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Revolution’s latest episode, "Ties That Bind," continues Charlie and the gang’s all too swift trek to Philadelphia while testing the loyalty of Nora. Due to many of the problems previously outlined in these recaps, however, the latest episode lacks any emotional punch – which it is going for – and, perhaps more importantly, continues to offer up cheap tribulations instead of trying to go for something more weighty. Specifically, the main problem with ‘Ties That Bind’ is exact problem mentioned last week in that Revolution hinders itself because of its procedural nature while also calling into question the plot driven nature of the show.
Charlie and the group continue onto Philadelphia to save Danny. Any sort of relationship building between the characters, that isn’t absolutely ham-fisted, seems to happen off screen on the journey in between episodes. In any case, a problem arises and it looks like the group’s plans are totally in jeopardy. Not only this but the Militia is a stone’s throw away. A new ancillary character is introduced specifically to muck up the group’s progress along with a new Militia villain. All hope seems lost and it looks like the group has finally come to the end of the road. Wait a minute! Suddenly something turns in the group’s favor, most likely due to the ancillary character being defeated, and the group escapes by the hair on their chin while also somehow making immense progress on their journey to Philadelphia. Does this at all sound familiar?
Revolution has a very serious problem on its hands (aside from all the others previously mentioned, of course) - dramatic pacing. Not just the pacing within the episode but also the pacing from episode to episode in the larger story arc. For a moment forget the fact that the audience still doesn’t really know the characters, or more likely the characters are flimsy that there is only one thing to know about each one. When every episode revolves around the group being nearly captured by the militia it makes the audience become callous towards their plights, especially when they escape unscathed every time. Ties That Bind’ is just another example of this.
In this week’s episode the group has to cross a Militia occupied bridge to get to Philadelphia (of which there are apparently only two because the militia burned the rest). This, in itself, could have easily been a dramatic enough plot as the group tries to figure out a way around the Militia. Unfortunately it was not nearly enough for the writers of Revolution. Instead they decide to pile a few more toppings on this hot fudge sundae by globbing on a rescue mission of Nora’s sister, pouring on a Militia chase by its scariest leader (the only one Miles was scared of) in Strausser, and sprinkling on some deception as Nora’s sister trick the group and Nora into trusting her so that the Militia could get the power pendant. That could easily have been four different episodes, maintaining the procedural tactic, or a few episodes interweaving all of those elements together. Instead it was all piled on in one episode for really no reason. Thankfully they solve their river crossing problem by jumping in and surviving some wicked rapids (which they could have done in the first place, since it came off so easily).
This is the catalyst for the glaring problem in this week’s episode as Revolution attempts to make the plot have a larger impact on the emotional state of the group and specifically Nora. What should have been an episode that focused on Nora’s internal struggle as she weighed her loyalty and duty to Charlie and the group with her sister’s (she doesn’t deserve to be named because she has about as much chance as coming back as all of the one and done characters introduced every episode) pleas to come with her back to Texas. Had this arc been allowed to breathe it could have created an actual emotional connection that is seen by the audience between Nora and the group while simultaneously allowing the audience to become emotionally invested in Nora. Instead, because the episode was so jam-packed with unneeded action, this internal struggle boiled down to two scenes where Nora’s sister tells Nora she has found her dad and one episode where Charlie talks to Nora for thirty seconds. That is all. And because so little of the actual bonding during the course of the journey has been shown, when Nora does make her decision it resonates as little as a fingernail rocketing off your finger while clipping them.
Not only do the procedural action packed episodes not allow for the audience to cultivate a relationship with the characters, it also hinders any dramatic intensity for future episodes. As this little group continues to foil the big, bad Militia, why should the audience continually fear for the group’s survival and success? Yes, Monroe now has the power pendant, but since so little is known of Monroe’s true desires (or at least his desires are so simplified that they don’t seem realistic) there’s barely any worry about what he will do with it. Even the somewhat promising seed that was planted this week in Tom’s arc, in which his wife pumps Tom up by saying that Monroe isn’t fit to lead and Tom is (blasphemous but also intriguing to Tom), lacks punch because the audience has no clue if Tom is even capable of entertaining this notion.
Revolution could be a great show. Unfortunately, Revolution seems dead set on going after the roller coaster-esque cheap thrill week-in and week-out. Once you’ve been on the same roller coaster a few times all of a sudden it loses its luster and you realize it is time to get off. Revolution is currently throw away entertainment and perhaps that is why so many people watch, as they don’t have to analyze every color pattern of a character’s dress (al a Mad Men) but eventually the fluff that is Revolution will be forgotten for the newer, shinier show.