7 Reasons to Watch ‘REVENNNNNNGE!!!!’ (AKA, ‘Revenge’)

Posted: October 14, 2011 in Threat Quality

I gave this show only a passing comment last post, mostly because I’d only seen the pilot and didn’t want to try to sell anyone on a show that would go south by the second episode (which has happened – looking at you, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”).

But now that I’ve caught up, I can officially say I’m getting such a kick from Revenge (including constantly referring to it while shaking my fist with rage). And I can boil it down to these eight bullet points:

1) It’s a soap opera told from the point of view of the guest star who wants to destroy everyone. My main points of recognition for soap operas come from summers watching daytime soaps with my mom growing up (shut up…I did other things too. Cool things!), and the more self-aware sometimes-parody The OC. Which is probably why, during the pilot, I kept picturing all the secondary characters as OC-types (and the Hamptons beach setting doesn’t hurt this analogy).

Except Emily Thorne, the hero of the show (though given that her primary motivation is hatred, I suppose we’d have to use the “antihero” tag), is the person who’s usually the notable-actor guest role who comes on to shake things up. And while “shake things up” usually means “Sleep with someone’s husband then blackmail them,” in this case it means “Destroy an entire social structure.”  

To my delight, there are moments where Madeleine Stowe, as the sinister matriarch, thinks she’s doing a good job of counter-scheming against our hero, except (for now, at least) she doesn’t realize that they’re playing very different games, and in Emily Thorne’s game, ideally Madeleine Stowe hangs herself in shame.

2) It’s a vengeance-procedural. While the overarching plot – destroy the Graysons – certainly has enough gas to power the season’s story-engine, the show’s also smart enough to provide a new target for Thorne to take down every week. Each of them had some hand in her dad’s destruction, all from different angles (the financial guru who turned against him; the states attorney who prosecuted him), and so her revenge (read: REVENNNNGE!!!) takes a new form every week (crippling a business, revealing a love-child, etc.). And because these are rich assholes who Absolutely Have It Coming, the audience feels no remorse at all.

3) Madeleine Stowe’s crazy eyes.Pursuant to point one – Oh man, the looks she

This is actually only a 5 on the 10-point Stowe-Crazy-Eyes Scale.

can give people. Utter rage, kept in check by social standing, while also trying to picture two moves ahead. All in a couple weird tilts of the eyeballs.

4) The side-plots are actually pretty well-written. I am certain that by the mid-point of the season, I’ll be utterly sick of the working-class bar owner and his shitty teenage brother (who is, in the pantheon of shitty teenagers on TV, actually not THAT bad). But for now, they’re fairly pleasant to hang out with, at least as a break from the Totally Despicable Rich People. And not only are they represented by a wise dog (who knows Thorne from childhood, which just kills me as a dog-owner), they also provide a side-side-plot for Thorne’s accidental accomplice, the tech-geek-turned-tycoon who is mostly okay with buying friends – played by Gabriel Mann as an unctuous version of the Matt Smith Doctor, smart but without any TARDIS resources and nursing a bitter twinge of never sitting at the cool kids’ table.

5) Emily Van Camp is pretty awesome. I’m at the point in my age and TV-viewing experience that most actors under 30 are kind of a blur to me, but Van Camp is so good in this role that I’ll pay attention to her in the future. She’s both sympathetic and cold, without doing that “Oh it’s so hard playing a role to trick people” thing that Jennifer Garner mastered on Alias. (In fact, Revenge seems to understand the concept of “playing a part” a lot better than Alias did – it tends to acknowledge that “Emily Thorne” is a construct, not an actual person, and that there may not be anything underneath it).

And every episode gives her a nice, scenery-snacking wink-line like “Oh, the bloodier the better,” or “I like to finish things other people start,” that I was kind of hoping for more of in the pilot (where I would mentally add, “…for REVENNNGE!!!!” to the end of every line she spoke).


6) I love waiting for the other foot to drop. The first four episodes are stories of Emily Thorne successfully enacting revenge on various hangers-on to the true culprits, and presumably will keep going on in that fashion through mid-season. But the way this is structured, her plans will eventually go awry (and the way the show’s laid out, with all the back-biting soap-opera machinations among the various characters, this will happen utterly independent of Thorne’s plotting).

And eventually her targets are going to piece together that what they have in common is a girl whose life they destroyed years ago. So I’m actively looking forward to seeing what the show has in store for Thorne once she has to start improvising.

8) It can’t possibly go beyond one season – but it might. This show has a seriously closed premise, meaning once Emily Thorne completes her mission – destroy all the people who were involved in her father’s downfall – the story is over. Except…the ratings have been good enough to warrant a full-season pickup that logically should wrap up the story.

But U.S. Network TV doesn’t do closed-premise shows. So assuming Revenge closes out the season with good ratings, a second season’s inevitable. And yet This Simply Can’t Be. So, morbid curiosity leads me to ponder what ridiculous plot contrivances the writers have to pull off to create a second season. (See also: Prison Break.)

  1. John Jackson says:

    If you’ve got no other ideas, you can always have a Grayson decide to take REVENNNGE! on her. Or maybe he’ll just start doing acrobatic crime fighting with a rich benefactor.

  2. Dennis says:

    She’d make a wonderful dread pirate Roberts.

  3. braak says:

    What will happen is, the second season will be about a completely different person taking revenge on an entirely different group of malefactors.

    ALTERNATELY: It will shift to an open-premise show like Vengeance Unlimited or Leverage, in which Emily Thorne just finds strangers to whom wrongs have been done and helps them get their REVENNNNGE!!!

  4. Jeff Holland says:

    The best thing about this show is that it makes me remember that Vengeance Unlimited was a thing that existed.

  5. […] abroad with new skill set and objectives, while maintaining playboy persona) with the pilot for REVEEEEENNNNNNGGGGEEE!!!! (socialite with secret plans to upset corrupt order butts up against plotting and fiendish rich […]

  6. […] abroad with new skill set and objectives, while maintaining playboy persona) with the pilot for REVEEEEENNNNNNGGGGEEE!!!! (socialite with secret plans to upset corrupt order butts up against plotting and fiendish rich […]

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