November 27, 2012



One of the many ways in which broadcast networks have started to resemble their cable counterparts is in the structure of a series season.  For years, cable has aired its shows, especially serialized series, in clearly-defined, repeat-free mini-seasons, with different programming in those slots during hiatus periods, rather than following the historical broadcast model of alternating new and rerun episodes from September through May.  Since serialized shows not only repeat badly, but the reruns reduce the momentum for new episodes when they arrive, the broadcast networks are now beginning to air fresh episodes from the start of the fall season in late September through late November or mid-December (roughly half of the season’s 22-episode order), then take a long break, returning usually with twin mid-January through February and then late March through May bursts of new programming.  Thus, the emergence of “Fall Finales.”  With REVOLUTION, NBC is being even more aggressive; since the show’s fate is tied so closely to its lead-in The Voice, tonight’s Fall Finale was the last new episode that will air until late March 2013, when both shows return.

This put a lot of pressure on tonight’s hour, written by Co-Executive Producer Monica Owusu-Breen and Executive Story Editor Matt Pitts (all under the supervision of creator Eric Kripke), and directed by Frederick E. O. Toye.  It’s not entirely a surprise that the episode didn’t deliver particularly well.  Revolution has been a passable adventure at best, its ratings already sharply down from huge early numbers (it premiered at 4.1, and last week had a 2.6), and this week was no exception.

The hour did wrap up the story’s initial installment of plot, as our band of heroes, led by ex-militia badass Miles Matheson and his niece Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos), along with resistance bomber Nora (Daniella Alonso) and geek Aaron (Zak Orth), made their way to Philadelphia and freed Charlie’s brother Danny (Graham Rogers) from the clutches of evil militia head Monroe (David Lyons)–with the unexpected bonus of rescuing Charlie and Danny’s mother Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell), who as we’ve known, but they didn’t, has been a captive of Monroe’s all season.  The script failed, however, to do a very good job with any of this.  The big confrontation between Miles and Monroe (it has to be a deliberate joke that their names combined form Woody Allen’s character from Sleeper, right?) played, weirdly and seemingly unintentionally, as though the two of them had been lovers in the early days of the militia.  It was never clear what the power was of the “amplifier” that Rachel was forced to create for Monroe, or why it seemed to turn on just a single helicopter at the end (this was all connected to the weakest aspect of the series, its mythology, built around the almost-mystical power pendents that don’t make any sense).  The show’s most interesting character, Giancarlo Esposito’s Captain Neville, was literally locked in a closet with his Lady Macbeth-ish wife Julia (Kim Raver) early in the episode.

There were no major revelations about any of the characters (unless Miles and Monroe really were a couple back in the day), and the cliffhanger was pathetic, as an automatic weapon on the now-flying helicopter was trained on all the good guys, as though they were really likely to be massacred in March.  The only new plotline seems to be that helicopter, with the story in the second half of the season apparently going to be all the same militia people chasing our same heroes, except going in the other direction.

Revolution has been moderately watchable, mostly due to some of the cast members.  Burke is quite good as the reluctant hero with a dark side (even if we have yet to see any evidence of that side being very dark), and Esposito and Mitchell class things up whenever they’re on screen.  There were a few sharp episodes midway through the fall, where the show killed off someone who had seemed to be a regular character and for a moment it appeared that surprises could be in store (they weren’t).   Charlie is no Katniss Everdeen, however many times they give her a bow and arrow to shoot, and Monroe is a completely underdeveloped villain.  Episode after episode turned on someone who initially seemed to be trustworthy turning out not to be.  The occasional Lost-ish stabs at flashing back to the characters’ pasts have paid few dividends.  The limitations of the show’s post-pilot budget have often been evident in its lack of visual spectacle or scale.

When Revolution returns in the spring, it will still have The Voice as its partner on Mondays, and as that’s the biggest non-football hit on NBC’s air, the show will probably continue to have some measure of success.  It seems unlikely to build into a bigger hit, though, and its fate is completely dependent on its lead-in.  The show needs more imaginative and incisive writing, or at least a sense of fun.  One advantage of the new dual-installment season structure may be that a series has some time to reconfigure between rounds, and perhaps Revolution can install a new regime by the time we see it next.

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."