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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled iRevenge/i: “Trust”
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While the Revenge pilot was solid and intriguing, this episode is the one that convinced me the show really knows what it’s doing. Sure, there are a few kinks to work out and some less successful things happening around the edges, but “Trust” illustrated how the two central setpieces—Emily’s revenge story of the week and her longer, more elaborate attempt to take down Victoria Grayson—are working like gangbusters.

I joked about it in the pilot review, but after seeing Emily’s work tonight, I’m ready to just go ahead and dub her revenge of the week this show’s very own “revenge procedural.” And honestly? The more I see of it, the more I think it is a wickedly smart way to tell this particular story. By promising the audience a fun new revenge scheme each week, it takes away some of the unformed aspects of a soap that might turn away impatient or non-traditional soap viewers while still appeasing the soap lovers. Knowing you can flip on this show every Wednesday and see a smart, pretty woman take down some smug rich asshole (who will also undoubtedly be established to totally deserve it) is a weirdly satisfying way to spend an hour. As much as this show revels in the ridiculously rich trappings of the Hamptons—polo, anyone?—there’s also an underlying sense of “Rich people: Fuck ‘em!” that feels right in keeping with current society’s overall climate. Never mind the fact that a very rich girl is herself doing the proverbial fucking: It’s still fun to watch them get fucked.

Tonight’s victim is Bill Harmon, the head of Wall Street’s most profitable hedge fund, and former close confidante of David Clarke and “Uncle Bill” to little Amanda Clarke. This is why he deserves it: 18 years ago, dear Uncle Bill got in a bit of potential trouble with insider trading, and when Conrad Grayson found out about Bill’s transgressions, he blackmailed him into testifying against David in exchange for his silence. Emily sets him up for the fall by enticing him into taking her on as a client and then using her ties to business wunderkind Nolan to plant false information about a company Nolan will be working with in the future, causing Bill to invest all of his company’s assets in this company. When Nolan announces his company is contracting with a rival company instead of the one Emily tipped Bill to invest in, the stock plummets, causing Bill and all of his investors lose everything. (I got a momentary pang of concern for all those folks who had money invested with Bill who didn’t technically do anything wrong, but then I remembered. Rich people: Fuck ‘em!)

It’s a fun little bit of business; well structured and easy to understand, yet just complicated enough to make you a bit impressed with Emily’s scheming acumen. My only quibble is the little recreation scene at the end that seems to be becoming a staple of each episode, showing how Emily pulled off her scheme. The scheme from the pilot had a few more holes, so the recreation, while not ultimately necessary, was decently entertaining. Here, there was so little information provided, it felt more perfunctory than explanatory. If they’re going to do these each week, they need to have enough story there to justify them.

More successful is how the revenge portion of each week is slowly painting a picture of what happened to David all those years ago. As each person goes down, we get an idea of how they fit into the bigger picture of the Graysons’ betrayal and more things about his case are revealed. The flashbacks aren’t the most tonally interesting part of the show, but the information they reveal is essential to the mystery, and just enough information is divulged to keep things interesting without it feeling like we’re being toyed with. James Tupper could smile a little less, though, right? He's positively giddy at all times.

The revenge procedural portion of the show is enjoyable enough, but more compelling is Emily’s ultimate goal: the complete and utter destruction of Victoria Grayson. Make no mistake, the meat of this series so far is the story of Emily vs. Victoria, and that story is a good one. While Emily is busy insinuating herself into Daniel Grayson’s life, Victoria is busy in turn investigating Emily’s background, looking for skeletons in her closet. Emily has done a stellar job of creating a squeaky clean record, but Victoria’s investigator manages to find a possible affair with Lydia Davis’ husband (scandal!) and a completely missing chunk of time between 16- and 18-years-old (the juvenile detention center from the pilot, perhaps?). Victoria is also busy trying to buy Emily’s rental house out from under her feet, which almost happens, until Nolan swoops in at the last minute and helps Emily out. The moment where Emily tells Victoria she won the bidding war is deliciously tense, as the look on Madeleine Stowe’s face conveys at least five emotions at once. She is simply fantastic.

Emily might have won this round even if she hadn’t won the bidding war, though, by winning the heart of Daniel Grayson. Daniel, despite his shady “maybe killed a cocktail waitress” past, is perhaps the most sympathetic figure here so far, considering he is the one getting completely snowed. The whole thing about him getting shot and potentially murdered in the pilot might have something to do with this sympathetic nature as well. His geniality and reformed man goodness, although honestly as dull as dishwater to watch, should cause some nice tension in the future as Emily must continually lie to this person who has never done anything to hurt her or her father. Will she fall in love with him despite herself? This is a soap, so I can only say I certainly hope so.

On the less tony side of town, things are a bit more awkwardly placed into the narrative of the show. Jack and his struggle to help his father pay the restaurant’s mortgage is still a decent enough story, especially now that Nolan has bought the boat and is bribing Jack to be his skipper and BFF for the summer, bringing Jack in closer contact with Emily and her world. This causes me to question why exactly Nolan wants or needs pay Jack to be his friend. Does he just want someone to hang around with, or is he purposely doing this to get Jack and Emily in the same place? It’s obvious Jack feels some sort of pull towards Emily—and he also obviously still remembers Amanda Clarke, considering he sort of creepily named his boat after her all these years later—but will he figure out her true identity? The scene between him and Emily on the porch was quite lovely, so anything they can do to put those two in the same orbit is a good idea in my book.

Less compelling is the show’s attempt at examining class dynamics in the Hamptons via Jack’s little brother, Declan. Connor Paolo was really very good on Gossip Girl, but here, he feels completely out of place. It doesn’t help that his story so far feels plucked right out of The O.C.; you could practically hear Charlotte’s boyfriend thinking “Welcome to the Hamptons, bitch!” when they were beating Declan up. Most disappointingly, it’s simply a completely mundane way to tell this story. The producers obviously wanted to have the working class family in the story to examine these issues, but if the issues they examine aren’t going to be more compelling than “poor people are awesome, and rich people are entitled jerkfaces” it would almost be best if they didn’t attempt to examine them at all.

Now that Declan’s troubles have essentially caused his father to die of a heart attack, though, things might start to get a bit more interesting. Here’s hoping, because the rest of the show around him is a whole heck of a lot of fun.

Stray observations:

  • The dog is 18. Discuss.
  • Emily’s little threatening moment tonight with Nolan was much better than last week’s. It was also great they established why Nolan is butting in: He looked up to David because David believed in him and trusted him.
  • Lydia wants Conrad to write her a huge check because she’s getting nothing in her divorce. Victoria is NOT going to like that, folks.
  • So what exactly does the security guard know about what went down with the Graysons and David Clarke? Will he be the key to unraveling everything or was that just a simple mention to remind the audience the Graysons are eeeevil?
  • “They’ll get girls; they’ll get cars; they’ll get more money than they can spend. What will I get? I’ll get crap, because I’m a loser just like you.”

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