Revenge‘s second season continues as the plots that began in the season finale and last week’s premiere begin to unfold. It’s a bit of a slow burn as the show struggles to find its narrative anchor, but there’s enough here to merit giving the show a few more episodes to discover what S2 is all about.
Let’s bitch it out…From these first two episodes, the show seems most interested in motherhood. Emily (Emily VanCamp) is desperate to unlock the mystery of her mother, Kara (Jennifer Jason Leigh); Victoria (Madeleine Stowe) is trying to be a better mother to her daughter, Charlotte (Christa B Allen) and Faux-manda (Margarita Levieva) is preparing for her first child and trying to get her baby-daddy, Jack (Nick Weschler), on board.
The issue is that many of these storylines feel like non-starters. The biggest is the search for Kara Clarke. It’s unclear if the audience is meant to know if Kara is alive? This is problematic because it seems painful obvious that she is alive (you don’t cast Jason Leigh solely for flashbacks), but the show seemingly wants us to think she’s been killed by James Morrison’s White Haired Man (WHM). Whether or not Em’s mom is alive, though, is less important than why we’re meant to care. Thus far the driving force behind the action simply appears to be “because” – not because her mother holds the secret to anything, or could help Em in her quest for REVENGE! Instead it seems to be a case of simply seeking a character in order to find that character, which isn’t dramatically exciting. We need something more to hang our hats on than “Em wants to find her”.
Flipping the frustration level around: it’s fun to watch Victoria trump Emily. The first season of the show worked best when Emily’s plans were unraveling; it forced her to play dirtier, more off the cuff and the stakes felt higher. With Victoria officially back in the game and her titular resurrection revealed to the world, there’s a lot more narrative possibility than what was possible when she was trapped in some random cabin. Welcome back Ice Queen, it’s good to have you back…even if it does mean more of Charlotte. The teen prima-donna has become more tolerable compared to last year, but narratively speaking, she continues to drag the proceedings down nearly as much as Declan (Connor Paolo – more on him in a moment). Someone needs to make her more than a pawn in the increasingly murky moral battle between Conrad (Henry Czerny), Victoria and Emily.
The final ‘mothering’ element, Faux’s impending birth of Jack’s Stowaway baby, also has a ho-hum vibe about it. Part of the problem is the reveal of the paternity test: that it came back positive isn’t overly shocking considering that the impact is greater if it is Jack’s (the inference I took from Em and Faux is that we were meant to assume that it wouldn’t be his). Jack’s also the father because it causes Em pain and that creates conflict! Unfortunately, amidst all of this, there’s still the “who cares?’ factor in play. So now Jack’s saddled with a child that he didn’t expect with a woman he doesn’t love. Yay for suffering? And more importantly…why should we care? Where is this storyline going?!
- Although several of the previously noted storylines are frustrating, there are two that make me want to bash my own head in.
- The first involves Declan and the obviously “Trouble” (note the capital ‘T’) necklace. It seems clear that Trey Chandler (Michael Nardelli) has specifically sought out Declan for this – likely nefarious – job and we can therefore deduce that the necklace will only cause Trouble (Side Note: the $500 payoff? Pathetic!) The problem I have with this is that it almost seems as though Declan sees this, too…and yet he still takes the necklace so that he can afford his own place and move away from Faux and Jack and their newborn son (Jake Jr? J.J.? Jaj?)
- The other story that doesn’t work for me: Padma (Dilshad Vadsaria) – Nolan’s (Gabriel Mann) accounting analyst who gets a completely unbelievable raise after she badgers him into submission. 1) Vadsaria is a terrible actress, who somehow manages to over-emote Every. Single. Line. Reading in an incredibly grating way. 2) This whole storyline feels completely shoe-horned into the plot in order to give Mann more screentime, or account for the fact that he spent S1 snuggling with a boy. Since it’s already been announced that Padma is sticking around as Nolan’s new love-interest, expect a ton of vitriol directed at her unless she magically stumbles onto some acting talent
- Is Daniel (Joshua Bowman) really dumb enough to fall for Conrad’s explanation that Victoria’s kidnapper is responsible for the terrible financials at Grayson Global and the demise of Charlotte’s trust fund??? How dumb is this guy? Even Ashley (Ashley Madewke) is in on this friggin’ scheme!
- Thoughts on Aiden Mathis (Barry Sloane) saving Em’s life in the episode’s final moments? I’m torn. It sure makes an exciting Hamptons entrance for Em’s former pal (whom we met last week), but the fact that she needed saving from WHM – as though she wouldn’t have expected an attack – seems like a betrayal to the character. Hopefully next week we’ll learn that Em knew Aiden was there all along, but her facial expression at the end of the hour suggests otherwise
That’s episode two! What are your thoughts, readers? Are you on-board with all of this plot set-up, or do you – like me – feel that there are too many stories that don’t appear to have direction or a foreseeable narrative pay-off? Are you sad to see Morrison go? Are you happen to see Victoria back at Grayson manor? Finally, what name do you hope Jack and Faux name the baby? Speculate below!
Revenge airs Sundays at 9pm EST on ABC