The series premiere of Revolution aired Monday and if you saw it last night or online in weeks prior then you might agree that it was a solid pilot that followed in the tradition of J.J. Abrams’ shows that are based in reality with elements of science fiction that slowly untangle with more mystery. But this is actually a Eric Kripke show, whose best known for creating CW’s Supernatural.
Pilots in general can be a little rough around the edges and second episodes can sometimes be big improvements, but we think Revolution has some potential but it could also use some work. Here is a list of the parts we thought made the grade and those that didn’t.
What made the grade:
The Concept – Revolution joins The Walking Dead and Falling Skies as recent apocalypse series. Both of those explore the loss of humanity and survival in a dystopian world. We want to see what Revolution does to set itself apart and the fact that there seems to be cause or a purpose of the cataclysmic event is a mystery introduced to string us along the way. 15 years pass and no money or electricity flows through the world. The world is one big third world nation.
Two brothers–Ben and Miles Matheson–appear to have knowledge of what caused the blackout. Tech expert Ben (Tim Guinee) downloads mysterious files into a flash drive that doubles as a pendant. He dies in the present day when militiamen try to take him in, survived by his daughter, “Charlie” (Tracy Spiradakos, Being Human), his asthmatic son Danny (Graham Rogers), who is taken by the militia instead, his girlfriend Maggie (Anna Lise Phillips) and brother Miles played by star of the show, Billy Burke.
The Twists – The leader of the militia, Sebastian “Bass” Monroe (David Lyons) was with Miles before the blackout, as they were both members of the Marine Corps. Perhaps one of the most intriguing twists was that the power is not completely off as Grace (Maria Howell) uses a pendant flash drive similar to the one that Ben used. The pendant is used to fire up a jerry-rigged, ancient, monochromatic computer to chat with an unknown person. The militia can be viewed as the “revolution” or we may have a second one that would presumably take the militia down if the show makes it that far. Now there was another twist that was in early versions of the pilot, but it was removed so we won’t spoil the exact details. But we are curious as to the reasons it was pulled since it was one of the more memorable moments.
Captain Tom Neville – Played by Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad, Once Upon a Time), there wasn’t much revealed about his character, but it was Neville’s final scene with Grace that conjured all of the reasons why we love this actor.
Grace – one of the more captivating survivalists who reveals herself to be a much bigger player.
Rachel Matheson – **Minor Spoiler ahead** The long thought-dead mother is played by Elizabeth Mitchell (Lost, V), a more compassionate actress (than original cast member Andrea Roth), so we can’t wait to see what unfolds in her character’s arc, since her character’s biggest scene was edited out of pilot.
Going back to basics –folks that escaped the city found refuge in the country by learning how to sustain life through agriculture, homemade medicines, and raising livestock. Transportation is done primarily with horses or foot (not bikes?). Messages are hand delivered, alcohol is distilled like chemistry labs, and the Hunger Games, Lord of the Rings, and The Avengers inspired everyone to take up archery. Printed pictures and postcards and yes, books make a return. Even Grace’s relic machine at the end of the episode is a trademark Abrams’ device.
What didn’t make the grade:
The Action Choreography – We realize swords and crossbows have been pillaged from what used to be sporting good stores and renaissance fairs, but the sword choreography seemed like something out of Pirates of the Caribbean down to the suave looks after Miles skewers militiamen. A lot of the action just feels very contrived. Burke is so cool he doesn’t even have to dodge bullets. And someone please explain to me why when someone is protecting themselves from a sword attack with a bow or crossbow, why the wires are never cut?
Muskets – I’ve seen Lord of War; there are enough guns and ammo in this world to probably kill each over several times over, so it’s hard to believe after 15 years we have to go all the way back to civil war artillery. I know there’s a desire to mix the old world with the new world but… muskets, really?
Flash drives – did anyone else find it odd that in several television shows and movies that science, military or technology experts travel with valuable information on disposable flash drives?
Aaron – Zak Orth is the shleppy, sloppy former Google (how many mentions will this sponsor get each episode?) executive who becomes irrelevant and eventually becomes Ben’s friend. Aaron brings in the geek element, and is yet another comic relief schlub that’s become all too common in genre shows, like Hurley in Lost, or Artie in Warehouse 13.
Nate – Militiaman Nate (JD Prado) just suddenly appears on Charlie’s path cleaning his bow; then protects Charlie, uses her, only to betray his own people to protect Charlie. This character is a hot mess and he’s barely spoken 10 lines.
The rush to Chicago – we get the sense that this journey to find Miles will take several episodes, thinking they are somewhere in the country several states away. Nope, they get to Chicago in just one day on foot and find Miles. We appreciate them cutting to the chase, but a little sense of drawn out travel and adventure would have been nice.
Miles, Charlie, Danny – We hate to be down on the three main characters so quickly because it is one episode after all, and we’re sure they’ll be fleshed out soon enough, but Ben’s kids are a little annoying. Charlie lays the “family” act a bit strong to Miles who is equally a bit too much of a sourpuss. Danny seems highly ill equipped for this harsh world and doesn’t seem to understand what triggers or how to treat his asthma.
Does Revolution Make the Grade? – We are intrigued with the main concept but we can’t help but feel that this is pieced from the aforementioned Walking Dead and Falling Skies, the old world action of Game of Thrones and the blackout phenomenon dare I say it, reminds me a bit of NBC’s 2010 attempt at sci-fi, The Event. We’d like nothing more to see an Abrams-Kripke series do well and thrive on NBC but we’re a bit shy to call it must-see just yet. Our gripes are easily fixed with some fine tuning or will be resolved or “evolve” naturally over the course of more episodes and that’s why we’re going to stick with it to see where it goes.
What did you think of the Revolution pilot?