October 2, 2012



REVENGE:  Sunday 9PM on ABC

WHERE WE WERE:  Discovering that the long-vanished mother of Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp), who’s really Amanda Clarke (don’t get us started), is actually alive.  This was among a Hamptons mansion’s worth of season finale revelations, the least convincing of which was that Cruella de Ville Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe) might be dead, as she was supposedly in a plane that went down.  She had with her all the critical evidence that could put her husband Conrad (Henry Czerny) in jail, so the list of potential suspects in the crash would start with him.  Meanwhile, Charlotte (Christa B. Allen), who’s Victoria’s daughter but not, as it turns out, Conrad’s, since Victoria had been having a torrid affair with Emily/Amanda’s father David Clarke (James Tupper), before she had him framed for treason and possibly murdered, and Charlotte is their child–anyway, she took an overdose of pills.  And the real Emily Thorne (Margarita Levieva), who passes herself off as Amanda Clarke (again, not worth explaining), and who’s semi-psychotic, returned from an absence very pregnant, and claiming that Jack Porter (Nick Wechsler), who was Emily/Amanda’s (as opposed to Amanda/Emily’s) childhood friend before her father was arrested for treason, and who she probably still loves, is the father.  And there’s more!  The man who killed sociopath Tyler Barrol (Ashton Holmes) on the beach at Emily/Amanda’s engagement party to Victoria’s (and Conrad’s) son Daniel (Joshua Bowman) was Emily/Amanda’s mysterious Japanese mentor Takeda (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa)!  Emily/Amanda had her father’s murderer (James Morrison) in hand, but let him live!  Anyway, it was all very busy.

WHERE WE ARE:  Initially, underwater.  The 2d season of REVENGE is following the structure of its initial season, starting off with a flash-forward to Labor Day weekend that we’ll rejoin around midseason.  This time, Jack’s boat, called Amanda (subtle!) has been found submerged, and there’s at least one dead male body on board.

We then headed back to Memorial Day, around 2 months after the events of the Season 1 finale.  We know that because Charlotte, institutionalized after her suicide attempt, has 60 days of sobriety, and might be getting released.  But maybe not, because Conrad is working hard to be even more villainous than his believed-dead wife, and he’s desperately trying to grab the inheritance jointly held by Daniel and Charlotte.  Since Daniel won’t agree to invest his share in Grayson Global, Conrad needs to put his hands on Charlotte’s money, no matter how nefarious the means.  Before being dragged back to the clinic, Charlotte tells Emily (let’s just call her Emily) the least-unguessable secret of the season (Spoiler Alert?):  Victoria is alive.  Actually she’s in witness protection, and she still has all that juicy evidence against Conrad.  Emily and her henchman/BFF, cheerfully incomprehensible tycoon Nolan Ross (Gabriel Mann) waste no time installing a camera (in a clamshell–“clam cam,” get it?) in Victoria’s digs.  Meanwhile Daniel has recovered from his breakup with Emily by hooking up with Victoria’s former assistant (and Emily’s former friend) Ashley Davenport (Ashley Madekwe), which would leave the path clear for Emily and Jack, if only Jack didn’t feel obligated to stay with pregnant Amanda (let’s call her Amanda).  And Emily learns that her mother (newly recurring Jennifer Jason Leigh) was institutionalized, possibly by Victoria.

Revenge constantly flirts with self-parody, and its 2nd season premiere, written by series creator Mike Kelley and Executive Producer Mark B. Perry, and directed by Kenneth Fink, was no exception.  (The Japanese sequences, with Emily training herself for battle by being lashed to a pole underwater and nearly drowning, are particularly over-the-top.)  The show works because it never quite lets on how silly it is, and it heaps plot unstintingly on its bonfire to keep momentum going.  It’s also lucky enough to have, in Stowe and Van Camp, two antagonists worthy of one another, with good support from Czerny and Mann (and also some woodenness from other members of the cast).

The decision to preserve last season’s structure is an interesting one.  The show noticeably slumped late last season, once events had reached the Labor Day shooting we’d seen in the pilot’s flash-forward, and it turned out that what we thought we were witnessing (Daniel being killed) was instead the very expendable Tyler being eliminated, with the ridiculous Takeda as the killer.  This time, one assumes that the dead body on Jack’s boat won’t actually be Jack, which could make for more anticlimax.

Revenge is a series that would probably benefit from a cable order pattern of 10 or 13 episodes for the season, rather than having to dig for 22 hours of nonsensical scheming.  That’s still not the way broadcast TV works for the most part, though, so the show may struggle to keep aloft.  Even with its shortcomings, Revenge has been watchable fluff, and with its promotion to Sunday night, with the gift of ABC’s Once Upon A Time as lead-in, it will need to stay that way.  The premiere suggests it has enough twists and turns to keep going for a while.

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."