It seems fitting that the nastiest episode of Revenge yet didn’t feature a big, ruinous revenge moment like a house burning to the ground or an entire investment firm crumbling to dust. As much as those moments are exciting and cathartic, it’s the show’s emotional warfare that truly cuts deep. Between the Grayson divorce and the reveal of Charlotte’s true paternity, what started as light emotional horseplay devolved into a total emotional apocalypse tonight, in all of the best ways. If Emily Thorne learned anything from her time with the Japanese sensei, it was definitely how to be an emotional ninja, because damn. The girl is ice cold.
The theme of this week’s silly melodramatic voiceover is commitment and for once it is fairly vital to the overall proceedings. As the Graysons’ marriage commitment crumbles, Daniel and Emily’s own commitment is just beginning as they get engaged. The two commitments are surprisingly similar in their beginnings, as both formed upon the grounds of deceit; Victoria with her pregnancy lie and Emily with, well, every lie. Conrad and Daniel are interestingly similar in that the beginnings of their commitments were formed under the belief and promise of love, without knowing the whole story. This makes the similarities between Victoria and Emily, which have been evident since the start, even more striking. Both are willing to manipulate to get what they want and both are completely ruthless sin the pursuit of this manipulation. It’s no wonder they don’t get along, as people often recognize and are repelled by their own kind. I suppose the Hamptons should just be happy they aren’t working together; the sheer force of them would be unstoppable.
Emily’s main goal this week is to manipulate Amanda (aka Real Emily) into finally leaving town via a complicated scheme involving Victoria and the Treadwell interview tapes. Emily succeeds in manipulating Victoria with the help of Victoria’s lawyer, who has been in her back pocket all along, as he always believed in David Clarke’s innocence. The lawyer only decided not to appeal David’s conviction because he wouldn’t let him, lest it hurt his daughter. (David Clarke: still perfect. Some flaws have to come out eventually, right?) The only thing that went wrong in Emily’s plan was Jack became collateral damage, getting beaten pretty badly by one of Victoria’s thugs. She ends up being able to use this to her advantage, though, using the threat to Jack’s safety as pure emotional artillery against Amanda and finally getting her to leave town.
This collateral damage, however, does bring up interesting moral questions about Emily’s quest for vengeance. Despite her nerves of steel in most situations, the one thing she’s always had a soft spot for here is Jack, and seeing him get hurt because of something she set in motion definitely shakes her confidence. What’s great is how Nolan has become her sort of emotional checkpoint, with his question of “How much collateral damage are you willing to accept? I may have Jack’s blood all over my jacket, but you have it all over your hands” truly giving her pause.
There’s been a lot of critical discussion lately about the price others pay in service to Emily’s mission, most notably in these great pieces from Daniel Walters and Andy Daglas. I must admit I’ve never really felt much of a twinge for the direct targets of Emily’s schemes; they all have an amount of culpability in their own demise, and the show has been very good at conditioning me to side with Emily in all of her conquests (Rich people: Fuck 'em!). What has always been of more of a concern, however, is how her destruction affects people like Jack and Nolan, people who truly care about her and who are in no part responsible for what happened to her father. It was nice to see this concern finally recognized by Emily herself. Emily has made a commitment to the memory of her father that she won’t rest until she has vengeance, but at what cost? And is she willing to pay it? Jack’s injuries finally force her to think about what she’s doing to Daniel, who she really does seem to care about, and wondering if the end result is worth the damage it will cause.
Any doubts Emily begins to feel about her manipulation of Daniel are completely erased, however, when he reveals that Victoria has given her story about Charlotte’s paternity a particularly nasty edge. The tale of their true love is nowhere to be found; no, instead, to save face, Victoria lets Daniel believe Charlotte is a product of rape, making David Clarke into not only a terrorist but a rapist monster as well. The extent to which this is a despicable act is almost unfathomable, but it perfectly illustrates the depths to which Victoria will go to maintain her image in Daniel’s eye.
Revenge has been doing a great job of giving Victoria layers and making her someone you want to almost root for, but after this? Emily needs to take her down. The look in Emily’s eyes as she throws away any nagging worries of collateral damage and reaffirms her commitment to total Grayson destruction was almost rapturous in its build up and subsequent payoff, and is definitely one of the most satisfying moments of the series so far. Yes, Daniel is still a poor cuckold caught up in things he doesn’t truly understand, but the sheer naked hatred involved in Victoria’s story pretty much assuages any lingering doubt. I don’t know where this is going to go next, but I know it’s going to be nasty.
- Nolan highlight of the week: Him putting a consoling arm around Emily – or at least attempting to – and her rejecting him.
- The idea of Victoria having some sort of local thug on speed dial is pretty hilarious. Where do we think she met him? Pilates?
- Daniel casually dropped news of the SEC investigating Grayson Global. Did we know of this and I blacked it out, or was this new information? And how will Emily eventually use this to her advantage?
- Jack has a stray interview tape under his bed. Hmmmm.
- “Oh, and what news is that?”
- “All I’ve got to show for my summer with the Graysons is a gun-wielding psychotic ex-boyfriend who made out with you.”