Saturday, 28 February 2015

TV Show Review: Revolution Season 1 (2012-2014)

© NBC  |  Source: tvdinnerandamovie

United States; 20 Episodes (Season 1); Sci-fi, Survival, Action
Channel: NBC
Creator: Eric Kripke, J.J. Abrams
Cast: Danielle Alonso, Billy Burke, Stephen Collins, Giancarlo Esposito, Tim Guinee, Maria Howell, David Lyons, Elizabeth Mitchell,  Zak Orth, J.D. Pardo, Anna Lisa Phillips, Graham Rogers, Tracy Spiridakos

"We lived in an electric world. We relied on it for everything. And then the power went out. Everything stopped working. We weren't prepared. Fear and confusion lead to panic. The lucky ones made it out of the cities. The government collapsed. Militias took over, controlling the food supply and stockpiling weapons. We still don't know why the power went out, but we're hopeful that someone will come and light the way." -- Miles Matheson

Before I begin, I’d like to say that I really love the recently so very popular genre of dystopian fiction. For whatever reason, I immensely enjoy being confronted with all the different, more or less original ways in which our world could come to an end and then watch a selected group of people fight for survival in the most dire and hopeless of circumstances. So when I first heard about NBC’s TV series Revolution (2012-2014), which deals with the after-effects of a global blackout and is produced by no other than Supernatural’s Eric Kripke and Lost’s J.J. Abrams, I was brimming with anticipation. The preconditions are full of potential to be crafted into a gripping storyline, but are the famous producers really able to make the best of it?

In the past, people were afraid of the things they didn’t know or didn’t understand, and while I’m beyond claiming that it’s any different today, our generation is without a doubt more hardened than its predecessors. Or could you imagine anyone fainting while watching the Frankenstein movie from 1910? By now the cinema screen has been traversed by so many monsters and ghosts and what have you that they don’t really scare us any longer. But what does scare us then?

The team behind Revolution has a good nose for unearthing probably THE most terrifying scenario that could befall homo smartphonis – the loss of all electricity, with “loss” being the operative word. So just imagine now waking up one morning and the light won’t come on. The room is cold because neither does your radiator and no water, neither warm nor cold, will drip out of your faucet. Don’t even think about checking out the news or the internet for any possible explanations or making a call to your neighbour to see if they are faring the same way. There is no more TV, no internet and no phone connection. Not even your car is working. You have no choice but to actually walk all the way to the next house, while the food in your freezer is slowly beginning to thaw. And now imagine that this problem is neither just locally restricted to your own four walls, nor is it just a temporary glitch. No one knows what is going on and no one knows how to stop it. What will your life be like? What will you do to survive?

The first episode of Revolution is set 15 years after the blackout occurred, which I thought was a bit of a letdown. The first years in which society had to be remade and humanity had to find out how to deal with this new situation were what interested me the most. But then the storyline seemed appealing enough, so I could come to terms with that. Especially, since a couple of flashbacks at least hint at the way the world changed after the involuntary throwback into pre-modern times, therefore I’m not going to complain about that. After all, this series provides more than enough things to complain about. 

I’m not going to give a too detailed insight into the story since that would only lead to chaos. There are so many twists and turns in the plot and characters changing from one camp to another and back again that it’s hard to keep track. Of course that gives the series a fast pace and there is rarely a minute of respite. It’s bam-bam-bam, action-action-action, and even the most extremely shocking event ends up outshined by the next even more extremely shocking event. The series never gets boring, but the producers’ determination to always surpass themselves gives off the impression that they had too many ideas, but no clue how to realise them. Everything that happens, no matter how important it is claimed to be, ultimately seems like nothing but a further step to yet another huge, world-devastating event and you just don’t know what to think about it. Let's just take the beginning of the series. It takes them half the season to find Charlie’s abducted brother but then only a few episodes after the family reunion he meets an abrupt death. Just like that and then we’re off to the next tragedy. Not only do the characters seem too shallow and clichéd to allow for identification, but the apparent lack of significance of a main character’s death actually discourages from getting emotionally involved. The interpersonal relations, ever-shifting alliances and love relationships are no more credible and really superficial. The way in which some of the formerly bad guys can just switch sides without anyone ever seriously questioning their motives works out too easily for my taste. 

So neither the focus of the story nor the way it is implemented are quite what I expected, however all those are things I can reconcile myself with. But if there is one thing I can’t stand then that would be “Mary-Sue” characters and almost every single one of the protagonists falls into that category. The main heroine, Charlie, is entirely unbelievable. After the blackout militias formed and took over the country. The cruel and almost barbaric Monroe Republic, named after Sebastian Monroe, is where most of the series takes place. In every possible occasion it is stressed that Monroe’s soldiers are the best there are. Having gone through a lifetime of training, supervised by no other than superhero/former-villain/Monroe’s-best-friend/worst-enemy/lone-warrior/seducer/loving-uncle Miles Mathews, the most dangerous man in the entire Republic, they are still no match for a little girl with a bow and later on a ridiculous assemblage of firearms, which she can immediately handle like a pro. A very severe case of Mary-Sueing. 

In general, the concept of the series is very simple. You’re either one of the main characters, which equals having god-like powers that make you practically invincible (unless you need to be helpless for plot reasons.) Or you are screwed. Whenever a new character is introduced, you can be sure that he will either die within that episode or, if that isn’t the case, he will do something to get the group of core characters out of a seemingly hopeless situation and die then. It’s really that simple. I still can’t get over one of the probably most ridiculous scenes when a group of soldiers with firearms, some even with horses, invades a town and then three of the main characters, armed with nothing but knives and swords, tell them they have them surrounded. And then it turns out they were right. They butcher them without even breaking a sweat. Nothing to add there. 

Revolution may not be the most profound or thought-provoking kind of series, but if you’re not looking for an intellectual challenge, it is entertaining enough. The many surprising twists (which I just damned) see to it that the series remains intriguing. Despite the fact that my review sounds mostly like a rant, the series really isn’t all that bad. Especially the first ten episodes were really exciting and not quite so overdone yet. It is probably because of how good the series started that I didn’t give it up yet, despite the fact that it seems to be losing its touch more and more. So long as you don’t approach the series with too high expectations and are just interested in watching a good action-packed sci-fi survival series then Revolution isn’t the worst choice, I guess. It’s a pity that the producers didn’t manage to tap the full potential of their so very original idea, but that doesn’t make it bad by default. The prominent cast, fast pace and great visual effects manage to make up for some of the shortcomings in the storyline and a great merit of the series is that it remains exciting to the very end. That's worth something, isn’t it?


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