Revolution – Pilot
And yet another post-LOST mythology driven drama hits the air, and yet again it fails to fulfill any of the features that made that show the success that it was, despite being produced by one of the minds behind that program J.J. Abrams. The show begins in a standard everyday, suburban setting and shows what appears to be an EMP echoing across the entire globe, destroying everything with a trace of electricity in it (including the machines that we use to make electricity). The show then flash-forwards fifteen years to show us what has become of those small suburban areas without electricity; they are reduced to communes living from their own gardens, while the cities – or at least Chicago – has become one, flora flowing over the once stark skyline.
It’s an interesting premise but one that is killed by the time jump. Eric Kripke of Supernatural‘s script skips the believable bit of the story in which people such as yourself react to this situation and the suddenly changing world and jumps right into the small budget sci-fi; schlocky costumes and all. With a director like Jon Favreau behind the camera and presumably the biggest single episode budget that the series will have one would expect that the pilot would at least look good, but on would be wrong. Strangely it’s not the cheap CGI effects that spoil the shows visual style, those are actually quite decent and subtly used besides, no, it’s the physical stuff – the costumes, the props, the choreography – that feel as if they should be on SyFy or from some Hercules spin-off.
This stuff would be forgivable if the show had some interesting ideas or compelling characters within the world that it created, but even for this early stage they’ve failed on that front. The very first scene that we see ‘in the future’ is the towns pseudo-teacher talking to his students: he wonders aloud what happened that day, why physics all of a sudden went haywire, saying that it doesn’t make any sense. The kids aren’t overly interested and this makes him a little irate, he responds by telling them that while it may not be as ‘cool as the bow-hunting stuff’ we should be most interested in why the global EMP occurred, asking those kinds of questions. This seemed an instruction to the audience, but its one that the show itself doesn’t follow; the majority of the next fourty minutes focused as it is on that bow-hunting stuff.
While I wasn’t overly taken with some of the action sequences in the show – they seemed something of another era entirely to me – there are that many here, that many minutes sent watching people fight, that some beats are bound to impress. The Captain casually unloading his pistol into civilians while a clash rages around him, an arrow ripping through the stomach of a no-goodnik right before he rapes the protagonist and many of the multiple murders that Billy Burke gets to inflict by blade. Yeah, you heard me right; Revolution is a very violent show given its childishly campy sci-fi story and very dark given its place as an audience pleasing network drama.
While the buckets of blood that pour out of every person involved in the pilot didn’t impress me much on their own the fact that the show is so willing to go dark did; it bodes well for the potency future plotlines if this is the stuff that they felt comfortable putting in the pilot. While there have now been a whole host of post-apocalyptic programs on TV this is the first that I’ve seen that featured fullly populated cities and semi-structured civilizations: the markets, the people and the politics, with the freedom to take them anywhere these aspects could make a very interesting contrast to the small-scale, isolated communities that we are usually given.
Of course though nothing that the show does in this episode suggests that this is the path that it will take going forward; instead it simply feels like it will follow its fetching female lead and her family further down the path first set by Katnis Everdeen, the downtrodden people standing up to the oh so tyrannical tyrant via archery. There is even a young, male, morally torn and vaguely Native American fellow archer introduced in front of a waterfall that you just know is going to have will they won’t they tension with Charlie as a way to trap the few Team Jacob fans who don’t have the same fetish for The Hunger Games into watching. Frankly if you can cast Giancarlo Esposito in a creepy villain role, give him the suave accent of a true southern gentleman, some spooky speeches and still not have me be invested in the drama then you are doing TV wrong.
Pre-releasing pilots is a good idea when they are for good shows that people will speak kindly of, when they’re this though… I dont know. While I was never overly excited for Revolution to begin with I have to say that after seeing this pilot I honestly don’t know if I will be watching the second episode when it airs in late September and I watched the entire first seasons of Flashforward, V and Falling Skies so it’s not like I don’t have a place in my heart for this style of sci-fi drama. So while we still have TV’s and electricity to power them I strongly suggest that you spend your time watching something else instead.