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.
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)
- 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