Revolution: Season 1
Growing up in Brooklyn I have lived through several major power outages. The first occurred when I was a child in 1965 resulting in little more than eating by candle light, a pass on homework and no television, all ten channels or so. The next was in the summer of 1977 forcing me and my wife to take s day off from work staying home in the sweltering heat. Then there was the one in 2003, again in the middle of a very hot and humid month this time however, I was dependent of a greater number and variety of electronics. With no cable, computer of internet I read from sun up till dusk to pass the day devoid of precious electricity. Last year after moving to New Jersey blackout followed me culminating in an arduous 8 days without power or heat. That was the worse to endure not just for its excessive duration but depriving us of the connectivity and electricity we use for getting online to my job and most sorts of entertainment. I was forced to resort to a ploy from my childhood, reading comic books, (graphic novels actually), by flashlight. Our dependency of electronics, internet and computerized devices is more prevalent that we ever could image back when I was twelve. One of the latest science fiction series to hit broadcast television is NBC’s ‘Revolution’. Ostensibly it can be categorized as a high concept premise; a post-apocalyptic world fifteen years after all forms of electrical power suddenly and inexplicably ceased to function.
In the fifteen years since the blackout the world as we knew it evaporated literally overnight. People, are nothing if not resilient quickly made every attempt to adapt to the circumstances which, unfortunately reveal both the best of human nature and most despicable inclinations lurking in the darkest recesses of our minds. We have all seen the scenario that plays out next many times before with society returning to the feudal times were might made right and local war lords assemble a company of toughs to enforce their slightest whim as absolute law. Each of these factions quickly found themselves at war with neighboring fiefdoms. The arms race has been turned back centuries to the accumulation of pistols, rifles and blades. One of the most expansive of these new states was the Monroe Republic, a military dictator ship ruled with an iron first by its founder, Sebastian Monroe (David Lyons) based in what used to be Philadelphia serving as the capital. It controls most of northeast of the former United States extending up into Canada. Its emblem feared by its citizens is the letter ‘M’ within a circle. They are constantly in a state of war with the competing militia states as well as battling a group of dedicated rebels.
The family that is at the center of the action that drives the series is that of Miles Matheson (Billy Burke). As a former member of the U.S. Marines he is well versed in fighting and tactics but at this point Miles is content as a barkeep in a small settlement. His wife, Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell) was believed to have died shortly after the blackout only to surface in Matheson’s compound in the capital. While he lives in old Chicago Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) young woman of seventeen, and her slightly younger brother, Danny (Graham Rogers), Mile’s niece and nephew, reside in a small community. One faithful day one of Monroe’s officers, Major Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito) initiates a skirmish resulting in Danny taken prisoner to be brought back to Monroe. Neville’s was to bring back Miles but in lieu of that the son would have to suffice. Charlie is superficially a variation of the ‘Hunger Games’ archetypes, a pretty young woman with an extraordinary drive to survive and a deadly talent with bow and arrow. While there are undoubtedly similarities the writers expertly makes certain Charlie is uniquely defined and Ms Spiridakos has the ample talent to make Charlie the breakout character of the show. She hits the road with former Silicon Valley billionaire, Aaron Pittman (Zak Orth) and Maggie Foster (Anna Lise Phillips) a medical doctor from England. They find Miles and later loose Maggie but pick up a highly trained and motivated rebel. Together the foursome head out to track Danny and rescue him.
When I initially came across the studio announcement of the series I thought it sounded interesting but with a propensity towards being a one trick pony; life returned to a pre-technological state. Not only was that fear not realized the series turned out to exhibit an incredible potential along with a delightful blending of social commentary, psychologically driven thriller and more action than usually found within the context of a weekly Sci-Fi based series. What ‘Revolution’ has to offer is something truly synergistic, its myriad of parts creating something greater in scope. There is the whole sociological examination on our all-pervasive dependency on technology. The recent prolonged blackout that resulted from Super Storm Sandy turned out to be ideal for helping the audience understand a sliver of what this global outage would bring. As the story develops the blackout is just the barest sliver of the mystery. The cause of the blackout is skillfully danced around with tantalizing clues dropped like breadcrumbs leasing us precisely were the writers want us to go. There are a set of a dozen pendants that can negate the effect of what caused the blackout permitting electronics to function once again. The effect is localized to a few meters but it also confirms that that it was not just a loss of electricity; something prevents any thing electrical to function. The field generated by the pendants cancels what holds us in the new dark ages. Whoever has one or more of these pendants possess incredible advantages over their adversaries. This infuses what is referred to as a plot coupon; collect them all and redeem for a conclusion.
Although this was an unexpected and pleasant surprise what truly sets this series apart from expectations and other shows is how it is able to reinvent itself even within the confines of the freshman season. It starts out as a pursuit vehicle with Miles et al chasing Neville and Danny. Then a political drama is permeated adding scope and increased depth. There is family drama playing out providing a touch of soap opera giving a solid basis for character development. Binding everything together is the science fiction thread that crafts a mystery of potentially epic proportions. Like Russian nesting dolls every mystery resolved opens up to reveal another quagmire to hold your attention. The stellar cast is well able maintain the suspense, drive home the action and keep you riveted anxiously awaiting what happens next. There is plenty of exposition and a first class cliffhanger for the end of this season but thankfully NBC has given a green light to a second.