Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Revolution: Pilot (1.1)

Revolution is the latest in a long line of series I like to dub "wanderer shows". It all started with Lost back in 2004, with its high-concept pilot and crowded ensemble, all of whom navigate an increasingly plodding mythology. Lost was a big deal, and like every fresh concept that proves big, rival networks chased after their own Lost-ish dramas. There was The Event, FlashForward, Invasion, Surface, Terra Nova -- each opening with ambitious pilots that stunk of mega-bucks, full of glitzy CGI and vague mystery narratives. So why "wanderer show"? Well, because all of that kicky CGI intensity is reserved for the very first hour, subsequent episodes noticeably quieter and smaller in scale, quickly becoming shows in which characters just walked around a lot, moving not only from point A to point B in the narrative, but also from location to location, every once in a while stumbling upon the action that that week's budget would allow.

Revolution gets around that by restricting the glowy CGI intensity to just the first five minutes, introducing a host of players immediately after, all of whom literally walk around a lot. I guess praise for cutting out the pretense should be offered. NBC's new action drama has a shiny behind-the-scenes roll call, everybody from JJ Abrams and Bryan Burk to Eric Kripke and Jon Favreau involved in some capacity, Favreau himself directing this pilot. It also has all the hallmarks of a serialized thriller -- there's a mysterious disaster that affects everybody on the planet, and characters designed as players on a chessboard being moved around from clue to clue. Fifteen years after the earth's electricity just upped and left, survivors have regressed to pre-technological lifestyles (everything now manual and physical), mostly live in small farming communities, and wear clothing straight out of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. That part is a little strange.

The show's cast is led by Tracy Spiridakos, a pouty Brooklyn Decker clone dressed up in a Katniss Everdeen Halloween costume. She loses her dad fifteen minutes in, murdered by an eeeeevil Giancarlo Esposito, who then proceeds to kidnap her brother. Thirsty for revenge, Katniss teams up with a group of plucky cliches (fat guy, Australian lady, Abercrombie model) to get him back and track down her uncle, who is apparently some kind of badass. Oh, and there are a couple of Lost-ish dribbles of mytharc here and there, from a lady who secretly has a low-grade working computer in her basement to the strange corporation led by the guy from The Cape.

Based on the swift efficiency and low-grade spectacle of the pilot, it's easy to assume that EP Eric Kripke (of Supernatural fame) is more interested in allowing the premise to carry interest. It's not a stretch, because it's certainly does grab your attention, despite all the obvious plotholes. The finer moments here are the ones that remind you how much we rely on technology today, while simultaneously proposing a new world that isn't so enslaved by it all. There's also fun to be had from the old-fashioned savagery on offer, from all the archery and homemade weapons, to spiked vodka and swordplay.

But I'm not sure that's enough to entirely grab an audience. Outside of an impressive teaser sequence featuring downed planes and flickering lightbulbs, this is ridiculously unambitious as a series premiere. The ensemble aren't at all interesting, while we've seen this type of format so often in recent years that you can easily assume where most of the story is headed. There's going to be some star-crossed lover hooey, a bunch of allegiance-blather, a shock return from Elizabeth Mitchell's weepy mom character who we're supposed to think is long dead, and so forth. There's also the issue of these kinds of shows never working out long-term. Notice any other connecting theme between the non-Lost series I mentioned up top? That's right. All dead! You really want to go there again?

Maybe I'm personally being a little unfair, considering I rule out tuning into these things out of principal following the amount of times I've been burned in the past. But it sure seems pretty flat as a series. Like The Walking Dead without the zombies. So... you know... The Walking. Heh. And it all comes full-circle. C-

Eric Kripke Director Jon Favreau


  1. I'm disappointed you didn't love it like I did. I was so impressed unlike other big shows you talked about from Flashforward to The Event. I feel this has the most potential since Lost although I agree, several elements (star-crossed lovers) were predictable. It was still a fascinating ride for me. Do give Last Resort a shot Max. I loved that pilot too!

  2. I'm planning on reviewing Last Resort when it airs, hoping it'll turn out better than this one did.