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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Revenge: “Impetus”

Illustration for article titled iRevenge/i: “Impetus”
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Remember season one, when all anyone wanted to do was shout “REVENGE!” from the rooftops throughout every episode? That was this episode, in a nutshell: a return to the plot-swirling, fist-pumping satisfaction of watching Emily finally pull off a successful scheme against a Grayson. Blind, rabid enthusiasm is a bit of a silly way to analyze the success of an episode of television, but the feeling Revenge invokes is so integral to the experience that it must be taken into account. And this was a fist-pumping episode.

Really, the entire episode is essentially the platonic ideal of an episode of Revenge: Emily pulls off a huge revenge scheme, the Graysons snipe and snark and completely distrust each other throughout, Conrad blasts off a speech so despicable it’s almost inhuman, and Emily even has a few moments to contemplate how her revenge mission is affecting her soul. The show pulls off all of these things with ease, and still has the time to make the entire hour build to next week’s season finale. It’s an impressive feat, and the result is the best episode of the season.


The episode is titled “Impetus,” ostensibly as a nod to Emily’s decision to kidnap Charlotte in a gambit to force Conrad and Victoria’s confessions about David Clarke. It ends up feeling more like a nod to the fact that the show needed its own impetus, a nudge to finally get Emily’s takedown of the Graysons in gear after being stuck in neutral for so long. The second Emily had Aiden kidnap Charlotte, the second she spent the entire time she held Charlotte captive forcing Charlotte to realize her parents were behind David Clarke’s conviction, Revenge felt like it was declaring itself again. Emily ultimately did all this to bend Charlotte to her will; to force her to unwittingly confront Conrad and get him to secretly out himself on live television. But she also twistedly does it for Charlotte’s benefit, bringing the one person who still mostly sees her parents in a positive light screaming into the dark, along with everyone else.

And oh, how Charlotte is sent screaming. The best parts of the episode feature either Victoria or Conrad, with the highlight being Conrad’s absolute meltdown into pure, glorious evil when Charlotte confronts him about David Clarke. Charlotte has seen many sides of her father-figure throughout these three seasons, but this is the first time she’s seen what Conrad is at his center—rot and evil and malice. It’s an incredible performance by Henry Czerny (and Christa B. Allen certainly holds her own) in almost a winking way, as he essentially calls Charlotte a useless bastard. (Because, well, she’s kind of a useless bastard.) The sequence is brilliantly edited as well, starting with Conrad’s tirade and slowly broadening in scope to reveal that he’s being broadcast to the world. That it ends on Emily’s incredulous, incredibly happy face is the perfect capper to three seasons of her quest.

This is the fist-pumping moment, and it works in large part because the show also takes the time to acknowledge what this means for Emily. In the last episode I worried that Emily was becoming a larger threat than the Graysons, and this fear is almost put into text here, as Nolan and Jack both express grave concerns about Emily’s decision to kidnap her own sister in order to achieve her goals. Her insistence that Charlotte won’t be harmed—and even that putting her through this terror is a necessary path for her to realize just how horrible her parents are—is one thing. But the most important thing Revenge does with Emily’s character tonight is to return to the idea of what will become of Emily when her mission is done and she can finally be Amanda Clarke again. The show has hinted around this in the past, but those hints become full text when Emily questions it herself, by saying “Emily Thorne is a machine. That’s why I created her. I had to find a way not to feel. The truth? I have no idea who Amanda Clarke is anymore.” This confusion is reinforced when she admits to Aiden they belong together—him and this new version of who she is—even when it appears the show is pushing her back together with Jack. If Emily manages to take down Victoria next week, this is obviously her next question: Who does she want to be?

But first, Emily must deal with Victoria. Victoria has been circling the truth about Emily for a few weeks now and she finally appears to get her answer here: Emily is, in fact, Amanda Clarke. That she does this by hurting a small child—stealing Carl’s blood and comparing it to Charlotte’s DNA—is a delicious, devious little way to make it happen. If Emily manages to take out Victoria next week after taking down Conrad this week, it would appear the show is over. After tonight’s episode, though, I have a feeling Revenge has a lot more up its sleeve.


Stray observations:

  • One thing that fascinated me was Daniel and Margaux’s conversation about being descended from evil, and how to avoid falling into it themselves. Daniel actually showed a bit of self-awareness I didn’t think he possessed when he begged Margaux to save him from himself someday.
  • Who is the ring guy? And what, if any, is his connection to Victoria?
  • That cheesy police detective was pretty cheesy. Please let his be a short stay.
  • Nolan using the MyClone application to replicate Charlotte’s screams is a perfectly creepy use for that evil technology.
  • I enjoyed the short trick the show played in letting us think Jack was freeing Charlotte on his own volition, so they could perfectly set up the secret camera reveal on Charlotte’s lapel. Well played.
  • Perfect moment: Conrad fixing his hair right before the police storm in to arrest him.
  • Victoria: “Sleep can wait, Daniel. I have vermin to stalk.”
  • Victoria: “Goodbye, Conrad. Do rot in hell.” 

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