Sneak Peek – NBC’s Revolution

Ask and ye shall receive.

After mentioning how nice it would be for the networks to debut some of their drama pilots in addition to their comedies, I was pleased to discover that NBC heeded my call. They decided to post the first episode of the only new drama I was actually considering taking a flier on this fall – Revolution. First they decide to end The Office after my post and now this. Is someone at NBC basing their decision making on my blog posts? Honestly – they could (and have) get worse advice.

The main thing that attracted me to Revolution was its association with J.J. Abrams, who is a producer on the show. I generally like Abrams’ body of work – Lost, Super 8, the reboot of the Star Trek franchise, Cloverfield – so when I see his name on something I am more likely to give it a second look. It also didn’t hurt that NBC has been running promos for this show pretty non-stop all summer; I couldn’t have ignored this show if I tried. I’ll admit the image of an overgrown and abandoned Wrigley Field in the commercials caught my eye in particular; throw a baseball stadium into just about anything and my interest level peaks exponentially.

I didn’t know much more about the premise than the absolute basics – the world’s electricity suddenly goes out, people are forced to survive and there is some sci-fi angle – nor was I really aware who the actors were. I was hoping that the show wasn’t going to be too complicated; I’m not a huge sci fi fan, though I do dabble, and sometimes I find these types of shows are more work than they are worth. I also still suffer from PTLD – posttraumatic Lost disorder – and I’m very wary of shows that raise a lot of questions that they can’t answer. A mythology is fine and I don’t need instant gratification, but you’d better have a plan or some sort of satisfactory resolution. Not fair baggage to be bringing to a new show, which I do realize, but it has made me more skeptical.

I have to admit that I wasn’t all that invested in the first half hour of Revolution. I didn’t dislike it, but it also wasn’t drawing me in. I realized that part of that is apocalypse fatigue; I’ve recently been reading and watching a lot of things that deal with civilization after a disaster, whether that be zombies (Walking Dead, both the TV show and the comics) or from a virus that creates vampires (the book The Passage). It begins to take a toll on your psyche after a while. It also means that it is a rehash of material in a lot of ways – no matter what wipes out life as we know it on the planet, there are only so many ways you can tell the story. A lot of the same basic themes reemerge. So parts of Revolution felt like a retread. End of the world? Been there done that.

I also spent more time than I should have contemplating the global blackout logistics. It really shouldn’t have befuddled me as much as it did, but it bothered me that when the electricity went out, so did all batteries (including cars). It just reminded me too much of Physics class and made me head hurt. That’s not the fault of the show, but I distracted myself trying to make that part of my brain work.

The ultimate turning point for me was when Giancarlo Esposito turned up on screen. I love Esposito and had no idea that he was on the show, so this was a delightful surprise. For those not in the know, he was freaking amazing on Breaking Bad. Breaking Bad was fantastic before his arrival, but he took it to a whole different level with his portrayal of Gus. He has a spectacular range – he can be absolutely terrifying and he can be light hearted. Whenever he appears, I take that as a good sign.

I don’t know if I was energized from the sudden sight of bad-ass Esposito (my favorite type), but I was eventually drawn into the plot and the characters. Once the characters had a purpose, rather than just reacting to their situation, I thought things definitely picked up. And I’m always a sucker for a good quest. People on the run are always more interesting than people that are stationary; season 2 of The Walking Dead proves that point. Without spoiling too much, when one member of their community is taken by a local warlord, a small group sets out the free the hostage and to warn the next person on the militia’s list. It is clear that some people know more about the power outage than they are letting on and may even know how to reverse its effects.

While the pilot generally focused on the plot, there were some early hints of who these people are. Unlike Lost, I don’t anticipate that this will be a particularly character driven show. I could be wrong of course, but I’m guessing that Revolution will be more about the action and story. I’m OK with that as long as the story is engaging and so far I was intrigued enough that I’ll be back for at least a few more episodes. I wasn’t particularly excited about some of the characters, but I am hoping that with more backstory and character evolution that will change.

Some other quick thoughts:

  • One of the other characters that I did like a lot was Miles, played by Billly Burke. You have no idea the shame spiral I was in when I realized that the reason that Burke looked so familiar to me was from the Twilight movies. My street cred just took a serious hit.
  • There were some fairly long fight sequences for a television program and I was pretty impressed with their execution. It was more in the vein of something you would expect in an action movie, though of course the bad guys only fight the hero one at a time even though they outnumber him/her. It’s nice that even in a post-apocalyptic world with no rules, the bad guys still believe in a fair fight.
  • At least one Lost alumni makes an appearance.
  • I particularly liked the scene post blackout when the little girl was eating ice cream for the last time. It was short but it was so bittersweet to watch her parents encouraging her to slow down and enjoy it, since obviously without power it would melt. I’m not sure what made that scene stick out – maybe it was the juxtaposition of the enjoyment with the knowledge that you would probably never experience this again. Or maybe I just really like ice cream. Probably the latter.
  • Even when the world as we know it ends, you still need comic relief. Revolution gets that in former Google executive Aaron (Zak Orth). This is a guy that isn’t necessarily well equipped to be a survivalist, though he does have a cool beard.
  • The year of the archer continues; knowing your way around a bow and arrow is a handy skill on Revolution.
  • A world without electricity is a world without TV. I doubt I’d last two months.

I can’t say that I’m necessarily all in on Revolution, but the second half of the pilot convinced me to at least give the show a trail run. I wasn’t blown away, but they set up an interesting premise and raised enough questions/mysteries that I want to see where things go. The pilot starts a little slow, but finishes on the stronger side, so make sure to stick with it for the full hour. I am not sure what road Revolution is leading me down, but for now I’m willing to go along for the ride.

Revolution will debut on Monday September 17th on NBC. The first episode is currently available on hulu.

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