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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Revenge: “Reckoning”

Illustration for article titled iRevenge/i: “Reckoning”
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Emily’s conscience was ultimately her undoing.

No matter how many times Emily seemed to commit herself to doing everything necessary to exact her revenge on the Graysons, there were always cracks. Moments when her inner nature took over, when her emotions caused her to stray from her intended path. These cracks came from her feelings for other people—sometimes Daniel, sometimes Jack—and, in the end, her feelings for her father and her desire to live up to who he expected her to be caused everything she worked toward the entire season to go up in literal flames.


Intellectually, I feel like I should probably be frustrated. Instead? I’m absolutely delighted.

The entire (very good) freshman season of Revenge has been leading up to this finale, and it was a good one: soapy, twisty, exciting, emotional, and fun. Emily’s journey ends with her killing white-haired man and taking down Conrad Grayson, and all events of the finale service this mission. Until it all falls apart. Her mission to rescue Nolan and kill white-hair is brilliant in its sheer audaciousness, and up until the moment she can’t bring herself to actually take another person’s life, it’s never in doubt that she actually could if she wanted to.


Emily making the ultimate decision to spare white-hair even though he knows her true identity has a ripple effect far more interesting than if she had gone through with it, and that’s why it works. If she kills him, the Graysons go down and everything next season is a complete reboot. But by sparing his life and giving his employers the opportunity to take out the plane holding all of the evidence (and reportedly Victoria and Lydia as well), things will only go deeper down the rabbit hole. As much as I complained last week about the show getting too attached to shadowy figures, I think they found the perfect way to make it interesting: by attaching those figures to something Emily greatly cares about: her mother.

That’s right, Emily’s mother is alive, and next season appears to be all about her story. It’s not a huge surprise she’s alive—no main character has a randomly dead mother on a show with such a soapy pedigree—so the cliffhanger wasn’t jaw-dropping, but something doesn’t need to be jaw-dropping to be a hell of a lot of fun. And watching Emily, who had just seen all of her hopes and dreams explode somewhere between New York and D.C., get the fire of revenge back in her eyes as she watched Victoria talk about her mother on that videotape was fun. So it appears season two will be all about the Americon Initiative (which is a ridiculous name) and its ties to Emily’s mother. Which means everyone in the cast is still in play, just in a very different way.


One of the big events of the finale was Emily ending her engagement with Daniel so she could be with Jack. Of course, Emily’s life doesn’t allow for happy endings so instead of telling Jack all her secrets, instead one of the biggest lies she told throughout the series came back to haunt her: Amanda is back, and she’s pregnant with Jack’s baby. This is just about the soapiest twist a show can throw in the mix, and while it is about five shades beyond ridiculous the pathos of it all works. Jack was always portrayed as the one good thing; the thing waiting for Emily when she achieved her goal. The problem is she couldn’t keep him out of the line of fire, and therefore he becomes collateral damage. Whether or not that’s Jack’s baby, Amanda is a living, breathing reminder of how she used the only person she’s claimed to love. And that’s soap perfection.

Looking back on how much the storytelling on Revenge progressed since the pilot, it almost feels like a different show. The soap roots were obviously there from the beginning, but it was only when the show ditched the revenge-procedural element and went full-on soapy serial that it became such an addictive delight. From all appearances, season two is going to double down on the soap trappings. The big move to Sunday nights is a gamble for ABC, but quality-wise, I definitely think this show can pull it off. Here’s hoping the viewers follow.


Stray observations:

  • This week, in Nolan is awesome: hugging Emily, smashing the cell phone in his snazzy saddle shoes, wearing red pants, shipping Emily and Jack, backing up the evidence. Season two is all because of you, Nolan!
  • Victoria so got off that plane. I’m looking forward to her and Emily realizing they have the same goal next season and working together. (One can dream.)
  • Speaking of Victoria, her giving Emily and Daniel an empty box as an engagement gift is priceless. “Now best of luck with your next endeavor” is just the cherry on top of that bitchy sundae.
  • My biggest question: Why didn’t white-hair tell the Graysons about Emily’s true identity? Obviously Americon doesn’t want them to know. Interesting.
  • Daniel and Victoria’s confrontation was also a highlight. As much as Daniel has been wishy-washy in the past, his newfound allegiance toward his father feels like it might stick. And everyone loves a good slap in the face.
  • Charlotte and Declan’s story is still struggling to feel like more than a time-waster, but I did appreciate her explicitly turning into her mother just as Daniel is turning into his father. If you’re a Grayson, you can’t seem to escape your fate.
  • Emily chloroforming herself into a flashback is one of the more innovative transitions I’ve seen.
  • Where is Takeda and why did he allow Amanda Clarke out of his sight? I hope the baby turns out to be his.
  • Nolan: “If you came here to rescue me, you might want a do-over.”
  • Nolan: “Just stay right where you are, and do not do anything revenge-y until I get there. Got it?”
  • Emily: “Let it play.”

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