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NBC’s most self-publicized new drama, Revolution finally premiered. It seems that since the Olympics, NBC hasn’t taken a breath while promoting all their new TV shows, and there are only so many times you can see Wrigley Field covered in vines on the outside of the stadium before the image’s gravity wears off (two times was more than enough). Revolution is NBC’s shot at cashing in on the recent boom in post-apocalyptic societies such as AMC’s The Walking Dead and The Hunger Games. Unfortunately, “Pilot” plays out more like a textbook example of character and story archetypes than anything else.
Revolution is a tale of survival in a world that has not had any sort of electricity for fifteen years, this includes not only all electrical outlets but also anything battery powered (such as cars and planes). After a quick introduction of the main family in the show as the power originally goes out, Revolution quickly jumps forward in time. Now the little girl who was horking melting ice cream for the last time in her life is all grown up, or at least early-20s grown, along with her little brother, Danny. They live in a small agrarian township with their father (for about ten minutes of show time) and his new gal-pal/town healer Maggie (a shroud of mystery surrounds the death of Charlie’s and Danny’s mother).
Needless to say all is not well and good in this idyllic society that lacks electricity (making sure to hammer the evils of electricity home in the opening scene with Charlie zoned out in front of the TV) as the militia that serves the mysterious General Sebastien Monroe (until his “shocking” reveal at the end of the episode) isn’t afraid to wield its power. Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito of Breaking Bad fame) and his militia have come to collect Charlie’s and Danny’s father because Monroe believes he might know how to get electricity to work again. After a trigger-happy militiaman kills the very prisoner he’s come to collect a small skirmish breaks out that is quickly ended by Tom and he takes his spoils, Danny.
Once Charlie is directed by her dying father in his last words to find her uncle Miles (Billy Burke) she sets off on her trek to Chicago joined by Maggie (who, surprise, does not get along with Charlie but feels an obligation to help raise her now) and Aaron (strictly used as comic relief, got to love the bearded fat guy). Along the way they meet various trials and tribulations, and Nate (the militia man who might not be so bad afterall). By the end of the episode Charlie has convinced her Uncle Miles (who is great at killing, according to what her dad told her and what he demonstrates in the epic swashbuckling battle at the end) to join up with their ragtag band to help rescue Danny (thank goodness Charlie convinced him using the tactic of familial guilt).
The collaboration of such big wigs as J.J. Abrams (it has been a while since Lost), Jon Favreau (who will first and foremost be D-Bob from Rudy, although also known as the director of Iron Man), and Eric Kripke (creator of Supernatural) seems like it would be a dream team of talent for a science fiction/action type of show. Although Favreau’s recent track record as a director (Iron Man 2 and Cowboys & Aliens) and Abrmas’s even less stellar immediate past as a TV producer (Alcatraz and Undercovers) might be a more accurate representation of what ‘Pilot’ offers than their best work. Perhaps the most intriguing (whether it is meant to be or not) aspect of Revolution is that the show takes a more polished approach than the recent fad of “ultra-realism” that has consumed Hollywood (think The Walking Dead and The Dark Knight). The colors are vibrant and varied; the characters are meticulously groomed and have wonderful complexions and immaculate hair.
Even though “Pilot” makes sure to set up the rules of this post-apocalyptic world (rarity of guns means everyone is either a great archer or swordsman) and introduce at least the first main arc of the plot (rescue Danny), everything feels rather uninspired. The characters are almost straight archetypes from a “How To” screenwriting book. Charlie is the naïve but tough heroine. Miles is the mercenary with a checkered past. Nate is set up as the conflicted villain who developes romantic feelings for Charlie. The plot is also fairly straight forward, as Charlie is joined by a band of misfits to find her little brother and also exact some revenge for her father’s murder. All of this is palatable but not noteworthy. It seems as though Revolution is going to have to rely heavily on action and writing to get viewers to keep coming back.
Luckily for Revolution the action is pretty good for a network drama. As mentioned above, there is a rather large battle between Miles and the militia in an overgrown luxury hotel lobby. Sure the arrows pack a wallop on impact (they will stop you dead in your tracks) and the swordplay is akin to Pirates of the Carribbean but it was still a solid action sequence for network television. The dialogue on the other hand was atrocious. Even putting aside the repartee involving “Google was an Internet thing right?”, the dialogue is pretty straightforward and stilted. Esposito’s villain, Tom, lacks almost all punch because his lines lack all menace (and anyone who has seen Breaking Bad knows Esposito emanates menace as easily as he breathes). The actors are not given much to work with and it definitely shows.
Even after the two “shocking” reveals towards the end of the episode (thank goodness for flash drives in necklaces), the lack of any tension and interesting characters places Revolution solely in the realm of mediocrity. Of course pilot episodes are usually not indicative of how the series turns out but at the moment Revolution does not look like must-see TV.