Revenge recap – 1×19: ‘Absolution’

Courtesy of ABC via Seriable

After a questionable twist last week in which “on-top of everything” Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp) learned the shocking truth that the Graysons killed her father in prison, ‘Absolution’ slows things down to set up the season’s end game. So how did things end up?

Let’s bitch it out…

If I’m being honest, I have to admit that I’ve been a bit hot and cold on the show since its Fire & Ice engagement party back in ‘Chaos’. At the time, I ‘d hoped that the show had the cajones to kill off Daniel Grayson (Joshua Bowman) because it would be unexpected and shocking. Instead they killed off Tyler (Ashton Holmes) and whisked away Fauxmanda (Margarita Levieva) – effectively dispatching the two characters that brought a special quality (aka cray-cray) to the show. Now some may have found the mid-portion of the season to be too soapy, but one of the reasons I appreciated Tyler and Fauxmanda so much was because their presence brought ruin upon Emily’s carefully laid out plans. Need I remind you of the dark days of the early episodes where Emily played red marker scratch-out with the Grayson BBQ picture? The show was boring – predictable even – because there was no challenge for her. The Grayson co-conspirators Emily was taking out were too easily dispatched, and as a result she bowled over them like so many pins on her way to a perfect strike.

And then Tyler showed up. And he was crazy. He came to Daniel’s birthday party with a gun. He slept with Nolan and blackmailed Conrad (Henry Czerny). Fauxmanda, meanwhile, was busy killing Frank (Max Martini) and refusing to leave town more often than the cast of The Killing. In short, between the two and Lydia (Amber Valletta) taking a big highrise plunge, Revenge moved from ‘entertaining’ to ‘must watch’ television. You never knew quite where it was going to go next except that everything was playing into Emily’s long-con of REVENGE.

Courtesy of ABC via Seriable

The problem, then, with recent episodes, is that there’s very little unexpected stuff occurring. The twists and turns have been fairly well telegraphed and it no longer seems like Emily has a long term plan. Consider what she reveals at the end of last night’s episode: she’s going to marry Daniel and kill the man (James Morrison) who killed her father. Well, where did this come from? Oh sure, marrying Daniel – that’s been in the cards since the pilot, but considering the evidence she’s racked up between the audio tapes and Nolan’s (Gabriel Mann) shamu cam, it’s no longer clear why she needs to marry the hunky heir to the Grayson empire. She has more than enough to put away both Victoria (Madeleine Stowe) and Conrad and ruin Grayson Global beyond repair. So what’s stopping her?

As for the new piece (killing the white haired man who killed her father in prison), this is a new – and frankly boring – development. Not only do we not know who this guy is, but he’s just another henchmen, completely removed from the core cast. We’ve been down this road before with Lee (Derek Ray) and Frank before him. These people are ciphers – they exist solely to distract Emily from striking the killing blow against the Graysons – and considering the show barely even introduces them, there’s no reason for me to care. If there’s a reason to be excited for next week’s “all flashback” episode, it’s that ‘Legacy’ will remind us why Emily devised her master strategy to take all these people out. Hopefully that will get the show back on track and introduce a few unexpected moments because, at this point, it definitely feels like the show is coasting and we’re just waiting for the big beats in the finale (aka Emily making her move, someone finding out the truth about her, Christa B. Allen’s Charlotte going off the deep end, etc)

Other observations:

  • The best part of the episode by a longshot: The elaboration of why Nolan is so preoccupied with the collateral damage of Emily’s plans. A conveniently found photo leads to a new journal that leads to Conrad’s former secretary, Carole Thomas (Tess Harper) – who we discover is a whistleblower and Nolan’s aunt. Overlooking the fact that if Nolan truly didn’t want Emily to discover the journal he would have shredded it long ago, the emphasis on Nolan protecting his aunt resonates with Emily. It also proves that Nolan can be just as crafty and resourceful as Em – he had the mindset to get his aunt out of danger and fake her death. Very Emily Thorne.
  • The cover-up also reinforces one of the main themes of the show: the importance of family. If you look at character motivations, everyone on the show acts on behalf of their familal interests. The Graysons, despite their poor decision making, are trying to protect Charlotte and Daniel (and by extension their fortune). Declan (Connor Paolo) and Jack (Nick Weschler) shield each other from jail time, girls and Graysons. Even Ashley (Ashley Madewke)…well, someone’s gotta be selfish, right?
  • As much as I like the idea of mother-daughter bonding scenes between Victoria and Charlotte, the writers seem determined to make me hate Charlotte (or perhaps it’s just Allen’s stilted line delivery?). The results are tin-eared, nausea inducing exchanges like this:

1. Victoria: “Is this why you started taking drugs?”

Charlotte: “I don’t know, Mom, I’m failing calculus. You do the math.” (Woh woh)

2. Victoria: “David Clarke made one bad decision that led him on a path to destruction.”

Charlotte: “Just like me.” (Ugh – no bitch. You’re a whiny, self-important “white people problems” 1%-er who pops oxy instead of dealing with your problems. Sorry…that was way harsh, Tai)

  • Conrad tells Daniel the whole story the night before his tell-all interview, prompting Daniel to lie in the interview and side with his father. Emily, understandably, is disappointed. Let’s put this in perspective: we’re reminded early in the hour that Daniel stands to inherit a billion dollars. Is anyone truly surprised that he doesn’t just give that up? What would Daniel stand to gain from telling the truth? It’s not as though Emily gave him an alternative to consider and she’s not exactly in a position to take the moral high ground considering everything she’s lied about. The show has pretty murky morals, so it’s pretty hypocritical for one character to judge the actions of another.
  • Finally, Ashley’s decision to leak the pictures of Daniel covered in blood comes back to bite her in the ass when her plans to join Brooks’ (Courtney B Vance) law firm fall apart. Thankfully Conrad is lurking around to hear about her indiscretion and – instead of being enraged that she almost got his son imprisoned for life – he gives her a new car (so Oprah!) and a job with the company. See folks, between Ashley and Daniel’s storylines, we’ve discovered that crime really does pay! As I do nearly every week, I’ll take a moment to hope that this new development makes Ashley more interesting.
  • The Ashley storyline does, however, give us the best line of the night – courtesy of Victoria. After Ashley gives her notice, the ice queen denies she’ll need help finding a replacement since “The Hamptons are filthy with ambitious young girls like yourself.” That’s a great backhanded compliment!

What did you think of the episode? Are you still on board with Emily’s plans for REVENGE, or – like me – do you feel her end game has become confused? Are you excited for Ashley’s promotion? Surprised by Daniel’s refusal to come clean? Or did you spend the hour lusting after Emily’s winter wardrobe?

Revenge airs Wednesdays at 10pm EST on ABC

About cinephilactic

cinephilactic is a university contract instructor in Film Studies. He is an avid TV watcher, particularly science-fiction, fantasy and drama series. His favourite shows currently airing on TV include The Good Wife, Breaking Bad, Justified, Hannibal, Game Of Thrones and a smattering of shows on The CW. He has a tendency to "hate-watch" particular shows and likes to think that his sarcastic voice comes through in his reviews, though sometimes he's just being bitchy

2 thoughts on “Revenge recap – 1×19: ‘Absolution’

  1. Interesting observations.

    First of all, I completely agree about the part where Daniel lies to protect his father and how Emily really hasn’t given him much of an alternative. Was she really that surprised? Was Daniel expecting to be asked about Grayson Global in the interview or did he think it was just going to be about the trial? Maybe he was taken off guard. Either way, I understand why he did what he did. He just came off a murder trial of which he is innocent in and clearly does not want to deal with any more of this drama tied to his family. We do not see the entire scene in which Conrad tells Daniel “everything.” But we know he starts to talk about David Clarke so it’s safe to assume that Daniel knows Conrad also had David Clarke killed. While this is of course evil, Emily needs to remember that Daniel never knew David Clarke and has no emotional connection to him. He should of course still be tormented ethically about all of this and very well may be in the near future (we will find out I guess) but is it really fair for Emily to tell Nolan and the end of the episode that Daniel is one of the Graysons? Daniel has only known the real truth for one night and hasn’t even had much time to process this. Is he really “one of them” as Emily says? And you’re absolutely right. This episode was about covering up for your family which we learn even Nolan does. Also, I think Daniel stands to gain that money no matter what so I’m not entirely sure if that was the force motivating him. But then my boyfriend asked me why Daniel is trying to cover up for his dad when he knows the truth is going to come out since the Feds have everything.. Perhaps Daniel will become more than the puppy dog in the show now and begin some plotting of his own to save his family and business…

    I partly agree about where you feel the show has turned. I actually enjoyed the episodes where Emily would cross people off of that BBQ photo and each episode seemed to reveal more about another person’s involvement. It was fun to watch her get “revenge.” Sure, Emily’s plans were almost always seamless but I liked the escapist aspect of that as well as it being summer in the Hamptons and the other scenes were of parties, great fashion, and Victoria Grayson at her best. I realize perfection can get boring which is why the story had to change from there as she gets to know the Graysons and Daniel better and we get to know all of the characters better and Tyler and Fauxmanda come in and thwart her control. Even her mentor, Takeda (sp.?) reminds her that emotion will spoil revenge. Even Emily at the end of the day is human and both Takeda and Nolan seem to notice Emily’s growing feelings for Daniel (based on what they say) and the implications of that. I think her plans for revenge are not always as clear as they were in the beginning and that’s because she is constantly finding out more and more information. The crazy characters of Tyler and Fauxmanda have definitely made the show more interesting and I’m sure Fauxmanda will be back at some point. I wonder if Lydia will be back… I have to say that I’ve enjoyed Amber Valletta’s performance on the show.

    This ties into what I think is probably one of the more interesting things we learn from this episode which you raise. Why is Emily still going to marry Daniel when she clearly has tons of video and audio recorded proof of everything the Graysons have done? Answer? We don’t know yet and maybe we’re not supposed to. Or maybe I’m giving the writers too much credit. Is there other access she needs and the only way to get it is to be Daniel’s wife? Hasn’t Daniel suffered enough? Does he really need to continue to be collateral damage? Or is Daniel now being added into the plan of revenge since he is in face “one of them”? I assume if she plans on marrying him, she doesn’t plan on staying married to him forever? Even Nolan doesn’t seem entirely sure of Emily’s long term plans. Or maybe she does have feelings for him on some level though after her reaction to Daniel covering for his dad on tv interview, it’s hard to see her being too conflicted at this point.

    I would also like to see more insight into Nolan’s character and his past at some point.

    I have to also say that I like that we as the viewers don’t get to know everything upfront. I think if we knew everything beforehand, we would lose interest. This also pertains to Emily’s overall plan of revenge. If we knew exactly everything she wanted to do when she says “take down the Graysons” we would be expecting and looking for those things. We assume she wants to ruin their lives and take down their business but that’s too vague. The flashbacks also serve a great function in this way as well. It’s a much more interesting way to tell a story. Here’s hoping the last two episodes of the season don’t disappoint!

    • I hope that you’re right and Daniel does get more of a backbone or he has some kind of plan. I’d love for them to do more with the character…