June 3, 2013



The second half of REVOLUTION‘s season tried to be interesting, God knows.  The initial run of episodes after the pilot mostly seemed to consist of our heroes trudging through forests, on the trail of militia-captured teen Danny Matheson, brother of heroine Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) and nephew of Miles (Billy Burke).  But when Revolution returned after four months off the air (to accommodate the hiatus between cycles of its lead-in The Voice), it was piled high with reversals, betrayals, backstory and pitched battle sequences, starting with the midseason premiere itself, which ended with Danny, having just–finally–been rescued, almost immediately getting gunned down.  New settings were introduced, like the Republic of Georgia (not the Russian one) and a crucial stronghold named, Stephen King-ishly, The Tower; the explanation of why the lights went out was provided and some power came back on; characters narrowly cheated death every week; and yet most of it was for naught, or very nearly naught.  Despite all the effort that went into its back half, Revolution never seemed to find its own electricity.

Tonight’s season finale, written by Supervising Producer Paul Grellong and series creator Eric Kripke (from Kripke’s story) and directed by Charles Beeman, was more of the same.  All of the main characters had arrived at The Tower, which was where the nanorobots that turned out to have switched the lights off could be reversed with a few keystrokes–and conveniently enough, nerdy Aaron (Zak Orth) was the one who knew those keystrokes, apparently because a decade earlier, he’d deliberately been befriended by the Mathesons for exactly this purpose.  (Way to plan ahead!)  But first, of course, there had to be some more battles, which basically amounted to crowds of people shooting each other in office building maintenance hallways.  Part of the problem with Revolution was that it took its title way too literally, and its action, rather than arriving anywhere, just kept turning in circles.  Every week or so, someone would trust Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito), even though he had betrayed every single person who ever did, and sure enough, by the end of the episode, that idiot would be betrayed.  Or arch-villain General Monroe would have a conversation with someone that started out quiet and civilized, and ended with the other person dead.  Or hero Miles would run into a former associate, now apparently working for the rebels, and that person would turn out to be a traitor.  Or, often, all three in any given hour.  Although give the finale credit:  at least someone (Neville, in fact) finally acknowledged the all-but-comic homoerotic undercurrent in Monroe’s obsession with old buddy Miles.  Of course, what would really have been interesting is if Miles had reciprocated it at all, but that wasn’t likely to happen.

The episode tried to be a game-changer in the currently popular season finale mode.  Neville made his power play against Monroe, although he couldn’t kill Monroe, because Miles had set his bestie free.  A regular needed to die, so Nora (Daniella Alonso), who knew how to build bombs and who once slept with Miles, was the sacrificial victim.  The big turn of events came at the end, when Randall Flynn (Colm Feore), who’d once been Assistant Secretary of Defense, employing Rachel Matheson (Elizabeth Mitchell) and her late husband Ben (Tim Guinee) on the nano-project that ended up turning the lights off, seized the opportunity of the electricity being restored to launch nuclear weapons at Monroe’s base in Philadelphia and the Republic of Georgia, theoretically wiping out both militias (although not Monroe himself, since he was in Colorado) and clearing the way for the as-yet unseen former President of the United States, who’s been hiding at Guantanamo Bay, to try and retake power next season.  Having done that, Randall put a bullet in his own brain.  (By the way, since there was no time to redirect those missiles before launching them–was the show saying that the US currently has its own nukes aimed at Philadelphia and Atlanta?  Because that seems like a policy even less popular than the IRS is these days.)

All of which portends a Season 2 very much like Season 1, except with more lights and weapons, and with the Prez taking the place of Monroe as central villain.  Neville and Monroe are still around, the rebels are intact except for Nora–these are all changes without any difference.

As it happened, this season finale of Revolution came after a weekend that included two smashing hours for a pair of TV’s other fantasy serials:  the Season 1 finale of Orphan Black and the instant-classic “Red Wedding” episode of Game of Thrones.  Both of those shows are as good as they are because their wild plotting and intense action is firmly rooted in detailed, complex, believable characters.  When people are in danger on those shows, you fear for them, and when they die, you feel their loss.  Even though actors as good as Mitchell, Esposito and Burke are present in Revolution, and despite an attempt to add some ambiguity to their roles (Miles had been brutally autocratic back when he was working with Monroe; Tom had been a lowly office-worker before the lights went out), they remained largely inert, and Charlie has never acquired any stature as a leading lady.

Up until now, Revolution has had as easy a life as NBC can provide, never airing without the smash hit Voice as its lead-in.  Even with those kid gloves, the show had lost more than half its premiere audience by April.  Things get much harder in September, when the show moves to Wednesday 8PM, where it will have no lead-in at all, facing off against Survivor, Arrow, The X Factor and The Middle.  Unless Revolution can find some more exciting drama in its batteries, its next blackout may be permanent.


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."