This has NO spoilers from the special episode preview, but an episode review will be released after the premiere, which is on 21/09/2012.
Produced by the maker of Lost and helmed by the director of Iron Man and scribed by the writer of Supernatural comes NBC’s new primetime show piece, Revolution, but is that enough to keep you watching when the power goes off?
When hearing about Revolution for the first time there was a lot of hyperbole about it being the brainchild of JJ Abrams (Lost, Fringe) and Jon Favreau (Iron Man) and Eric Kripke (Supernatural). It’s got be good, right? This is the big one. The series that would enthral, confuse and confound a generation, much like Lost did so perfectly and how Terra Nova did so dreadfully. Revolution is described as an adventure by some, while IMDB lists it as SCI-FI, and so here are a few observations of the special preview episode to help explain.
The premise is very thought-provoking and novel take on a post-apocalyptic world, even though there is a dearth of games (I Am Alive, Last of Us), TV shows (Falling Skies, FlashForward) and films (I Am Legend) that follow a similar concept. In Revolution, the world as we know it is drastically changed by a global event, in this case a massive electrical shortage, plunging the world into the dark ages once again and irrecoverably shutting the power off for good. Great concept, even if suspension of belief is a prerequisite. In true Abrams style, from the get go your assaulted with impossible to answer questions, which will cause inevitable debate on forums the world over.
The cinematic shots of desolate cities, buildings invaded by trees and roads submerged under newly formed lakes capture the devastation so vividly. It makes you feel sorry for the things that were lost and how hard life must be for the characters in this place. Yet looking at the humble village after the title credits makes you wonder if turning the power off for good was actually for good. Only time will tell, but it’s a fascinating question to ask. It’s a place akin to the Wild West, where bandits and lawlessness are kept in check by self-appointed militias, who tax people in return for protecting them. To own a firearm is a capital offense. Still, a tenuous society has emerged.
Premise can only get you so far, though. The characterisation is what really makes series successful and it is no different for Revolution. The show focuses on Charlie Matheson (played by newcomer Tracy Spiridakos) and her family as they try to survive the harsh reality of a world without cars, fridges or smartphones.
Although, primarily set fifteen years after the event, Revolution begins with Charlie as a young child zoning out in front of the TV while her younger brother plays games on a tablet. They are comfortably surrounded by all the standard mod cons just as the disastrous event unfolds. The opening scene is interesting as it raises the question that a) some people know what’s happening and b) that the blackout could possibly be intentional and not a natural phenomenon, maybe to counteract dependence on electronics or even climate change. Again, fantastic premise and one which people will want to explore.
However, it’s the characters that are going to drive this series and so here are some first impressions of the two main protagonists and brief description of the rest:
Charlie Matheson– Tough and strong teenager who is skilled with a crossbow (think Katniss from The Hunger Games not Bella from Twilight). Charlie is the main driver of the plot in this episode and judging by what happens so far she needs a lot of development to win people over. She comes across as driven to the point of being one-dimensional. Growing up in a village might explain why she is a bit too trusting, but in a world of cutthroats and bandits you’d expect her to be more cautious perhaps. Still, it’s refreshing to see the trend of strong female characters on the small screen continue. Casting an unknown worked well for Fringe and it does here too. I think that Tracy Spiridakos is definitely one to watch.
Miles Matheson (Billy Burke) – The Uncle to Charlie, an ex-soldier estranged for a long time from his brother Ben Matheson, who describes him as someone who is good at killing. He is meant to be the anti-hero. Much like Sawyer from Lost, his actions are shaped by self-interest and he is a reluctant Samaritan even when it comes to helping his family. He seems to have had the hardest experience in the intervening 15 years. Burke definitely has the comic chops to deadpan everything in front of him and the nuance to play the tortured soul full of regrets, but it is hard to imagine him as an ass-kicking, sword wielding action hero. The big action set piece was choreographed well, but left me in need of a bit more convincing. I still think of him as Bella’s Dad from Twilight.
And now for the rest (some of which may not be series regulars):
Danny Matheson (Graham Rogers) – The asthmatic, younger brother to Charlie. Of all the characters, he is the only one who visibly suffers because of no electricity. Everybody else seems almost content in this new way of life. The lack of accessible modern medication demonstrates that the world post-electricity is not such an idyllic paradise. His story arch could be very promising.
Ben (Tim Guinee) and Rachel Matheson (Elizabeth Mitchell) – They know all the answers (maybe) and you can expect a lot of flashbacks centred around Charlie’s parents to shed light on the aftermath of the blackout. Spending a big chunk of the series focusing on this time period should make it more dramatic. Screen time might be limited for these guys, but don’t be surprised to see them again and again as they are portrayed brilliantly by Guinee and Mitchell; great casting.
Aaron (Zach Orth) – Aaron, the ex-Google millionaire come school teacher, brings the comic relief to Revolution. Connected in some way to Ben and Rachel Matheson mysterious past he would definitely be the least likely to survive the end of the world, but somehow he did. It will be interesting to see how a guy whose knowledge base in computing with a huge fortune adapted to a world with no electricity or money.
John Neville (Giancarlo Esposito) – Playing the squad leader tasked with finding Miles and Ben, he exudes malice. Often smiling as he exploits his influence over people that get in his path. However, he comes across as a man just doing a job, a man wishing he didn’t have to do what he does. An insurance adjuster who becomes a Captain in the militia! He is already my favourite.
Nate (JD Pardo) – Of all the characters, Nate could be the one that viewers lambast. It is so clear he doesn’t belong in the wilds or villages, because he looks like he just came out of a spa. I have a feeling he is not going to last very long in the series. It is hard to pinpoint the exact problem with this character; maybe it is that he’s just not believable at all. Hopefully the next few episodes deal with it one way or the other.
Maggie (Anna Lise Phillips) – The village doctor who acts as a protector to the Matheson family. Not much is disclosed about her, but her actions suggest a ruthless survivor.
Grace (Maria Howell) – At first she appears to be a minor character, but there is definitely more to come from her. She acts the lonely hermit, but she is somehow connected to the Matheson’s.
Sebastian (David Lyons) – A former friend of Miles from their army days. A person glimpsed at briefly in the episode, but one that will affect the lives of many people with his actions and choices.
Characters Overall Rating:
If you’re expecting a sci-fi romp then be warned this is not (in my opinion) technically a sci-fi, but there some key sci-fi elements. Think of a Wild West future mixed with the plot of a survival adventure and you’ll get a closer description. Although I’m interested in seeing how the characters interact in the frontier-like landscape of 15 years later, what I really want to know is how people reacted to and were changed by the chaos resulting from the blackout. I want to find out how they survived, what the government did and so on. These conundrums are enough to keep me intrigued, but judging by the preview it is nowhere near the layered, multi-plot complexity of Lost. That’s not a condemnation, just a slight disappointment. Revolution doesn’t blow any fuses, but it shows enough promise to at least keep the lights on for a while longer.
If you’ve seen the preview or have an opinion on the casting please feel free to leave a comment. Are you looking forward to Revolution? Do you know why that locket is so important? Let us know below.
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