NBC’s Revolution was one of the more frustrating shows of the past season. It had a solid premise: every electrical device in the world suddenly stops working, and society is thrown back to a more primitive way of life. That’s a compelling central mystery, but as M. Night Shyamalan learned the hard way, mysteries and surprising twists can only take you so far. And to the show’s credit, it took the opposite approach from Lost and answered the big question of what caused the blackout very quickly, and while the truth wasn’t a huge surprise, it wasn’t an outright let-down either. Having removed that piece of the puzzle from the table, Revolution set out to become a very different show than it was during the first half of the freshman season, and even showrunner Eric Kripke concedes that Revolution suffered some serious growing pains.
Speaking to press this past week at San Diego Comic-Con, Kripke issued a bit of a mea culpa, opening up about the problems of the show’s first season, and why he thinks season two will help right the ship. Counter-intuitively, after a second half of the season that focused on the larger scope of the post-blackout world and the wars that are brewing, season two will apparently shift some of the focus back to more mysterious elements. Which is fine, I suppose, so long as they’re compelling and the writers have good answers to back up their mysteries.
Here’s what Kripke told the press after being asked about the themes of season two:
A theme? Um, pizazz! [Laughter] If last season was about war, this season is more about mystery. I still give answers. I still unfold things at a nice healthy clip, but I really wanted to push through… Last season was just about do we stop Monroe and do we flip on a switch. And it’s hard to sustain as series television. You could make a great movie out of that. But what I found was, it was challenging. I’m harder on Season One than anyone. My headline is: I’m out to prove something for Season Two. I’m aggressively working on building a better engine here.
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?’
And so I really like getting back to basics and creating a storyline that I know will sustain, that I know is going to have some interesting and provocative mysteries, and getting to some of the interesting questions that I’m interested in asking, which is like: What is America? Who gets to decide what the future of America will be? Is there a God? What happens when you feel destiny close in on you? And then all the issues about family, civilization vs. savagery. We have a wonderful new warlord played by Matt Ross, who’s the creepiest warlord. His backstory is he was headmaster of a boys’ school when the blackout happened, and he’s left with just 200 kids a thousand miles from their homes. He raises them Lord of the Flies style. I felt we spent too much time in Season One talking about technology and machine guns and talking about battles and war. And what we didn’t dig into was, wait a minute, this is a really fascinating world and people would evolve in all sorts of interesting ways. We didn’t explore what I call the documentary elements of this world enough. So we’re really looking for story lines that give us that, too.
So I think it’s going to be a really interesting unfolding of story lines for Season Two, in a world that will feel grittier. As much as everyone was bothered by how Noxema fresh everyone looked, man, no one was bothered by that more than me. You should have heard me scream on the phone. But now we’ve fixed it, and I think it’s more interesting looking…. I was like, ‘Make them dirty, goddammit! Why is everyone so clean?’ So far, I’m really excited about where we’re going.
I have to give Kripke props for being frank about the challenges of season one, and it does sound like the show may find its footing in the second year. Hell, the guy even addressed one of Revolution’s most frequently mocked elements: the fact that everybody is so damn model pretty and squeaky clean.
There are more reasons to be excited for Revolution season two as well: both Supernatural’s Ben Edlund and Farscape creator Rockne O’Bannon will be joining the writing staff. Edlund first found (relative) fame as the creator of the comic series The Tick, and has since gone on to pen tons of memorable, often hilarious scripts for shows including Firefly, Angel, and Kripke’s own Supernatural. He’s an excellent wildcard to throw into the mix, if only because Revolution could really stand to develop a sense of humor and stop taking itself so damn seriously.
O’Bannon, of course, created the sci-fi classic Farscape, and this past season had two shows premiere, one of which was decent if not mind-blowing (Syfy’s Defiance), and the other of which tried to be mind-blowing but failed to be decent (The CW’s Cult). Here’s hoping the Revolution material really makes him sing. Add the two of them into the mix with Kripke, whose run on Supernatural stood out for the fact that each subsequent season was better than the former, and I’m cautiously optimistic that Revolution might finally become the show it should have been from the get-go.
Finally, Kripke revealed a couple of very spoilery tidbits regarding where the season’s big cliffhanger left us. If you don’t want to know about it, click away now!
Still here? Alright, here we go. Those two nukes that were launched at Philadelphia and Atlanta: yeah, there won’t be any improbable last-minute deus ex machina’s to save the day. They’re going to hit their targets. As Kripke joked, “We’re trying to be the first network show in history that loses two American cities in the first 15 seconds [of a season].”
He also adds that the newly restored power won’t restore the status to quo for long: he teased that it’ll last basically long enough to get the nukes airborne. Harsh.
Revolution will return for a second season September 25 on NBC.