Last week, while discussing Revolution with a friend, he suggested that I had been too easy on last week’s episode when I expressed my admiration for the show’s willingness to present Miles as both our reluctant hero and someone who should be tried as a war criminal. He agreed with me on this point but argued that “The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia” didn’t do anything that we hadn’t seen at least three or four times before, and that as much as it did have some good moments, the show was still essentially spinning its wheels. I had to concede the point and agreed that as the series moves into its home stretch, it would be to its benefit to move out of its comfort zone and offer up a few new plot developments.
So what does Revolution give to me in response to that simple request? Romantic tensions! And not even the established romantic tensions of the Miles/Nora/Rachel love triangle, which the show ostensibly set up in its first two episodes back from hiatus and has now completely forgotten all about. No, it’s one relationship that comes right out of nowhere and one that’s dredged up randomly from past episodes, both of which are presented with not nearly enough context to make me care and then trimmed with some truly awful dialogue. The end result is “Home,” an episode that’s annoying in a way Revolution hasn’t since its early days and one that sabotages almost all of the goodwill that it’s been engendering since returning from midseason hiatus.
A large part of the problem stems from the fact that after a series of episodes that have been expanding the scope of the Revolution world and the war against the Monroe Republic, the series turns back to a micro scale. With Miles’ Georgia-supported forces cutting a swath through Monroe’s bases, Monroe decides that the best course of action is to draw Miles out, which he does by returning to their hometown and dispatching a scout carrying an ultimatum. Either Miles surrenders to his forces, or Monroe massacres everyone they grew up with, starting with their old friend and Miles’ ex-fiancée Emma (Annie Wersching, 24’s Renee Walker).
The name and location of the town are never stated by either Miles or Monroe, and that’s just one of the many things that leave this whole plot feeling disconnected. Yes, it’s been established that Monroe and Miles grew up together, but there hasn’t been anything in the last 14 episodes to indicate either man has a strong loyalty to this place, nor any explanation as to why Monroe didn’t try this the first time Miles rebelled against him. We have no connection to the people of the town, or to either man’s history there, and as a consequence it feels like a detour that is wasting their time and that of the viewers. And the less said about those scenes of teenage Miles, Monroe, and Emma the better—it felt like watching screen tests for an insipidly dull MTV or CW drama pilot, all of which flashed by so quickly they make me appreciate what the show does on its other unnecessary flashbacks. Even the return of Mark Pellegrino as Monroe’s right-hand man—Captain Jeremy Baker apparently having survived Monroe’s paranoid purges—doesn’t do much to save the episode, as all he’s asked to do is play off an increasingly tetchy commanding officer who’s not giving anyone else the time of day.
And the majority of the blame does have to fall on David Lyons, unfortunately. At certain points over the course of this season, I’ve argued that Revolution has found a way to play to Lyons’ strengths as an actor in ways that The Cape never did, but most of his scenes in “Home” just serve as ready reminders of why he was so easy to mock on his earlier show. He has utterly no chemistry with Emma, and the dialogue is almost laughably bad as a result, first as he tries to convince her of a “terrorist threat” and then when she tries to appeal to their shared history (“I loved you too” “And you’re just telling me that now”). His visits to his old house and his family’s graves fall flat partially because of the lack of context, and partially because his expressions are going for poignant but come across as pouting.
Thankfully, once Miles takes the bait and does show up to the city, there’s room for a bit more excitement, as he proves yet again that he can kill virtually anyone else in the world without breaking a sweat. There’s some firefights with Monroe’s guards that use the town’s cover well, some actual fire as he attempts to save Emma and the population from a burning courthouse, and Billy Burke even gets a chance to be charming under pressure as he tells Emma it’s good to see her again right as it looks like there’s no way out—right until Nora and Hudson swoop in as the cavalry. Of course, it’s undercut by Monroe grabbing Emma on her way out, yelling, “We got the gang back together!” without a hint of irony, and setting up a Mexican standoff in the town square.
By this point in the episode, the beats of the story had been so painfully telegraphed I was expecting Emma to get gunned down in the crossfire, throwing more unnecessary fuel on the Miles/Monroe feud. And that does happen, but Revolution somehow finds a way to make that moment even worse, as Emma reveals that she bore Monroe a child—and is shot right before she has the chance to tell him where he is. If there’s a silver lining to this reveal I don’t see it, because we already have plenty of reasons for him to feel betrayed bordering on psychopathic, and he doesn’t need another motivation beyond his desire for world domination. Monroe works when he’s twitchy and paranoid, the last thing we need is for him to move into Missing territory and yell at Baker “I am not the general! I am a FATHER, looking for his SON!” And this doesn’t even get into the speculation about whether Miles could be the father instead, a soap opera twist I’m already dreading.
There’s little to redeem the episode on the other side of the plot either, which sees Rachel and Aaron crossing over into the Plains Nation as part of their journey to the Tower in Colorado. Unlike last week we’re not given any context for the Plains Nation just yet, as the two aren’t moving deep into any of the cities or plains proper but only spending time in a bazaar-like setting as Rachel tries to interpret Dr. Warren’s notes. It’s in this setting that Aaron gets a glimpse of his long-lost wife Priscilla, only to be coldly rebuffed as he tries to find some method of reconciliation.
This plot came at the right time for Revolution, as right after asking how every character manages to cover hundreds of miles on foot in almost no time at all my biggest question has been why the hell Aaron is still on this show. The pilot gave us some interesting details about his past life but proceeded to dump all of them out in “Sex And Drugs,” and since then, he’s been increasingly marginalized in the group to the point that I suspect he accompanied Rachel on her trek to the Tower simply because he doesn’t have anything better to do. Several people have argued that he’s supposed to fill the same role as Lost’s Hurley, but he’s falling short on that count, as he’s not nearly as interesting of a character or a performance, and with a shortage of fun lines or poignant moments, it’s hard to see Weezer putting Zak Orth on their next album cover.
So it made sense to add another Aaron-centric plot, except this one sadly falls squarely between dull and unnecessary. Again, because we’ve only seen his wife once (twice if you count the hallucination in “Kashmir”), we don’t have enough history to be invested in this relationship, and the chemistry between Orth and Maureen Sebastian is sadly lacking. Yes, it’s something of a character move for Aaron to be more assertive and save her life, but there’s no reason why we as viewers should care that she’s safe, or any indication that any of this means anything in the larger framework of the show. And the reveal that she’s a fugitive who killed someone to save her daughter doesn’t mean anything either, because we know Aaron’s not going to go with her and she’s not going to join him, meaning the whole event feels like wheel-spinning from start to finish. I suspect that they’re planting yet another seed that this could potentially be Aaron’s daughter, but it’s also a seed I don’t care nearly enough about to go back and see if it makes sense within the show’s timeframe.
The nicest thing I’m prepared to say about “Home” is that at least it didn’t turn out that the nanomachines can also suppress the power of love, and that’s the cause for all of these wayward couples being unable to find their way back to each other. Even the episode’s final reveal—that Neville’s found asylum with the Georgia Federation, and is now being dispatched as their agent in the Republic—didn’t do anything to salvage what had come before, only making me glad that it was over and we can move onto something potentially more interesting. Revolution’s been doing much better for itself in 2013, but this was a painfully flawed misfire that it’s going to have to work to come back from.
- NBC announced a series of drama renewals last week, and Revolution unsurprisingly earned a second season. Despite steadily going down in the ratings, even with The Voice as a lead-in, it’s still a hit amidst the desolation that is the network’s scripted programming. We’ll have to see if in the fall they keep close to The Voice or cut it loose to fend for itself on the schedule.
- The renewal is made more interesting by the news that Rockne O’Bannon will be joining the show’s creative team as Eric Kripke’s number-two man. This could be a mixed blessing: On one hand O’Bannon is the creator of Farscape, a sci-fi show that expertly balanced a unique sense of weirdness with a keen understanding of character development. On the other hand, he was more recently the creator of Cult, which made me want to ask the CW to pay part of my cable bill as penance for airing it on my TV. Here’s hoping he adds more of the former rather than the latter, and that next season these things don’t just snap right off.
- Speaking of renewals and pickups, Tom’s defection means Julia can be kept in the style she’s accustomed to, but with CBS almost certain to pick up the NCIS: Red spinoff Kim Raver’s starring in, I’m still patiently waiting for the freak accident that takes her out.
- Showing the aftermath of the militia battle rather than the battle at the start of the episode is one of the more blatant budget-saving methods they’ve pulled. I guess all those helicopters add up after a while.
- Apparently Georgians are referred to within the Republic as “peach-eaters.” You’d think without power they’d at least amuse themselves with more creative regional epithets.
- I do enjoy the fact that Charlie’s turning into an emotionally dead robot the longer the season goes on, partially because it means there’s less of Tracy Spiridakos “acting” and more silent stabbing. Though there are still plenty of painful deliveries: “If Monroe really is there, I want to make sure Miles does kill him this time.”
- Lesson learned: If Miles tells you he’s going to shoot you if you do something, it’s not an idle threat. You do that thing, he will shoot you.