A grand, messy midseason finale deserves a grand, messy proclamation, and here’s mine: Making the Grayson family even partially aware of Emily’s duplicity was the smartest thing Revenge has ever done. It took everything that was stale about the character dynamics and gave them a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart. So far, the results have completely energized the show.
The biggest beneficiary of this adrenaline boost is the relationship between Daniel and Emily, which in the episodes since the shooting turned from a complete bore into a total and utter delight. Angry, sarcastic Daniel is absolute and utter perfection, and watching him openly taunt Emily by bringing Sara into his bed right under her nose is by far the most interesting turn Daniel’s character has taken in three seasons. Suddenly, Emily doesn’t have a patsy on her hands to work around; she has a full-on opponent to barrel through, and Emily Thorne barreling through an opponent is magic. Daniel never had much of a personality, so turning him into a villain here—as the show is obviously doing, by having him flaunt his mistress and then physically assault Emily at the end of the episode—is a bold choice to make, and everything about it works. Josh Bowman may look like a square-jawed leading man, but he has a surprisingly fun twinkle to his eye as the second coming of Conrad that I wasn’t expecting. I look forward to many more of his sparring matches with Emily.
What Daniel’s newfound treachery can’t control, though, is his less treacherous and more delicate mistress, Sara. Daniel might be attempting to play Emily’s game, but Victoria rightly points out that he’s an amateur messing with a professional—a point Emily proves when she goes after Sara just like Victoria predicts. Sara stays strong under Emily’s pressure, for the most part—even dealing with her mother’s disapproval when Emily brings her in to shake Sara’s moral tree a bit—but ultimately Sara can’t handle being in the role of the mistress while Emily’s presence lurks in the background. Perhaps the best thing about Revenge this week is how Sara was technically doing the right thing, yet I still couldn’t help but be annoyed by her wishy-washy indecisiveness while she broke Daniel’s heart. She obviously made the right decision: Sara is far too weak to go head-to-head with Emily for the rest of her life, that’s for sure.
As for the episode, beyond the pure joy of watching Emily and Daniel play out a slow burn version of The War of the Roses, well, it was more of a mixed bag. The biggest question “Hatred” raises is what is going on with Emily and her strange episodes of lost time, a question it looks like the show is going to be dealing with when it returns in March. All we know is that Emily is blacking out and waking up in very inopportune places, like in the South Fork Inn after maybe sleeping with her father-in-law. Her blackouts weren’t as seamlessly integrated into the show as they could have been, but ending it on her in Conrad’s bed (wearing his pajamas!) can only be a good thing. We’ve already had amnesia, so bring on the injury-induced psychosis!
The biggest non-Emily plot this week was all about Patrick searching for his birth father after Nolan so helpfully dropped off some research that gave him the name (and what a wonderful, tense delivery scene that was). Patrick may have declared his allegiance to Victoria, but he’s still a character who is easily swayed by the slightest breeze of betrayal. That character trait is in full force here as he demands the truth about his background from Victoria. At least his inability to trust anyone for longer than 30 seconds is given an explanatory backstory, as he reveals that his adopted mother died and his adopted father’s new wife didn’t care much for him at all, taking his father’s affections away with her. It’s certainly a sad story, and it adds some shading to what has been up to now a very shallow character. But it’s nowhere near as devastating as the true story of his conception when Victoria finally lets him in on all the details: Her rape, assault, and subsequent stalking by his father that led her to give him to the convent and run away to Paris to save them both. Victoria’s backstory is so extremely horrific and yet so perfectly explains the woman she grew up to be that hearing it is almost strangely bothersome, but the show does a great job of doling out Victoria’s more vulnerable moments very sparingly, so as to not soften the character too much.
The final piece of the show’s current puzzle of a landscape is Aiden and Niko, and just exactly what is going to happen when she comes after Aiden for killing Takeda. Nolan helps Aiden set up the Grayson Global bomber from last season as a patsy, but right before Niko goes off to flay him like a ripe mango she discovers her father’s katana underneath Aiden’s bed—because Aiden is obviously a gigantic moron who has never heard of having a storage unit in which to stash the important relics you steal from the mentors you kill. This story isn’t the most compelling thing on the show, but watching Aiden sweat a little could be fun.
This wasn’t a perfect episode of Revenge: The disparate parts came together a bit sloppily, Emily’s new blackouts were confusing but not in what seemed like a purposeful way, and there are still a few plots (like poor Jack) that just don’t really work. But what worked about this—the glorious infighting between Emily and the Graysons—worked wonderfully, and a few times even made me cackle with glee. I’ll take a few dud plots here and there any day if they’re balanced by the soapy perfection that is the new union of Emily Thorne and Daniel Grayson. May they live together in unhappiness forever!
- Conrad’s little meeting with the Voulez assistant last week pays off here, with him bribing her to add libelous copy to the article about Lydia then subsequently threatening to sue Margaux for libel, all as a ploy to take over his son’s own interests in the magazine. Conrad will always be the most magnificent bastard.
- Emily pulled out her own stitches in her sleep and then had Niko cauterize her wound with a fireplace poker. Be more badass, Thorne, I dare you.
- Niko peeling mangoes as practice for “separating skin from flesh” is fantastic. All people on this show should practice their sadistic revenge skills on fruit.
- Did Patrick set the whole gallery on fire or just that little part of the gallery? What was that?
- Margaux and Jack are moving in together! Oh wait, no one really cares. Sorry, Margaux and Jack.
- Daniel cannot pull off a double-breasted suit. Leave the fashion risks to Nolan, sweetie.
- Margaux: “I assume Satan will want the corner office.”
- Nolan: “Your husband’s… kind of a hole.”