45 minutes ago,” then the show has issues.
For now, REVOLUTION stays in the Hulu queue, if for no other reason than I can look up from whatever else I’m doing when Esposito is on the screen. I do give the show credit for moving forward, though, so I’m hopeful that Charlie is grown up after the botched rescue on her brother. She acts all tough and forward-looking at the end of the fifth episode, but whether this is a new shift or just something the next episode is going to ignore remains to be seen. At some point, however, REVOLUTION needs to decide exactly what it is and run with it. I think one of the things that sunk Terra Nova last year was that the show seemed to clearly want to be a cop show sent in Dinosaur Town, yet the producers kept forcing Jurassic Family Robinson on us.
It’s also not a good idea to have your main character be the most annoying character on the show.
Just tossing that out there.