Is REVOLUTION Plagued with Tired Tropes?

Posted on October 10, 2012 by

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Daniella Alonso as Nora, JD Pardo as Nate, Anna Lise Phillips as Maggie, Tracy Spiridakos as Charlie Matheson, Billy Burke as Miles Matheson, Zak Orth as Aaron in REVOLUTION. Credit: Brownie Harris/NBC

Daniella Alonso as Nora, Zak Orth as Aaron, Anna Lise Phillips as Maggie in REVOLUTION. Credit: Brownie Harris/NBC

REVOLUTIONThe Plague Dogs”
Season 1 Episode 4
Creator: Eric Kripke
Writer: Anne Cofell Saunders
Director: Felix Alcala

Billy Burke as Miles Matheson comforts Tracy Spiridakos as Charlie Matheson in episode 4 of REVOLUTION “The Plague Dogs.” Credit: Brownie Harris/NBC

Revolution takes a few steps forward with ‘The Plague Dogs” by hitting some genuine emotional notes and solidifying the relationship between Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) and Uncle Miles (Billy Burke), and a few steps backward in the way it chooses to do so.

It wasn’t surprising that Revolution would off someone so soon, but how sad is it that one of the few genuinely interesting characters is killed in this episode? Doctor Maggie (Anna Lise Phillips) dies a needless death simply so that Charlie and her Uncle Miles can finally bond a little over her passing, and so Miles will be guilted into sticking around. What a waste.

I was really hoping to see this character’s story develop, although I must admit that I had my doubts about Maggie’s longevity from the start. It’s obvious that the supporting players in Revolution — quickly identified by the far more limited backstories and costume changes given them — are there simply to fill the red shirt quota.

That’s disappointing for several reasons. One is that killing off a supporting player is a lazy way of telling the audience, ‘We’re not afraid to kill off characters, therefore we must be so unpredictable!’ Yet the mere fact that such a non-essential character was chosen for death negates any claim that the show is willing to take chances.

Anna Lise Phillips as Maggie in NBC’s REVOLUTION. Credit: NBC

Although we feel for Maggie’s death due entirely to a fine performance by Anna Lise Phillips, it in no way changes the dynamic of the show or creates any new issues. She’s just one less mouth to feed on the big road trip to rescue Danny (remember him?).

As for unpredictability, it’s all too easy to guess what will happen next on Revolution because every plot point is foreshadowed with such a heavy hand. The only genuine mystery seems to be where have all the science teachers gone?

At least we got one tiny clue in this episode as to the limits of current transportation. Back during her search for a ship back to her home in England, Maggie was informed that “all tall ships and steamboats were destroyed in the war, ripped apart for lumber or else the Militia’s got them.”

Nate (JD Pardo) shows up again. Doesn’t do much, though. Credit: Brownie Harris/NBC

What an improbable concept! 15 years seems like far too long for everybody, including the shipbuilders and sailboat owners who survived the aftermath of the big blackout, to just be sitting around on their hands waiting for the power to come back on before doing something about it.

But the worst part of Maggie’s death was that Charlie treated it as if it was just another bad thing happening to her. “You can’t leave me! Everybody leaves me!” she cries as Maggie expires. Yes, Charlie, someone bleeding to death is really all about you, isn’t it?

Sadly, Charlie is yet again given the damsel-in-distress role later in this episode, and the poor helpless girl has to be rescued once more by big, strong men. Puh-lease! At least she managed to escape the ode-to-Saw trap on her own before the boys showed up to fight off her kidnapper and release her.

One of the biggest problems that Revolution faces is a lack of tension. I never doubted for one second that Charlie was going to get out of the trap, or that the gang would get away from the killer dogs, did you? Charlie and Miles may be faced with a different obstacle to overcome each week, but viewers are simply never in any doubt that these characters will make it to the final episode for the big revelation, whatever that is.

The trouble with this type of format is that bigger and more spectacular obstacles have to be created for each successive episode, and by doing this the show might easily morph into a “Perils of Pauline” format, which gets old fast.

Graham Rogers as Danny Matheson and Giancarlo Esposito as Captain Tom Neville in REVOLUTION. Credit: NBC

We’re not in Kansas anymore, unfortunately

Okay, hands up anyone who still cares what’s happening to Danny? Poor Graham Rogers has been given such a thankless role, and Danny remains little more than a cipher. Even a killer tornado and the selfless rescue of his captor Captain Neville (Giancarlo Esposito) cannot seem to pump any life into his character.

Much as I like Esposito as an actor, he also has been given so little screen time that it’s hard to develop either sympathy or dislike for his character. Even Neville mention of his family and son merely seemed like a set-up for additional manipulation of Danny. I wish they’d give the man some decent scenes and dialogue to get his teeth into, for goodness’ sake!

The episode ends with a flashback revealing that Charlie’s mom Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell) walked away from her family all those years ago to surrender to her brother-in-law Miles, then Commanding General of the Monroe Militia. For what purpose? Tune in next week, kiddies, for chapter five.

Things that didn’t work in this episode:

  • They’re still eating canned food after 15 years? Has no one heard of botulism?
  • Why are there no female Militia members? (There are plenty of female rebels.) Did the power blackout somehow negate equal rights for the “dark side”? Or has General Monroe set back the rights of women to Civil War standards similar to the style of his battle camps?
  • Everyone is still laughably clean and tidy for a world without running water. This peccadillo bothers me more every time.

Jade Pettyjohn as Young Charlie in REVOLUTION. Credit: NBC

Things that did work in this episode:

  • The casting of Jade Pettyjohn as “Young Charlie” for the flashbacks was genius. Not only is she a dead ringer for Tracy Spiridakos, but also this kid can out-act some folks three times her age!
  • Miles finally tells Charlie to shut up! That’s something most viewers have been longing to do since episode one.
  • The cinematography in this episode was outstanding, in both the painterly framing and exceptional use of color in most scenes. Kudos to director of photography David Moxness.

My take: I still feel like it is taking too long to set the stage for the eventual confrontation between Miles and Monroe (David Lyons), and am unhappy that we have been given next to no information about the world outside of our little gang and their road trip. The main characters’ backstories are being parceled out in crumb-shaped amounts and I’m not sure that the little clues we get along the way are satisfying enough to sustain continued interest.

Although, I am curious as to why Monroe chose Liberty Hall in Philadelphia, the seat of American Independence, as his central command center. All I can surmise is that the producers are planning to blow it up in some sort of spectacular way eventually. But then, I think every show needs more explosions, really.

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