I had high hopes for NBC’s Revolution. There was no shortage of talent involved: the show was created by Supernatural’s Eric Kripke, the pilot was directed by Jon Favreau, and J.J. Abrams was onboard as an executive producer (okay, it’s up for debate whether his involvement is a positive or a negative). Unfortunately the final product has been inconsistent at best, mediocre at worst. The show essentially spent the entire first half of its season dragging us along on a cross-country trek to rescue Danny (Graham Rogers), easily one of the least interesting characters on the show.
Kripke himself has said that the second half of the season will broaden in scope and examine the actual revolution of the title. That’s good news, but it still doesn’t make Kripke’s description of the first half of the season as “prologue” any less insulting as an audience member. If you’re asking me to invest my time in your new show, later revealing that the action doesn’t really get started until episode 11 of 16…that’s kind of a dick move.
Still, I do think it’s possible for Revolution to find its footing and live up to its potential. We’ll all get to see if NBC’s blackout drama can evolve into the show it should be, but in the meantime here are our thoughts on how to right the ship when it returns on March 25th.
Explain the Blackout
This is one that, according to the producers, is actually going to happen soon. Mythology-heavy shows in the past, such as Lost and The X-Files, have struggled with the problem of how quickly to answer their big questions. How do you provide enough answers to keep viewers satisfied, but still maintain some mystery to keep them coming back? With a huge mystery like the blackout, you eventually begin to suffer diminishing returns, and if you wait too long you risk having audience members inevitably let down by whatever answers you provide.
Kripke recently said he wants the show to be “an American Game of Thrones,” with the story broadening to focus on the brewing revolution against Monroe, and how the surrounding powers will become involved in the power struggle. That has the potential to be a lot more interesting than Miles and Charlie’s Traveling Road Show. Of course, providing a specific answer for what caused the blackout may still disappoint some, but it will allow the show to continue to evolve, and will stand as a gesture to the fans that the producers do have a plan for where this show is headed, and they won’t keep stringing us along forever.
Let the Best Actors Shine
Billy Burke is doing a decent job playing stoic badass Miles Matheson, but Revolution has two aces it so far hasn’t used to full effect just yet. Elizabeth Mitchell became one of the most interesting characters on Lost, and she provided one of the best scenes of Revolution’s entire run so far when she used a screwdriver to make herself indispensable. Playing Monroe’s most ruthless follower, Captain Tom Neville, Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito gives good villain, and his run on AMC’s acclaimed series proved his ability to play cold, ruthless brutality with the very best of them.
With Mitchell and Esposito, you’ve got two ferociously talented actors, so it’s time to give them more time to shine. It seems inevitable that Rachel will be a huge part of the show going forward, since she’s the one who knows the secrets of the blackout and the electricity-restoring pendants. I’m sure she’ll be rescued from Monroe’s captivity soon, which will hopefully allow her to add a bit more personality to the core group of protagonists. As for Neville, he’s definitely had a few good moments, but I’d like to see a bit more depth to the character. Even though his backstory revealed how he went from a meek insurance adjuster to a post-apocalyptic killer, that had to be a transition that more difficult than “He killed this guy to protect his family and now he’s a ruthless, cold-hearted bastard.” Esposito served up one of the best screen villains ever on Breaking Bad; that’s a resource the show shouldn’t waste. After all, Neville’s an ambitious man…perhaps Monroe should watch his back.
Make Charlie And Danny Interesting Or Make Them Dead
It’s a bad sign when your ostensible female protagonist is one of the least interesting elements of the show. So far Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) has served primarily as a thorn in the side of Miles, spurring him on in their quest to rescue Danny, and as a person who keeps doing stupid things. Danny has fared even worse. He’s basically been little more than a MacGuffin to keep the first half of the season churning ahead — those very same episodes Kripke himself dismissed as “prologue,” if you recall. If the show really is going to progress as Kripke hints, what purpose will Charlie and Danny serve in the war between the young nations?
My suggestion? Kill ‘em dead. So far they’ve done little more than hog screen time from more interesting characters and actors. Alive, who knows, maybe the writers will succeed in making us care about them eventually. Dead, however, they could serve as a powerful motivation for Miles to truly commit to bringing down Monroe and repairing the mistakes he made before his self-imposed exile. Give Charlie a heroic death, so she becomes a sort of martyr for the cause of revolution. Have Danny choke on a peach pit off screen. I don’t care what happens to the two of them so long as the writers either make them interesting or make them dead.
Show Us More of the Larger World
This is another one that Kripke says will be happening soon. It seems inevitable as the newly electrified Monroe Militia decides to flex its technological muscle. The surrounding nations aren’t going to be pleased to learn that Monroe now has, amongst other things, both power and working helicopters. That bodes well both as a direction for the story to expand in, and as an excuse to introduce us to the larger world of Revolution.
So far we’ve only seen the state of things within the Monroe Republic, but we know that the former United States is divided into many other parts: the George Federation, the Plains Nation, the Republic of Texas, the California Commonwealth, and the Wasteland. What is life like in those places? How have the former citizens of the U.S. survived and adapted in the absence of electricity? Monroe’s ambitions will certainly put him at odds with the surrounding states, which should account for Kripke’s Game of Thrones comparisons. For that matter, what are things like in the larger world? Have the coastal regions remained in contact with the other continents via old-fashioned sail and compass? Moreover, I’m sure Monroe isn’t the only one who’s been trying to restore the power. There’s a lot of potential in the world of Revolution, now it’s only a question of whether they’ll make use of it.