Revolution review – 1×01: ‘Pilot’

Courtesy of NBC

The start of the 2012 fall TV season more-or-less kicks off with NBC’s high-concept action-adventure drama. So is the show, which imagines a world without power, a hit or a miss?

Let’s bitch it out…Without a doubt, Revolution was one of my most anticipated shows of the fall – primarily because of the pedigree of the talent behind the camera, which includes Supernatural‘s Eric Kripke and ABC wunderkid, JJ Abrams (he of Lost, Alias, and Felicity fame). Unfortunately based on first impressions, this is closer to Abrams’ Alcatraz than LOST in terms of success: it’s definitely a work in progress.

The central concept is a great one (everything powered goes kaput at the same time around the globe), but it’s inherently problematic. There are obvious questions of why batteries would be affected, or things like water powered generators wouldn’t work. It’s easy to see viewers loving or hating the concept and deciding whether to tune in (or out) based on it, but in all honesty, it’s easiest to simply buy-in and go with it than question everything. Side Note: One nagging question I had throughout the pilot: why are their clothes so well made and so clean? Perhaps they have a secret trough of cheaply made clothes from China that were made 15 years ago?

Concept aside, the pilot’s biggest weakness are the characters. They’re all tropes, and boringly familiar ones at that. Tracy Spiridakos’ Charlie is hilariously naive and idealistic, which might make sense if this wasn’t fifteen years after the blackout. I appreciate that Ben (Tim Guinee) has protected both Charlie and Danny (Graham Rogers) from the outside world, but I’m fairly confident she would be more aware of the dangers lurking beyond the boundaries of their agrarian utopia. More successful is Giancarlo Esposito’s Neville, though it’s because Esposito infuses a subtle menace into every line reading that elevates the material far above what he’s given. His threatening scene at the farmhouse with Grace (Maria Howell) is masterful, even though his amazing perception as a former insurance adjuster has nothing to do with his ability to spot drag marks leading to a house. But I digress…

Courtesy of NBC

In the end, a large part of the success of the show will come down to two things: your interest in figuring out what caused the blackout (including the mysterious power generating lockets everyone and their dog apparently have) and how much you like lovable rogue Miles Matheson (Billy Burke). In my opinion he’s part of the problem, not the solution; Burke’s attempt to channel Han Solo feels too desperate and – at the same time – too familiar. We’ve seen the resistant-until-forced hero character a million times and although Burke has the presence to make the character work, the emphasis on the drinking and the forced “I don’t look out for anyone but myself” needs to go ASAP. It’s too tired and cliche, and it drags the show down. Hopefully now that the pilot has established the characters and the conflict, we can move on to more interesting developments…

Other Observations:

  • I did enjoy the supporting characters along for the trip: Maggie (Anna Lise Phillips) – who mixes a mean fatal cocktail – and Aaron (Zak Orth), who dances the fine line between comedic relief and genuine character. Subtle hints about Aaron’s life before the blackout – including an absent wife – are tantalizing. Ditto the tease at the pilot’s end with Miles’ old friend, Monroe (David Lyons). I’m definitely interested to learn more about how he ended up on the other side of the battle line from the Matheson family
  • Elizabeth Mitchell’s brief appearance as Ben’s dead wife, Rachel, is also enticing. I lurved me some Juliet on LOST, and I’m psyched that Juliet Elizabeth has a decent role in a genre show that doesn’t involve reptiles eating kittens. More please!
  • Less of the completely obvious love affair between Charlie and Nate (JD Pardo), the junior militia turncoat, would be great. In terms of obvious narrative directions, this is one I’m least interested in finding out more about
  • Danny: So cute…but so stupid. Glad we get to watch him escape just so that he can get caught again a few hours later. Sure it introduces Grace, but it also marks the reintroduction of the tired, irksome “Asthma Attack” trope. Are we back in Panic Room territory…because it sucked then, too
  • The special effects of the “World Without Us” version of Chicago are decent to passable (suck it, Terra Nova!). Regardless of their success, it does lend the show a very unique visual look and feel. If for no other reason, this show deserves to survive a while so that we have some escapism genre fare on our television screens

What did you think, readers: was Revolution what you hoped it would be, or did you get bogged down in the suspension of disbelief and cliches? Which character are you most interested in learning more about? And are you as disappointed as me that poor character actor Tim Guiness drew the short straw and was killed off like usual? (IMDB.com indicates he’ll be kicking around for a while in flashbacks). Finally, what are your theories about the locket and the secret underground movement? Hit the comments to speculate!

Revolution airs Mondays at 10pm EST on NBC

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

5 thoughts on “Revolution review – 1×01: ‘Pilot’

  1. Obvious Love Interest is Obvious. And couldn’t they find some better way for Charlie to escape attempted rape than OLI saving her? The show very nearly lost me right there. It would have been so, so much better if Maggie had grabbed the knife from one of her poison victims and popped up to the front of the plane…. :-(

    I also picked up on the very strong Han Solo vibes from Miles (in fact that’s how I referred to him in my post last night, too) but I really liked him pulling out the alcohol…. I was really anticipating a little more of some sort of ‘drunk bravado’ during his fight scene and was kinda disappointed not to get it.

  2. I won’t watch second episode or maybe i will. This stinks of a feeble Save Earth Terrorists
    , out to save the world so they switched the lights out for everyone but themselves but didn’t tell anyone.

  3. A few of the girls in my office at DISH were talking about Revolution, so I though I would check it out when I got home. I can kind of see Charlie being saved once, but the second time really irritated me. The guy just kept swinging his sword at her crossbow like there were no other sword techniques he new besides swing. My Hopper automatically records all of CBS’s prime time shows and I still don’t know if I am going to watch it again. The Hans Solo reference was hilarious as well as appreciated though.

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