Revolution Post-Game: Breaking Down Chained Heat
After a so-so pilot introduced us to the basic premise and characters, this week’s episode will likely determine if many semi-interested viewers return for the third episode. So did “Chained Heat” have what it’ll take to bring us back next week? We’re happy to report that yes indeed, the show threw enough new complications and twists in to keep us hooked…at least for another episode.
It’s time for the GFR Revolution post-game, where we dissect the episode apart for clever twists, dangling questions, stupid slips, and stuff that just plain made us laugh.
WARNING! Spoilers follow.
1. Regarding the Guns
Thankfully, showrunner Eric Kripke, who penned this week’s episode, swiftly addressed one of the big things people were nitpicking last week. Namely, what happened to all the guns? Since they don’t rely on electricity, there’s no reason why firearms would stop working, so how come they seem to be such a rare commodity? Sure, plenty of regular folks would likely have to resort to swords and crossbows to hunt and protect themselves, but this is America, after all: even our guns own guns. Tonight’s episode dealt with that question quickly and efficiently: they’re still around and they still work, but the Militia jerks are hoarding them and have made firearms illegal to own except for…you guessed it…Militia members. And the penalty for breaking that law? Death. So yeah, the people who do own guns aren’t going to go out of their way to advertise the fact.
2. Nifty Shades of Grey
Tonight’s episode also earned points for establishing that Revolution isn’t afraid to pose uncomfortable questions, and won’t be serving up pat answers. Again and again Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos), Uncle Miles (Billy Burke), and company weigh questions of right and wrong against those of survival and necessity. Is it wrong to kill someone who would kill you if given the chance? Is the Militia, as Captain Neville suggests, serving a greater good by imposing order on what would otherwise chaos? Even if that’s true, does that justify their harsh measures, such as slavery? This question looks to be explored in depth with characters such as Matheson, Neville, and the Militia’s head honcho, Monroe (David Lyons). Hopefully the show will continue to present these ethical dilemmas with all their complexity intact. If they do, I’ll even forgive them for the clichéd “apocalyptic street preacher”…
3. Putting the Revolution in Revolution
We’re only on the second episode, but we’ve already got a glimpse of what shape the show is likely to take as it (hopefully) continues. While the mystery of the blackout will obviously be a crucial element of the show, the stage is also being set for a more down-to-Earth conflict: there’s a revolution a’brewin’! With the revelation that there is a resistance movement attempting to fight back against the Militia, and maybe even restore the gold old U.S. of A., it seems likely that these two dueling factions will provide much of the show’s arc. Good to know that title wasn’t just drawn from a hat. In fact, the show reminds me of a few others that came before…
4. Dueling Apocalypses
Apocalyptic tales are hardly new, but Revolution is already reminding me of two notable genre entries that came before. There’s the sadly short-lived CBS series Jericho, which plunged the world into a far more mundane nuclear Armageddon. While Jericho began with the bombs dropping and then explored how one community evolved to survive, both shows hinted that the end of society was orchestrated for unknown purposes. It also has echoes of Showtime’s J. Michael Straczynski-helmed Jeremiah, which, like Revolution, introduced a more unusual crisis to upend the civilized world. In Revolution electricity stops working, whereas Jeremiah envisioned a plague that killed everyone who had gone through puberty, leaving the world in the hands of children. It will be interesting to see how Revolution continues to carve its own path, but if you’re craving for more apoca-riffic fodder, you can watch both Jeremiah and Jericho on Netflix. (Wait a second…two apocalyptic series, both of which begin with “Jer”…weird.)
5. Symbols of the Old World
While the show is constantly showing little items and moments that show how much of the old world has become useless in the post-blackout world, thankfully Kripke and company are using that in more personal, character-related ways, as opposed to just using it as set dressing and world building. It can symbolize the vestiges of the old order, such as the American flag Neville orders burned. It can serve as a handy linking structure, such as when a deflated basketball spurs Charlie’s flashback to the days immediately after the blackout. It’s used even more effectively, however, in the scene where former Google employee Aaron (Zak Orth) asks (Anna Lise Phillips) why she’s carrying an old iPhone. When she reveals that it’s because it has her family’s pictures on it, it hammers home the way that, while the planes falling from the sky may have been unforgettable, the blackout has also left its scars in quieter, but equally tragic, ways. In our digital age, how many of us actually still have hard copies of most of our photographs? For many people, the loss of electricity would also mean the loss of all those touchstones we take for granted. (On a less serious note, I love that Aaron is sporting an “AC/DC” t-shirt.)
6. The Electrical Elephant in the Room
There’s a writing technique that comes in very handy when you’re dealing with material that stretches credulity. You call attention to it, acknowledge that it doesn’t seem to make sense, and then go on with your story. Revolution did this tonight by having Aaron outright say that the blackout doesn’t make any sense. Short of the laws of physics deciding to take a vacation and leave things in the hands of their more eccentric cousin, there’s no logical explanation to explain the blackout. Electricity can’t just “stop.” By having Aaron acknowledge this seeming logical gap, the show makes a promise to us that yes, the writers know we’ll be asking these questions, and they will be providing satisfying explanations down the road, even if those answers are couched in probably impossible science fictional elements. Star Trek can have its transporters, Star Wars can have its lightsabers, and Revolution — if they do it right – can have its blackout. How they choose to explain that central mystery will determine whether the show eventually wraps up with die-hard fans still die-hard fans, or if it will “pull a Lost.”
7. Flashback Sleight of Hand
Finally, the biggest reveal of the night, and one that I honestly didn’t see coming. There’s been much speculation about what role Lost‘s Elizabeth Mitchell was going to play, and tonight the show revealed its hand. She was previously revealed to be playing Charlie’s mother, Rachel, who we were told died at some point between the blackout and the show’s “now.” And for most of this episode, it looked like her role was going to be strengthening those Lost comparisons everyone’s been throwing around. Rachel would be a major component, appearing in flashbacks that explored the blackout’s aftermath and how the world came to be in the shape we find it in. That would have been a perfectly fine use for her, but I’m glad to see that Kripke had more up his sleeve than just backstory. The revelation that Rachel is in fact still alive, and in the custody of Militia leader Monroe, suggests that she’ll be a much bigger player in the series than we expected. And given how good she was on Lost, that’s a development I’m pretty happy about.
That’s all for now, folks. Check back next week for our thoughts on “No Quarter.”