September 30, 2013

THE SKED Season Premiere Review: “Revenge”


REVENGE:  Sunday 9PM on ABC

REVENGE went off the rails last season, both creatively and in the ratings (its Season 2 finale managed just a 1.7).  When it was over, series creator Mike Kelley found himself bumped off his own show, replaced by new showrunner Sunil Nayar, who wrote tonight’s Season 3 premiere (directed by Kenneth Fink).

The result, so far, is… well, it’s better.  There’s a meta moment in the premiere where Emily Thorne AKA Amanda Clarke (Emily VanCamp) and her remaining buddy Nolan Ross (Gabriel Mann) vow never to say “The Initiative” again, referring to the ridiculous quasi-governmental conspiracy that took over too many of last season’s storylines, and that’s good.  It appears from the premiere that the focus will again be on Emily’s plot to destroy the lives of the super-rich Grayson family, as payment for framing her father David Clarke for treason, leading eventually to his death.  Emily’s relationship with the two men in her life has been clarified:  she’s engaged to Daniel Grayson (Josh Bowman) but purely for the purposes of her scheme, while she’s in love with Jack Porter (Nick Wechsler), who found out her true identity in the Season 2 finale, and who rejects her in the premiere and gives her a ticking clock to finish her revenge before he exposes her.  (The season, as usual, begins with Memorial Day, and she has until the end of the summer–but that may be irrelevant, because the show’s trademark flash-forward cliffhanger opening has Emily shot by someone unknown in late July/early August, before her scheduled wedding.)  The episode also reverses one of the silliest plot strands from last season, giving Conrad Grayson (Henry Czerny) reason to resign from office as Governor of NY, and gets rid of unnecessary regular Ashley (Ashley Madekwe).

Those changes move the show in the right direction, back to where it began, but Revenge just isn’t as interesting or fun as it used to be.  Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe) and Conrad spit venom at each other so incessantly that they’re almost cartoon characters, and now their daughter (also Emily’s secret half-sister) Charlotte (Christa B. Allen), is doing it too.  Also cartoonish:  the French femme fatale (Karine Vanasse, a survivor of ABC’s Pan Am) making a kittenish beeline for Daniel.  Emily’s opening episode maneuver of convincing Conrad, his family and even his doctor that he has a fatal disease seems a little unbalanced, not to mention unlikely, despite her heated defense of the plot to Nolan.  And one can only dread the episode’s reveal that Emily’s former love Aiden (Barry Sloane) is now going to inform on her to Victoria–or alternatively that he’s going to pretend to be her informant while really still on Emily’s side.

Revenge may simply have lost its moment; it feels stodgy and overheated, with the actors just half a step away from playing the SNL parody of the show.  Watching the cast parade on their soundstage sets, or in “exteriors” with unconvincing CG’d sunsets behind them, the show is like an inadequate replica of an old Warner Bros melodrama.  In fairness, Nayar’s regime has just started, and VanCamp and Stowe remain engaging antagonists.  Perhaps they can make it work.  In this case, winning back departed fans, if the show can manage it, would be its best revenge.


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."