The Revolution Will Be Televised
J.J. Abrams is messing with mystery again. However, instead of starting with a violent plane crash that only affects a planeload of passengers, executive producer Abrams and creator Eric Kripke turn out the lights – affecting the entire planet.
Hope you’re not afraid of the dark.
Revolution is a new NBC, hour-long drama set in the near future in a post-Apocalyptic America, specifically Illinois, which has survived for 15 years without battery power, electricity, light bulbs, or anything else. New York and Chicago are now miles of crumbling skyscrapers and destroyed buildings. Once cookie cutter housing developments are makeshift settlements where neighbors must garden and grow their own food, purify their own water and in general simply survive.
At the center of our story are the Mathesons: father Ben, Ben’s girlfriend/doctor Maggie and his two barely adult children Charlie (Charlotte) and Danny. And it appears Ben might know more than he’s letting on. It is his harried entry in the first few minutes, telling his wife (played by Abrams’ favorite and Lost alum, Elizabeth Mitchell), to fill the bath tubs and sinks with water, that alerts us that Ben is aware what’s going to happen. The last cell phone call he makes is to his brother, Miles, a member of the Army who can barely make out his older brother’s garbled attempt to explain before cell reception dies and all the cars on the road stall.
In this new America, the government has fallen leaving the world to be ruled by militia. Charlie and her family are under Monroe’s jurisdiction, a particularly sadistic SOB who nobody likes. But that’s typically what happens when you give your soldiers free reign to shoot civilians.
In this case, it’s Ben who finds himself at the wrong end of a shotgun barrel. And now Charlie must travel from her isolated village to Chicago in search of her uncle Miles (Billy Burke), a man she’s never met, a man her father only ever described as “good at killing,” in order to fulfill her dad’s dying wish.
Revolution is well-paced for a pilot, providing just enough exposition in just enough doses to keep the audience intrigued and following along. Similar to Kripke’s Supernatural, it’s the characters and relationships that are the strength of the show. The family at its heart, while broken and battered, is who we want to root for. Charlie is at turns strong, vulnerable, naïve and kick-ass. She is a noble heroine for primetime and I’m confident that in Kripke’s capable hands, she will continue to be.
Billy Burke as Miles Matheson, is a familiar face, having played a variety of psychopaths on TV (most recently, serial killer Philip Stroh in the final episodes of The Closer) and starred in a few of those Twilight movies. Burkes’ previous roles have demonstrated he’s capable of playing nonchalant snarkiness with aplomb, but what his character needs is the capability to play heart, to give the audience and Charlie someone we can rely on. While Burke can play this strength, it will be interesting to see if it’s Miles or Charlie whom the show will revolve around.
Revolution is most definitely Kripke’s show (he’s written all six of the episodes that have been filmed so far), however, there are Abrams touches throughout; namely, a few well-placed but unexplainable mysteries. What is the pendant that Ben thrusts into his friend Aaron’s hands before his death? And why does a seemingly inconsequential character have one exactly like it?
And why in God’s name does it light up?
As a viewer and a long-time Supernatural fan (I’ve even converted a couple of people), I trust Kripke as a storyteller, creator and writer. I believe he knows his story arc and has fully envisioned where these characters are going and how they’ll get there. Truthfully, if this were solely J.J. Abrams show, I wouldn’t have that kind of faith. I found Lost to be repetitive and frustrating and only got hooked on Fringe after he stepped away from the day-to-day. I’d call Alias an outlier, but we all remember the time jump right? Yeah, pure Abrams. (Please note, I did love the Star Trek reboot. I think Abrams has some strengths as a director and creator, I’d just rather he focus on the big screen and not the small.)
Revolution is a worthy offering for the primetime gods. And since it’s on NBC, there’s hope they won’t kick it to the curb if it doesn’t perform right away (we got four seasons of Heroes, didn’t we?) If the other episodes are similar to the pilot, then Revolution should soon enter the coveted pantheon of cult classics, just nerdy enough to dip its toe in mainstream, while different enough to still be cool.