I had high hopes for this show, and after watching the premiere, I think I’m down to just hoping it sticks around long enough to find a following and doesn’t suck after episode three. The basic premise of the show is that some sort of “event” happened where, as one character put it, the laws of physics went crazy and everything just stopped working, with nobody knowing why. It’s an exaggerated answer, but the reality is that all electrical devices stopped immediately. Even batteries died. No power, anywhere (although technically you only see it disappear in North and South America, and really only in the U.S.). However, the show then jumps fifteen years into the future and you see how life in the mid-west at least has adapted.
Some people have set up little villages, living cooperatively to grow food etc., hunting with crossbows and arrows, etc. A militia is ruling the area and thinks a guy named Ben knows how the blackout happened and, potentially, how to get the power back on. There is some evidence for the viewer that this is indeed true — he knew it was about to happen, tried to stock up on water and rations just before the blackout, and downloaded a whole bunch of data about “something” onto a flash drive too. He ends up being killed by the militia just at the start of the show, and his daughter goes off in search of his brother Miles. Throw in a step-mom-like character who has some skills with the dark art of combat, a mysterious friend of the girl’s father who may have ulterior motives, a power hungry general in the militia, and some shadowy people running some sort of secret underground that has a working Commodore 64 that can be powered with a special device that is identical to Ben’s original flash drive, and you have a great mythology to work with, or against, as a backdrop.
When I saw the trailers, I thought, “Okay, this looks a bit like the Hunger Games — strong female lead (the daughter), running around with a bow and arrow, political shenanigans for power in a dystopian future of some sort.” I also saw her potential love interest, who is a complete ripoff of Taylor Lautner’s portrayal of Jacob in Twilight and thought, “I bet the casting call was for a new Lautner”. But I could work with it.
Yet most of the online discussion talks about how it is like Flashforward or Lost, etc. Having seen the episode, there is something really odd I don’t get — not a single comparison to the show Jericho. Except it seems far more comparable.
There was a catastrophic event (nuclear detonations in Jericho, black out in Revolution). People ended up being cut off from rest of society in many respects. Shadowy figures with cryptic comms devices and knowledge of what really happened. Conspiracies with power-hungry people. Lone character (Jericho = man; Revolution = girl) must lead a team back to civilization. For me, the only real change was male/female lead, and that it is not “right after the event:” but supposedly fifteen years in future.
Not entirely sure how a four or five year old child goes fifteen years in the future and yet has maturity of sixteen year old, but I am picking nits. I like the Miles character (her uncle), supposedly expert combat soldier, and there’s a fantastic fight scene (hand to hand and swords!) in the opening so you can see he’s no pushover. There’s the young love interest, and he actually has some presence. A stupid posturing character, but actual presence in the character. There’s a whole substory about why she can’t run and hide i.e. the militia has her brother (think the movie The Patriot with Mel Gibson and you know how the conversation with the militia goes wrong at the beginning of the show, just substitute kid dying for father dying here).
But just as Jericho achieved limited success, once you get down to the story of the week and without the special effects and budget of the premiere, the show is going to start to devolve into “character” (which is great in some ways), or their relationships (ruh roh), and the plot will start to lag. Plus they have the challenge of flashbacks being needed to fill in gaps, yet dragging you out of the impetus of the present-day storyline. Flashbacks are REALLY hard to do regularly and keep the audience attention — flashbacks generally suck because whatever tension there was in the past, it’s fifteen years later. You likely know who died and who didn’t, so the stakes are low. Spend too much time in the past, lose momentum; spend all your time in the present, need too much exposition through dialogue. It’s a conundrum.
My real complaint in the first episode is that Charlie, the daughter, is no Katniss. Her father says she’s strong, and can do whatever needs to be done, but you basically see her spend the rest of the episode (except for one very brief part of a larger scene) either being helpless and crying or helpless and getting her butt kicked. I hope she doesn’t spend many episodes crying because the actress sucks at it. Totally unbelievable, and boring. Not a scintilla of emotional investment that resonates with the audience at all. The only acting in the show that is worse is the brother. He’s practically a blank screen, no presence at all. I can’t believe he wasn’t recast. Unless they tend to turn him into beefcake sometime.
Like I said, I liked the potential storyline for this one, but I was also one of the few who signed on for Jericho and Fastforward. Both of those died young, and I’m not holding on for Revolution to make it to year 2. I’ll watch, but I’m doubtful.
See you around the channels…