“Revolution” Pilot Review
When I learned J.J. Abrams was producing a new science-fiction drama series, assuredly, I was excited. As a big fan of Lost, I was hoping his newest show could be the hit that his other follow-ups, like Alcatraz and Person of Interest, were unable to be. However, it’s not entirely his show. The creator of Revolution is Eric Kripke whose most recent writing credits belong to Supernatural. In addition, Jon Favreau is an executive producer as well as the director of the pilot. I’d bank my money on a team like that.
NBC’s Revolution is set in a near future where all technology has ceased to function and militias control portions of the United States. When our protagonist’s father is killed in a town raid and her brother kidnapped by the militia, teenage Charlie must set out to find her uncle Miles, the only one who can help her rescue her brother. A solid premise for a drama series, right? So why was it that at the pilot’s conclusion, I felt disappointed?
First we’ll look at what worked in the pilot. It’s important to note that the first episode is a premise pilot and focused on setting up the adventure and world for which our protagonist will engage in. The most interesting part of the episode, and really a great hook, was by far the teaser. Revolution opens up in our present world, moments before the infamous “Blackout.” Charlie’s father comes staggering into the house exclaiming “it’s all gonna turn off! and just then, all power shuts down. And not just electrical devices that are plugged in. Everything. Houses, phones, cars, street lights, even airplanes. They all cease to work. The image of planes hailing down from the sky — the impact shooting flames upwards behind apartment buildings — is a terrifying but exciting sight. However, the thrill is quickly cut short as the story moves forward 15 years after the blackout, where people are living in a time reminiscent of the middle ages. A terrible voice-over attempts to explain the aftermath of the disaster: “Physics went crazy, the world went crazy and no one knows why.” With so many questions, we hope the story will turn back to the past for answers (and it does, eventually).
The band of soldiers that invade Charlie’s town is led by ex-insurance adjustor Captain Tom Neville. The captain is played by Giancarlo Esposito, who does a great job as the villain as expected following his role in Breaking Bad. As Charlie sets off on her quest, she is aided by the humorous Aaron (whose jokes seem to fall flat), a former Google executive, and Maggie, a British medical doctor. Miles is played by Billy Burke who just seems a bit too old to play the master swordsman that his character is supposed to be. In one sequence, Billy Burke takes on nearly two dozen men and defeats them all in a sword fight without flinching or suffering a single hit. A little unreal.
The acting is solid throughout but there are more than a few moments that are a bit sappy. Charlie is constantly reminding the reluctant Miles that they are family despite never having met and that he has an obligation to help her. It becomes so annoying that Billy Burke’s character actually asks Charlie to stop with the family stuff if he’s going to help her.
Also, in terms of story, the last act of the pilot is filled with too many twists. They occur nearly back-to-back and although surprising, are plot points that you’d imagine would happen way later in the story. It feels a bit too rushed.
The look of the show is slightly dark and low-key which is nice but overall, still too polished. It’s not reflective enough of its grim setting. And the actor’s wardrobes… One of my biggest problems with the show. Tight-fitted clothing, designer haircuts, pristine make-up. It’s just hard to buy that this is the end of the world when everyone looks like they just came out of the Gap.
Will people tune in to see the next episode? I’d say yes. Despite its flaws, and sense of “we’ve already seen this before,” I think the show has enough action, and more important, potential for character development, that viewers will tune in to see what will happen next. (Note: NBC has picked up the show for an additional nine episodes after achieving an average of 9.8 million viewers for its first three episodes).