December 15, 2013

THE SKED Fall Finale Review: “Revenge”


Improved isn’t the same as good, and the first half of REVENGE‘s third season has languished in the gulf between those two.  Under new showrunner Sunil Nayar (who replaced series creator Mike Kelley), Revenge has backed away from the extreme idiocy of last year’s The Initiative storyline, with its quasi-government conspiracies, its psychotic long-lost mothers and assassin romances.  The show has returned to its roots of Emily Thorne/Amanda Clarke (Emily VanCamp) and her drive to destroy the super-rich, super-nasty Grayson family that caused her father’s death, but the fundamental question it now faces is:  Does anyone still care?

Tonight’s midseason finale, written by Nayar and Co-Executive Producer Karin Gist and directed by Kenneth Fink, followed the series pattern by bringing the show back around to the flash-forward that had led off the season premiere, with Emily, finally married to Daniel Grayson (Joshua Bowman) so she could ruin his family’s life, being shot by a mysterious figure–who was now revealed to be Daniel himself, furious to discover that she’d faked a pregnancy to get the ring on her finger.  After waiting half a season for that revelation, it wasn’t all that interesting, but really, among all these characters who’ve been ruthlessly scheming against each other for 2 1/2 seasons, it’s hard to imagine who would have constituted a genuine shock.  (Maybe Emily’s unknowing half sister Charlotte?)  And that’s the problem with Revenge as a continuing series–all it does is run around like crazy on its little hamster wheel of plot, with Emily double-crossing Victoria (Madeleine Stowe), who double-crosses her husband Conrad (Henry Czerny), who double-crosses his mistress Lydia (guest star Amber Valletta, back for the last few episodes), who double-crosses Emily, and so on.  Revenge is so unable to come up with anything truly new that the finale hinged on an old photo showing Emily observing the Graysons as a waitress that we first saw last season.  Not only was it a dumb piece of evidence to make so central to the plot–even worse, it was old news.

The season has tried to liven things up by introducing a few new characters, like Victoria’s previously unknown son Patrick (Justin Hartley) and magazine editor Margaux (Karine Vanasse), but they’ve been a bland group.  The overall silliness award (narrowly beating out Emily giving Conrad a fake fatal illness, forcing him to resign his office as Governor of New York) goes to Sara (Annabelle Stephenson), who Daniel crippled in a drunk driving accident before the series began but who was miraculously cured, only to fall hopelessly in love with him once again after she was hired to bake the cake for Daniel and Emily’s wedding. (When last heard from, she may have attempted a lovelorn suicide.)

A lot happens in any given episode of Revenge, but almost none of it has any weight.  There’s been far too much of Aiden (Barry Sloane), who dates back to the unfortunate Ninja era of the series, while Jack Porter (Nick Wechsler), one of the only characters to have a genuine emotional connection to Emily, has had little to do.  It was also a bad idea to take the computers away from Nolan (Gabriel Mann), leaving the character and the viewers flailing.  Revenge has always been stylized near-camp, but this year, everyone involved, including the actors, seems simply to be going through the motions.

The ratings for Revenge have been terrible this fall, down one-third from last season, and it’s recently been demoted to the Sunday 10PM slot starting in March (it’ll air 3 episodes in January at 9PM, then take 7 weeks off).  Promos for the next episodes suggest that the series is going to make the kind of desperation move that signifies a shark being jumped:  when Emily’s bullet-ridden body is retrieved, she’s going to have… amnesia! (Or does she?, is what one assumes the plot will be).  None of this bodes well for the future of the series, although ABC’s in-house studio’s desire to have a 4th season for syndication, combined with the many other holes on the network’s schedule, might buy it one more order.  What was once a guilty pleasure, no matter how much less awful it’s been compared to last season, is now not so much guilty as dull.



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."