NBC's somewhat logic-challenged new mystery/adventure/drama series Revolution is defying the odds of cancellation, at least the odds we created for it, and holding strong in the ratings. Well, it's only been two weeks, but the show dropped a mere 15 percent in its second outing, and more importantly beat new programming on rival networks to handily win its time slot. (In demo ratings, if in not total number of viewers.) That's a good sign for the show, and for broke-ass old NBC. They might have a success on their hands! A modestly watched one — 9.3 million viewers isn't huge — but a success nonetheless. And you know what? We're oddly happy about that.
Look, Revolution is silly. We all know that it's silly. The central premise on which the whole teetering thing is based — that electricity just up and stops working one day for mysterious reasons — doesn't really make all that much sense, which is certainly annoying. But to the show's credit, last night they acknowledged the main glaring problem: The requisite schlumpy nerd/comic relief character said something last night to the effect of, "We know that we should be able to get electricity working again because electricity is not just something that breaks, but we just can't." Which, OK, "we just can't" is not a great justification for a plot conceit, but at least they acknowledged it, making us all of a sudden slightly more confident that the show will actually answer the question with some degree of, if not credibility, at least satisfying mumbojumbo.
In general the show began to settle into a rhythm of satisfying mumbojumbo in its second episode. The sword fighting mixed with the vaguely Western motifs is still all pretty corny, but the characters are at least marginally appealing and the flashback structure promises to round out a world that initially felt way too synthetic. The way the flashbacks help inform a specific moment in the present — explain it or at least give it emotional resonance — is a direct crib from Lost, but that was one of the best things about Lost's early seasons, so why not repeat the technique if it's done well? And last night's flashback tie-in, all about the strength of the women in the main family or something, was done well; it was touching while also being pretty grim. It's great, actually, that the show is as death-filled as it is. With its high-concept premise, pretty teenagers, and family unit core it runs the risk of being a bizarre riff on '90s syndicated shows the way last season's ultimately disastrous Terra Nova was. But with all this bloodshed and moral ambiguity — our pretty blonde teen lead kills people, you guys — the show borders on something, well, grownup.
It's also hard not to be a sucker for Lost alum Elizabeth Mitchell, who played a key role in last night's big flashback and then, pleasingly, made a surprise entrance in the present. We'd thought she was dead, or rather were supposed to think she was dead but of course knew she wasn't really dead, until she showed up all pampered in a mansion, comfortable but in the hands of the cruel General Monroe. Who, aha, is an old friend of the family's. So all the big players are pretty well tied together, which is a silly bit of coincidence in a country of hundreds of millions, but hey, it's TV. Mitchell is really good at a particular kind of icy woundedness, which she was able to show off well in her pair of big scenes last night, so, welcome, Juliet! We've missed you so.
Yes, this is us saying that we were maybe wrong to so callously mock or at least casually dismiss this hokey adventure show. It comes nowhere near the level of Lost's intricate artistry, but there's a ripple of something smarter and darker under its well-polished veneer that we're curious to keep picking at. It's dubious that the mystery will end up being well-sustained or satisfyingly expanded upon and/or explained — even Lost couldn't pull off that grand final trick — but the getting there might still be a bit of fun. Power on, Revolution. Or, y'know, don't.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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