Revenge has always portrayed Emily as somewhat of an evil genius of revenge, able to wriggle her way out of any situation with just a bit of clever trickery, but one of the reasons the show is so improved this season is that it remembers how fun it can be when all of her plans blow up in her face. Specifically, how fun it can be when the people she is using along the way suddenly refuse to be manipulated, forcing her to scramble to come up with new strategies. “Control” was full of these moments, and they all added up to a crackling good time.
The best thing I can say about this season is that Revenge remembered the type of story it is trying to tell here—and ultimately the type of show it wants to be—and that focus comes out in the results. One of the smarter beats is that the writers finally—finally!—make Daniel a bit suspicious of his too-cool fiancée and doubt their relationship as a result. Daniel is the lynchpin of Emily’s entire plan, but despite that fact she repeatedly takes him for granted, which had made him seem like a vapid doormat. Giving him valid reasons to question her devotion to him and then follow through on that threat provides easy, organic obstacles for Emily’s plan, something the show has struggled mightily with in the past.
What’s interesting about Daniel as an obstacle is that it gives Emily some emotional shading as well. We finally learn that Emily is standoffish because she’s so disgusted with the Graysons she can barely stand to look at Daniel, let alone play the doting fiancée. This, along with her using real memories of her father in a very emotional confession of her feelings to Daniel, serves to demonstrate just how much all of this is weighing on her. Every time it seems like Revenge is setting Emily up to become the show’s greatest monster—possibly greater than the Graysons—it always pulls back just enough with moments like this to portray the woman behind the mission, preserving enough of her soul to keep the audience rooting for her to succeed. (The only disappointment here is that Daniel acquiesced so easily, but he was never the brightest bulb.)
The biggest development in this episode is learning that it was Patrick who cut Conrad’s brake lines. There’s a lot of ultimately useless nonsense about Aiden threatening Jack to leave town over Conrad’s suspicions—it’s fairly entertaining nonsense, but nonsense nonetheless—which causes Aiden to continually shift alliances between Conrad and Victoria, right up until he figures out that it was Patrick, and chooses Victoria’s side, and tells her before Conrad. What’s great about this is that it allows Victoria to do what she does best. She manipulates Charlotte into taking the fall for it all (by warning her of Conrad’s vendetta against Jack) so she can save her new, beloved son. That scene works like gangbusters, because while it was happening I was so confused by Christa B. Allen’s terrible acting during her confession. But that turned out to be the point; she was faking the whole thing, and the terrible acting was just a part of it.
But why did Patrick do it? And what is his ultimate agenda, because he’s obviously up to no good? These are big questions, and Revenge ups the stakes by taking his relationship with Nolan from flirtation to actual feelings right before dropping the bomb that he’s up to something shady. All of Patrick and Nolan’s scenes here undercut what seemed to be the case when Nolan was investigating him. Nolan wasn’t just doing it to find out how he fit into Emily’s scheme; he was doing it because he’s genuinely interested and a little gun-shy following the Tyler and Padma debacles. That's why story works so well, and the show sets Nolan up to get his heart broken yet again right when Patrick’s true intentions get just a bit murkier. Selfishly, I want Patrick to be a good egg, and for him to ride off into the sunset with Nolan together and leave these crazy Hamptonites behind, but we can’t always get what we want.
For all the good things about Revenge right now, there are still a few things that aren’t working as well, and unfortunately those revolve around Margaux. Voulez is a total snooze, and, more egregiously, her new relationship with Jack makes little-to-no sense, both seeming like a way to shoehorn her into the narrative for something bigger to come in the future. They’re obviously setting up something big with her father, but although Margaux was an intriguing presence in the premiere and Katrine Vanasse is lovely, her story hasn’t amounted to much so far.
But one narratively shaky thing in a sea of good isn’t enough to sink the charging ship that is season three. Ultimately this episode was more about transitioning Emily to the next step in her plan rather than pulling off anything big. But the fact that the episode still managed to be extremely entertaining is a great sign. I have no problem saying Revenge is back, and hopefully it is here to stay.
- The Emily/Aiden relationship went full-on romantic here, and I am unsure if it works. Is she in love with Aiden or is she in love with Jack? It’s unclear what the show wants us to think, here.
- Did Charlotte really not know that Emily and Daniel broke up because Emily had a thing with Jack? And if not, why was her surprise so strangely fake?
- Why was Jack shirtless other than a gratuitous show of skin? Never mind, I’m cool with it.
- The Grayson garage is gloriously fancy.
- “You can spend your life being controlled by powerful men or you can learn to control them.” The Victoria Grayson motto.