TV review: Revolution (S2, E1 “Born in the USA”)

(image via teaser-trailer.com (c) NBC)

 

Revolution is no longer your grandmother’s apocalyptic drama, my friends.

Somewhere between the nukes being launched, courtesy of soon-to-be-dead patriot Randall Flynn (Colm Feore), from the newly powered up Tower towards the yet-to-be-renamed Monroe Republic, headquartered in Philadelphia, and the Georgia Federation in Atlanta, and the resumption of Revolution‘s post-power tales six months later, everything has gone a whole lot more gritty, darker, and well, suitably apocalyptic.

It makes sense when you think about it.

With the power off again, which was if you recall the only way to try and stop the nukes reaching their destinations – accent on the word  try since we learn very early on that the nightmarish bombs reached their intended targets anyway, proof that the intentions of the rump United States of America, which spent 15 years hiding out in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are anything but benign – the world, as if it needed any more help, has gone to hell in a hand-woven basket.

 

Life is anything but better in the aftermath of the nukes hitting their targets, and it’s Rachel (played to emotionall-nuanced perfection by Elizabeth Mitchell) that is hit hardest, guilt-ridden over her role in destroying the world (image via Facebook (c) NBC)

 

Not surprising really since the only two real bastions of what passes for civilisation, have been turned into smokin’ radioactive ruins by the events of the fateful when Miles (Billy Burke), Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell), daughter Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) and Aaron (Zak Orth) turned the power off and almost immediately had to flick it all off, with unseen dire results.

What is left is an almost lawless realm, The Plains Nation, from which rather vicious, and distinctly uncivilised gang-like War Clans sweep into the Nation of Texas where Miles and Rachel (who are flirting with resuming their rather rocky but hard to deny love affair) and Zak with his new love Cynthia (Jessica Collins) are sheltering in the fortified, walled-off town of Willoughby where Rachel’s father, played by Stephen Collins, lives and practises as a doctor.

They may feel safer but Miles is up to his old tricks – he walks bloodied and bruised from a shed that then explodes, no explanation given – Rachel is struggling with PTSD for her part in the further destruction of the world as we know it (still no sign of REM though) and Aaron, happy though he is with his girlfriend, is troubled by the weird changes in nature such as luminously glowing fireflies that mass in the trees in his backyard.

 

 

Safe they may be but happy they most certainly are not in a world that is darker (literally and figuratively), more frightening and far more dangerous.

Just how dangerous is underlined by Charlie, who is out for Monroe’s (David Lyons) rather handsome scalp, and tracks him to New Vegas, a town where the main industries seem to be prostitution, gambling  and organised street boxing, and where there is an unsettling over-abundance of street buskers with badly-tuned guitars (a sign of the apocalypse if ever there was one).

(What was otherwise a fairly intense scene was leavened considerably by, of all things, when a Friends joke, when a spruiker announces that the “last Friend” David Schwimmer is performing inside an adjacent tent.)

While the all new tougher, barkeeper-seducing Charlie more than manages to hold her own, her attempts to get some measure of revenge are dealt a blow when Monroe is kidnapped by forces unseen, forcing Charlie, who well all know is a decent young lady at heart, murderous revenge burning in her soul notwithstanding, who will no doubt set off after him.

Probably initially because she’s pissed off someone has played the revenge card ahead of her but Revolution has been at pains to be a more nuanced show of late so I daresay the relationship between Monroe and Charlie will grow to be a lot more complicated than it first appears.

 

Tom Neville, with son Jason, searches fruitlessly through the refugee camps of Savannah for any sign that his wife, Julia (Kim Raver) survived the devastation of Atlanta (image via avclub.com (c) NBC)

 

Another character who is struggling mightily with recent events, and almost close to ending it all,gun wearily in hand, is Tom Neville, a man who has changed sides so often, he has pronounced butt bruising from all the doors hitting him on the way out.

But he is no longer the ballsy, swaggering man of old, laid low by the disappearance of his wife Julia (Kim Raver) who may or may not have died in the holocaust that consumed Atlanta.

It’s not made clear whether she lives or not, but after Jason stays his hand from killing himself in the refugee camp they now call home, and the United States government comes sailing into Savannah, charm offensive and all (with the President on his way back to the White House) telling anyone who will listen that the Monroe Republic and Georgia Federation let loose the nukes (a patent lie), Tom gets that old “I’ll git you!” glint back in his eyes, determined to prove the newly arrived “patriots” are anything but.

His declaration?

“I am going to rip them apart from the inside.”

 

Eric Kripke (image via en.wikipedia.org)

 

While I am not entirely convinced that splitting everyone up is the way to go, it certainly does open up some more fronts in a show that is being re-tooled by creator Eric Kripke (Supernatural) into a leaner, meaner, altogether darker and more focused show in the light of what he felt were glaring deficiencies in the first season:

“The problem with Season One was it was too simple. We either ended up treading water, or we ended up throwing drones at the problem. And just spectacle. And the second half of Season One, I’m just watching and I’m like, “Holy shit, there’s a lot of power in this show that has no power!” And then when drones are flying around shooting machine guns at each other, I’m like, “Who am I?” (source: io9.com)

Proof that he means business was an episode that had everyone is almost continuous jeopardy, with pysches and relationships strained, the apocalypse less a rural idyll than a Mad Max-ian tale of the survival of the fittest and most heavily armed.

While season 1 was fuelled by the ongoing need to flick on the switch, season 2 is going to be powered (yes both energy-oriented puns are deliberate and I apologise for nothing) by the overarching twin conspiracies of what has happened to the natural world – Aaron has observed some strange goings on in nature, not the least of which is what happens to him, rather startlingly – and whether the US Government riding back into town is so much the cavalry as it does another band of ne’er do wells with their own untrustworthy agenda.

Both threads are robust and ripe with narrative possibility and suggest that season 2 of Revolution is likely to be a rich treasure trove of post-apocalyptic storytelling, with more stories to tell than it has episodes in which to do it.

Certainly the darker, grittier feel to the show is a welcome change and bodes well for storytelling that will be authentic, and true to the rather down at heels, civilisation-imperiling spirit of the times.

 

 

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