REVOLUTION: Pilot Recap & Review
NBC’s new drama Revolution will premiere tomorrow, Monday September 17th at 10/9c. However, the network has made the pilot available early on Hulu and NBC’s site so I thought I’d post my thoughts today. Created by Eric Kripke (Supernatural) and backed by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions, Revolution comes with high hopes. Jon Favreau (Iron Man) even directed the pilot. I’m not sure that it lives up to the hype, or even the trailer. And yet the pilot certainly did the most important job that pilots must do: it made me want to watch more episodes. I’m still interested in this world and I want to find out more, so I will keep watching. Once you’ve checked it out for yourself, read on for my more detailed thoughts.
I had a chance to watch the pilot a few months ago at Comic-Con, and now again online. The biggest change was the recasting of Rachel Matheson (mother to Charlie and Danny, and wife to Ben). In the version I watched down in San Diego, Rachel was played by Andrea Roth, memorable to some of us as the (delightfully) nasty Catherine Martin in Ringer. The character was recast with Elizabeth Mitchell (Juliet from Lost!), and the updated Elizabeth-Mitchell-full pilot was the one released online. While Mitchell’s character, Rachel, has only a small role in the pilot and is eventually proclaimed dead, this recasting definitely seems to indicate that there is more to the story. I can’t imagine that Mitchell would sign on for such tiny role otherwise. We will definitely see the prodigal mother return, right?
“It’s happening, isn’t it?”
The premise of the show is that the world’s power suddenly goes out, so people must reinvent their lives and society. But it’s not just like a power outage where everything that’s plugged in shuts off; rather, everything that requires any energy technology of any sort stops working. When the lights go off, cars stall in the middle of the street, and planes fall out of the sky.
After the blackout, we jump ahead 15 years. Our main characters are living a rural farm life, living off the land in a manner that is very pre-Industrial Revolution. Why not build solar panels? Use water power? Steam engines? Why not a resurgence of train travel? I mean, yeah, the world’s coal supply is dwindling fast, but you’d think there would be some successful attempts at alternative energy sources. I understand how it’s possible to shut off the electricity, but how is it possible to make oil and coal completely useless substances? I’m not a scientist, but I find the extent of this power loss difficult to wrap my head around. But still, it is a cool premise. And I do love a dystopian future, as well as a survival story. I’m willing to put the scientific questions out of my mind and try to accept the world being presented. I mean, a hellmouth doesn’t make any sense either, right?
What adds to the mystery of Revolution is that no one knows why the power went out. Well, I take that back. It’s possible that the adult Mathesons know, and that’s what really gets the action moving. As hinted in the opening scene of the pilot, Ben (Tim Guinnee) and Rachel (the aforementioned Liz Mitchell) definitely have some inkling of what’s to come. Ben comes rushing home from work, visibly upset, and says that they need more water. He calls for his family to fill the sinks and tubs. Ben: “We don’t have much time.” Rachel: “It’s happening, isn’t it?” Dun dun dun.
Since there’s no way Rachel is really dead 15 years later, let’s assume she’s involved in top-secret dangerous shenanigans, and/or is being held in captivity due to her information. As for poor Ben, he gets killed by the militia when they come to capture him. (Stupid Danny and his stupid crossbow! Stupid militia and their stupid inability to follow orders!) But not before handing over his super secret USB drive filled with secrets! Before his death, Ben gave the shiny piece of tech to Aaron (Zak Orth)—school teacher, day drinker, and former Google millionaire—telling him to keep it safe. What information does the USB drive hold? Right before the blackout, Ben downloaded something onto this drive and he acted like it was super important. It could hold the answers to all of our questions.
But there’s one other Matheson who may know stuff: Ben’s brother Miles, played by my new hero Billy Burke. Burke is definitely the best thing about this pilot. Additional shout-outs to his weapons and bottle of scotch, which also turned out commendable performances. You see, Miles may know something because Ben may know something, and Ben called his brother on the night of the blackout. Are you following? General Monroe, the leader of the militia in the former-Illinois-area, wants to know what they know, because it could help him gain more power and territory. So Monroe sends out a group of his men, led by Captain Tom Neville. Even though Cpt. Neville is played by the awesome Giancarlo Esposito, he can’t control his men and things get out of hand. With Ben dead, the militia captures Ben’s son Danny (Graham Rogers) to use as collateral. Miles is next on the pick-up list. I assume that this threat will continue keep our characters busy for the next several episodes.
But wait, the power-outage mystery grows! After Danny escapes (the Monroe Militia could stand to be a bit better at their jobs), he is saved by Grace—no, not divine love and protection, but a mysterious lady played by Maria Howell. Grace lives all alone in a big farm house, and at the end of the episode we see that she has her own shiny USB drive. Except it’s not actually a USB drive, but it has a power button and it enables her to turn on a computer. She has a working computer! All the power has not been destroyed after all. We’ve been lied to! Grace messages someone to let him or her know that the militia was there. That someone (Rachel, I presume?) asks, “Did they find it?” Grace: “No.” Dun dun dun.
“Wandering free, wish I could be part of that world.”
Charlie Matheson (Tracy Spiridakos) is possibly the main character of this show, so let’s talk about her. Oh, Charlie. She just wants to be part of that world, you guys. She may have been dressed like Katniss, but she was Ariel-ing it up throughout the pilot for sure. She displayed a rebellious streak early on. Instead of hunting like “a good daughter,” she was more interested in exploring an abandoned ship trailer and carelessly risking Flounder her brother Danny’s life. Sharks, asthma, it’s all the same, right?
When King Triton Ben finds out what Ariel Charlie was up to, he scolds her. He reminds her that her mom is gone. “She died out there. You want to end up just like her?” Charlie wants to explore and meet new people, but Ben thinks the outside world is too dangerous, and that she should stay home where it’s safe. Charlie leaves, and breaks into song: “Betcha on land, they understand, bet they don’t reprimand their daughters. Bright young women, sick of swimming, ready to staaaaaaaand! And ready to know what the people know, ask them my questions and get some answers. […] When’s it my turn? Wouldn’t I love to explore that shore up above? Out of the sea, wish I could be part of that world.” At least that was the subtext.
“Rebellious” Charlie walks past an abandoned Ferris wheel, and then unearths a hidden Return of the Jedi lunchbox nearby. The lunchbox stores a hidden stash of thingamabobs, gadgets, and gizmos. She places the Chicago postcard that she found in the RV into her box. “Look at this stuff! Isn’t it neat? Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete? Wouldn’t you think I’m the girl, the girl who has everythiiiiiiing?”
“Because we’re family.”
Revolution is also something of a family drama. Meet the Mathesons: (fake) dead mom, dead dad, kidnapped son, Katniss-wannabe daughter, and mysterious ninja uncle. It’s a fun group. And then there’s the makeshift family. As I mentioned earlier, Dead Ben trusted Aaron—school teacher, day drinker, and former Google millionaire—to take care of his prized possession. Then there’s Dead Ben’s girlfriend Maggie (Anna Lise Phillips), a doctor of some sort, who knows her herbs. She also carries around poisoned whiskey like a badass. Unfortunately, it seems that the lovely-accented Maggie won’t be sticking around in the long run. She’s no longer listed as a regular and isn’t even featured on the NBC site. Instead, we can look forward to Anna from One Tree Hill/Carlotta from Friday Night Lights joining the show. Hmmm. Daniella Alonso will be playing someone named Nora, “a rebel fighter battling against the militia.” Here’s hoping that she’s awesome, and that she also keeps a store of poison whiskey.
With his dying breath, Ben told his daughter, “Danny’s gone. […] My brother Miles is in Chicago … you need to find Miles.” As Charlie cries over her dying father, he tells her she’s strong, like her mom. She can do this. Maggie and Aaron decide to join her on her quest. When camped out one night, Aaron asks what they know about Miles. “All my dad ever said about him was that he’s good at killing.” UNDERSTATEMENT.
Eventually, the group makes it to Chicago and they find Uncle Miles, who seems like a charming rogue. Charlie tells her uncle what happened to her dad, and he is appropriately sad. Miles explains why Monroe was after Ben, and why he’s after Miles now. She asks what they do now. How do they get Danny back? Miles is not down for Operation Rescue Danny. “Your brother is bait. You understand that? I go after it, it’s not good for him or for me.” She tries to appeal to his compassion. She’s lost everyone she cares about. No go.
But then things take a turn, revealing a traitor in their midst (see the section below). With the Militia soon to learn about Miles’s location, Miles tells his niece and her friends to leave. He, meanwhile, will enjoy the last bottle of single malt scotch in Chicago. And they do, and he does.
When the Militia shows up, it is about a 13:1 fight, the Militia vs. Miles. Mile kills about 11 guys. ELEVEN. I mean, I could be off on the numbers, but I tried to count all the dead bodies. I think that I saw 11 corpses, meaning that he single-handedly killed 11 trained Militia fighters. There were times when he was fighting with two swords, grabbing crossbows off dead bodies, breaking necks, etc. So, that happened. Near the end of the fight, there was a point where Miles was surrounded by about 5 swordsmen, when his niece stepped in and shot one of the guys before running off. Two guys pursued her, leaving Miles to kill the final two. Doctor Maggie kills one of the men chasing Charlie, saving Aaron in the process. Then Nate (see the section below) rescued Charlie from the other bad guy. Nate is only Militia member who made it out alive.
After fighting an army off on his own, Miles needed a few stitches, so Maggie sews him up. No big deal. Charlie makes another pitch to get her uncle to join her. “Because we’re family. And that’s what my dad would’ve wanted.” Miles continues to be my hero: “Kid, if I’m coming with you, you’ve got to dial it back a notch.” Despite his refusal of sappy language, Miles does agree to go with her. “You’re welcome. We’re all going to end up with our heads on a stick, but you’re welcome.” This should be fun.
A Tale of Star-Crossed Lovers
Oh, and did I mention that on the way to Chicago, Charlie met a cute boy? Nate, played by J.D. Pardo. After Nate saves Charlie’s life, he starts traveling with them to Chicago. However, it turns out that he has been working for the Militia all along, following them since they left the farm commune. Once his Militia allegiance is revealed, Nate hightails it and reveals Miles’ location to Monroe’s men. Oops. But on the plus side, Nate ends up saving Charlie’s life AGAIN. Also, Nate is really cute. So, we’ll see how that relationship goes.
General Monroe … GASP!
But wait, there’s more. Back before the blackout, Uncle Miles was friends with some guy named Bass (David Lyons), and the two of them were in the military together, stationed near Port Royal, South Carolina. So possibly they were Marines? Anyway, this buddy overhears Miles get a call from his brother on the night of the blackout. And then … GASP … we learn near the end of the pilot that “Bass” is short for Sebastian Monroe and this guy is the one who grows up to be General Monroe! Uncle Miles and General Monroe were besties! Also, we learn that General Monroe took decorating tips from Alexander the Great.
Additional Notes …
- What do you think the budget for Henley shirts was on this pilot? Astronomical, I assume.
- I love how Aaron teaches the little children of the town for 10 minutes, and then he just wanders around drinking out of a flask. I want that kind of teaching job.
- “Sir, owning a firearm is a hanging offense,” a Militia guy says. Interesting. I guess 15 years without power was enough to destroy the Second Amendment?
- We learn that Aaron used to “work at this place called Google.” Charlie: “That was a computer thing, right?” Aaron: “Now it’s nothing. $80 million in the bank, and I would trade it all right now for a roll of Charmin.” I DON’T GET HOW MONEY IS NO LONGER IMPORTANT!
- The character of Danny, and the actor who portrays him, are doing nothing for me right now. Charisma vacuum. And with no TV or music videos 15 years in the future, there is not excuse for his hair.
- While Tracy Spiridakos does an excellent job crying over her dying father, her character is not really working yet either. She is certainly lovely, but she needs an actual personality and a weapon that she’s better at reloading. Fingers crossed!
- Maria Howell (Grace) played the witch Ayanna in The Vampire Diaries! Also, she apparently played the thankless role of Mystic Falls High School teacher Mrs. Halpern in “History Repeating.” I just figured this was important information for us all to know.