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'Revolution' Season 2 Premiere: 'Born In The USA'

September 26th, 2013 9:55am EDT

Revolution Revolution has had an interesting journey.

The post-apocalyptic series premiered last fall with a promising cast, intriguing concepts, and skilled show runners – all the right ingredients for everything that equal buzz and success. But Revolution’s first season was plagued with misdirection; some good episodes balanced out by not so good ones as well as muddled storytelling. Often, its actors were the saving grace of an otherwise bland hour, and a mid-season setback in the form of a four-month hiatus didn’t help matters.

When we sat down with EP Eric Kripke at Comic Con, he revealed his awareness regarding Revolution’s first season missteps and promised a tighter, darker season two with a much more direct focus. Thanks to NBC, I had the opportunity to preview tonight’s premiere (as well as the episode following it) a few weeks ago. I initially wanted to provide an advance review – however, I prefer to write spoiler-free recaps in these cases so as not to ruin the enjoyment of anyone’s viewing experience. And after taking into account how different the show had become, I realized it was impossible to do so without giving away major plot points and character changes.

We begin the premiere by time jumping to three months following where we left off in the finale (Randall committing suicide in the Tower with Rachel, Aaron, Charlie and Miles attempting to stop the missiles that had been launched due to the return of power.) The bombs have fallen, lives have been changed and destroyed, guilt has been distributed, and the government – which we saw a fleeting glimpse of in the finale – has made its move. In the way that the first half hour or so is structured, there’s a definite sense that you’re watching a show with an entirely new roadmap – though there’s enough flashback to remind you of where things stood a few months ago. In our current state, Rachel and Miles are in Texas with Rachel’s dad, Gene (newcomer and welcome addition Stephen Collins) where they’re trying their best to provide to those who have been injured by the attacks. Charlie is off on her own as part of a revenge bender, Jason and Neville are wandering a refugee camp in Savannah looking for the rest of their family, and Monroe, no longer the powerful leader that he once was now that the Militia has seemingly fallen, is hiding in plain sight in Vegas (the superficial girl in me enjoyed the fight scene immensely, but let’s hope they give David Lyons more to do this season.) It’s a standard set up of displacement following a large leap forward and not entirely uncommon, but perhaps it feels more jarring than usual considering the trajectory of the first season.

And so it is that we find ourselves watching a show that feels entirely different. We dip into darker, more intense territory by shedding light on the fact that Rachel is suffering from severe PTSD, arguably brought on by the events of the first season as well as her overwhelming guilt at being at fault for the innocents killed with the missile strike. In another situation, Neville is struggling with his own kind of PTSD after searching fervently for his wife, Julia, and coming to terms with the fact that she probably hasn’t survived. With their overarching interests of putting their families first even though it means destruction, death, and in some cases, exile, I’ve always viewed Rachel and Neville as two sides of the same coin and find it interesting that the series chose to highlight their resulting emotional traumas in a similar way.

Speaking of emotional trauma – believing that Aaron had indeed died (only to be brought back in the final seconds of the episode) was no doubt a move that the writers banked on to initiate renewed interest. Was it a successful one? I have to admit, even if I hadn’t had the opportunity to see the second hour, those final moments did leave me intrigued about new mysteries and I’d be glad to see Zak Orth get a storyline that didn’t revolve around his wife or his past. I also enjoyed how the moment added a bit of meat to Rachel’s evolving guilt – not being able to save Aaron, of all people, was the straw that broke the camel’s back and Elizabeth Mitchell played that breakdown beautifully. While last season afforded the actress lots of opportunities to shine, especially among a cast that was finding its feet, I never quite felt that the writers took full advantage of her superb acting abilities. Mitchell’s greatest strength is conveying a treasure trove of emotions without using a single word of dialogue and this hour, as well as the one following it, essentially allows her to steal the show – from the subtle facial expressions that speak volumes when she’s treating other victims, to her conversation with Gene and Miles about her past, to her realization of just how far she’s pushed her family as she watches Charlie tell Miles she’s leaving.

While I never would have never pegged Tracy Spiridakos’ Charlie to be the character who experienced the most overall growth, that was my defining takeaway of an otherwise uneven finale. The show’s new direction builds on that as the introduction of the last surviving Matheson child finds her independent and clearly self-sufficient. No longer the girl who was afraid to ask questions and made impulsive and reckless decisions, Charlie finally seems to have a grip on how to handle herself in “the real world.” As we come to find out, that decision to go rogue was made primarily of her own accord – and apparently Rachel’s actions at the Tower sealed the deal. It’s a decision that I feel has been a long time coming, and I for one am glad to see Charlie striking out solo. Away from the core group of characters, her storyline has the most potential for interesting developments and even from the few scenes we saw (chatting up a bartender, sleeping with him to get information, walking into a camp unarmed) I found myself more interested in the character than I had been for most of last season.

For all of its faults, I truly do want to see Revolution succeed – it’s a show whose concept is one that’s both interesting and worthy of exploration, and perhaps that’s why I find myself constantly at odds about my feelings for it. That being said, it’s curious that the show has chosen to take its new nuanced direction by way of splitting up characters and storylines, but maybe this is what’s needed to make the show work. Maybe we just need to be more open and less critical about a show with such a large concept and sometimes not enough detail. The outcome of Revolution’s revamp remains to be seen, but this is a smart step forward in bringing the show back to what it could – and should – have been from the beginning.

Final Thoughts:

The LOST fan in me was a little bit amused to find out that Rachel had slipped into the doctor role while at home – not quite fertility, but hey, I’ll take it.
Am I the only one who would be keen on having a flashback to the days of black nail polish and punk rock? In the spirit of LOST, some teenage Rachel flashbacks – which would also service in learning more about Miles, Ben, Monroe, and Gene – might be a welcome addition.
Have to admit, I laughed at the Friends joke  – mostly because it came out of nowhere, but also because it was better than some of the lines that were fed to us last season where I laughed awkwardly instead of with amusement.
With Nora out of the way, it seems like we’re really going to push for a Rachel/Miles romance. While I like Burke and Mitchell’s chemistry, I’m still not sure how I feel about this development, especially with the way the current plot is going.

What did you think of Revolution’s premiere? Sound off below!


Related: Billy Burke, David Lyons, Elizabeth Mitchell, Giancarlo Esposito, Revolution, Tracy Spiridakos, Recaps, Drama, NBC

Photo Credits: NBCUniversal, Inc

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