Revenge might botch a lot of things along the way (see my review of last week’s dud for thoughts on the tonal rut throughout this first arc) but when it comes down to it, the show usually manages to stick its landings. “Exodus,” the fall finale and culmination of Emily’s plan to frame Victoria for her murder, certainly delivered in a way the last several episodes have failed to do. This was some satisfying stuff, and satisfying in a way the show hasn’t been since toward the beginning of this season.
It’s pretty obvious now that Emily’s plan to frame Victoria was never a very good one. There were far too many ways for it to go wrong, far too many slight little changes to the sequence of events that could end up derailing the whole thing. The worst part about the whole thing was revealed tonight: Framing Victoria for her murder was also the way Emily was planning on taking down Conrad, as she was counting on a panicked Victoria to roll over on Conrad for the David Clarke affair in order to save her own skin. That’s a lot of elements left up to chance, and the Emily of old would never have attempted such a risky endeavor.
Where I think “Exodus” succeeds—and where a lot of the season has failed—is that it finally reminds the audience of the emotional stakes Emily was operating on throughout the orchestration of this plan to cause it to be so haphazard. Emily came up with this accelerated plan for Jack, as a way to apologize to him for Amanda’s death by getting out of his life before she does more damage (and, yes, to prevent him from going to the Graysons and spilling all her secrets). The emotional connection between Emily and Jack hasn’t landed for quite a while, but their goodbye scene here works like gangbusters, simultaneously bittersweet, regretful, and sufficiently angry on Jack’s part. Revenge works best when its emotional beats resonate, and early in the show’s run most of those beats happened with Jack. The show remembering how important that connection is to Emily and her past right before she leaves for good was essential to making this story work.
And who else but Daniel could have pulled the trigger? Revenge spent most of this season breaking Daniel down to his most vulnerable, taking away a lot of Emily’s affection toward him and giving him doubts, then bringing in old flame Sara in order to completely upend his entire world. In retrospect, his sort of slow downward spiral dovetailed perfectly with his wedding day, turning him into a shell of a man on what should have been the happiest day of his life. When he was swilling down massive amounts of alcohol, desperately calling Sara with one breath and then promising Emily he would be a better man with the other, it seemed like he had become his worst nightmare: his parents. He only confirmed his transformation into full Grayson when he overheard Emily confessing to Victoria that her pregnancy was fake on the yacht, with Daniel stepping out of the shadows with perfect soap opera timing, drunk and desperately angry. Emily getting shot by the very man she was using to get revenge is the ultimate poetry.
How great was the entire sequence on the roof? Victoria, finally getting proof from Lydia that Emily’s intentions toward Daniel weren’t pure, Emily confessing that her pregnancy was fake, just like Victoria’s pregnancy to get Conrad to marry her was, and then Aiden calling an audible and dragging Victoria away so they can set their plan in motion, right before Daniel shows up and turns Emily’s fake murder into a potential real one, right before heading back down below to join his family like nothing happened. That this could even happen underlines just how horrible Emily’s plan was, but hey, a busted plan is far more fun than one that goes her way. It’s obvious Emily isn’t going to die, which is exciting—now both Victoria and Daniel know she isn’t quite what she seems, and in turn Emily has leverage over their heads because Daniel is the one who shot her. It certainly sets up new dynamics going forward, which is essential for an ongoing soap like Revenge to survive.
Another thing Revenge did right was to bring back Patrick just in time for him to start making trouble. It annoyed me that last week’s cliffhanger of Victoria declining to attend the wedding was played like such a big deal to Emily because it seemed like such an easy obstacle, and Emily proves that it was here by enlisting Conrad’s help to get Victoria to attend. That Conrad does it by allowing Patrick to return to the Hamptons unharmed causes Emily other complications, complications Nolan is more than eager to try to help her with. Even though Nolan’s friendship with Emily is the backbone of this show—their goodbye at the wedding was legitimately heartbreaking—Nolan is a more interesting character when he has somewhat conflicting motivations to Emily’s revenge schemes, and Patrick provides those conflicts nicely. Now that Emily isn’t gone for good and Patrick seems to have found her secret hiding spot, those complications appear to be just getting started.
Revenge has had a rough go of it this season, starting a bit rocky but quickly rebounding from the mess that was season two, right before leveling off yet again. What is clear now is that Revenge definitely still has the goods to be a ridiculously fun and satisfying soap. Now the show just needs to work on its consistency.
- The show does a very, very poor job of faking Southern California for the Hamptons in this episode. It doesn’t help that they used the same chapel where Caleb Nichol and Julie Cooper-Nichol got married on The O.C.
- Speaking of the wedding, the montage of Emily’s marriage vows intercut with scenes of her revenge journey was inspired, as was the immediate cut to Victoria’s sour face once the vows were over. REVENGE!
- So Conrad and Lydia are officially a thing. I actually think this will reap a lot of snarky, devious rewards in the upcoming episodes, so I’m in.
- Sara tried to kill herself? What?
- Nolan: “Only you could make vengeance so beautiful.”
- Victoria: “When Conrad reaches out, beware of what is in his hand.”