REVOLUTION Episode 12 review: ‘Ghosts'

Daniella Alonso as Nora in Revolution. Credit: Brownie Harris/NBC
Daniella Alonso appears as freedom fighter Nora in Revolution. Credit: Brownie Harris/NBC

REVOLUTION “Ghosts”
Season 1 Episode 12

Executive Producer: J.J. Abrams
Creator: Eric Kripke
Writers: David Rambo & Melissa Glenn
Director: Miguel Sapochnik

SPOILERS follow for “Ghosts.” Don’t read if you don’t want to know.

Now that the hunt for Danny is over and that MacGuffin is dead and buried, Revolution’s new story arc appears to be shifting away from Charlie and centering on other members of the Matheson family.

Since we knew (and cared) so little about the sadly underdeveloped character of Danny, it’s difficult to see his loss as important other than as a point of contention for Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) and her mother (Elizabeth Mitchell). They each grieve over Danny’s death in their own way, Charlie by throwing herself into even more dangerous rebel escapades, and Rachel by having emotional breakdowns as often as possible.

During one of these meltdowns, Rachel berates Charlie for her ongoing participation in rebel missions, screaming, “I’m not going to lose you, too!” and slapping her daughter hard across the face.

For much of the first ten episodes I’d rather wished somebody would slap the annoying Charlie, and yet here I found myself feeling pity for her. For a long time it looked as though this whiny, weepy, immature young woman was never going to grow up. Now that she has, it seems unreasonable for her to have to take harsh criticism and physical abuse from the mother who long ago abandoned her and knows next to nothing about her character or her experiences. So what if mom Rachel is carrying around a sackful of guilt over Danny’s death? I think she dang well deserves to tote that blame around by herself and not pour it out on what little is left of her family.

Miles (Billy Burke) decides that he needs the help of a former military cohort from his Militia days to turn the rebels into ruthless killers. He and Nora locate Jim Hudson (a stalwart Malik Yoba), one of Miles’ fellow Militia officers who once participated in the failed assassination attempt on General Monroe.

as Jim Hudson in Revolution. Credit: NBC
Malik Yoba as Jim Hudson in Revolution. Credit: NBC

Trying to put his violent past behind him, a now married Hudson is living under an assumed name in a quiet township. As Henry Bemis (nudge, nudge, Twilight Zone fans), he runs the town library, and seems to have cornered the market on Stephen King novels. As if the character of Randall Flynn’s near naming to King’s villain Randall Flagg wasn’t enough of a shout out, there’s a shelf of references shoved in the viewer’s face at every opportunity, too.

Subtle Revolution is not.

“You can’t wash that much blood off your hands,” insists Miles to the reformed Hudson, in an effort to bully him into joining up with the resistance fighters. Clichéd remarks like this are the closest Miles ever comes to addressing his own bloody past, and it is hoped that his own dirty deeds will not go forever unaddressed. Otherwise how is anyone supposed to care whether he reforms or not?

An advancing Militia kill squad having conveniently followed Miles and Nora to Hudson’s door does the persuading instead. They force this week’s showdown, which the rebels win. Patently ridiculous, of course. The rebels carry only swords and the Militia squad members who vastly outnumber them are all heavily armed with guns and rifles. Gen. Monroe must have sent all of his soldiers to the Stormtrooper School of Firearms Training because these idiots are unable to hit the side of a barn, much less a few guys standing a few feet in front of them.

One consequence of the rebel win is that Hudson’s pretty little wife dumps him upon seeing what violence he is capable of. This comes right after he saves her from certain death at the hands of a leering Militia officer, so her lack of gratitude is pretty galling. Because of this a rejected Hudson reluctantly decides to join Miles and the rebels after all.

Colm Feore as Randall Flynn in Revolution. Credit: NBC
Colm Feore as Randall Flynn in Revolution. Credit: NBC

Meanwhile, Randall Flynn (Colm Feore) parries with Gen. Monroe (David Lyons) over just who actually holds the power. We learn that Flynn’s anger over his son being killed in action fifteen years ago in Kabul, Afghanistan was what initially fueled his megalomaniacal desire to turn off the electricity and keep it off. He intends to keep all of the power in his own safe little hands. Yes, this is just what our planet needs, another maniacal visionary intent on world domination.

Flynn’s ability to track the power pendants lets him hunt for Rachel, whom he feels he needs to continue his diabolical energy research. She figures out that he is on her trail, and so destroys the two pendants in her possession. This seems a pretty stupid move as the rebels could have probably used those for defense, but as the creator of the pendants it is presumed that Rachel could build more — although how she can do that without the power they provide may be a bit of a problem. Initially, we were told of the existence of twelve pendants, so a few episodes undoubtedly will be wrapped around finding more of them.

Lastly, Aaron (remember Aaron, the new Danny?) finally demands that Rachel explain what the heck is going on with all of these blinky flash drives and who Randall is. Her insipid reply is, “You don’t want to know.”

This has got to be one of the most preposterous lines ever written in this show. It’s so bad that I’m surprised that Elizabeth Mitchell had the guts to say it. “There’s this place called “The Tower…” is how Rachel begins to explain things to Aaron before the fadeout.

Things that didn’t work in this episode:

  • Early in the episode, Flynn taunts Gen. Monroe with the idea that he could just as easily have taken his precious top-secret information to “Governor Affleck” in California. And Miles’ joke, “So, you’re what … Conan the librarian?” Please. Wouldn’t it be nice if less time was spent shoehorning pop culture references into the formulaic plots and more time was devoted to fleshing out the tissue-thin characters?
  • Most unbelievable moment of the episode was when Charlie apologized to her mother. This whole situation is pretty much all Rachel’s fault, so it’s odd that no one ever addresses that.
  • Elizabeth Mitchell plays Rachel with a disconcertingly vapid expression that does little to endear viewers. That she also gets some of the most ridiculous lines to say doesn’t help.

Things that did work in this episode:

  • Evil meets evil and the always-impressive Colm Feore wins the battle by oozing seniority all over David Lyons, who manages a few points for smiling with implied menace.
  • Charlie finally grows up! Tracy Spiridakos has a better handle on playing Charlie’s natural emotional detachment after Danny’s death than she ever did at playing her as a whiny twenty-something.

My take: Ramping up the action helps the episode over some of its weakest points, but when the cliché-riddled script takes over it falters more often than not. The biggest difficulty is that the characters are just too cardboard to care about.

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