Fall Pilot Reviews – ‘Revolution’ (Holland’s Take)

Posted: September 6, 2012 in Jeff Holland, reviews, Threat Quality
Tags: , , , ,

The pilot for Revolution is available onDemand and on Hulu, so go ahead and watch it when you get the chance since there will be SPOILERS for it in this review. Unless you’re not uptight about that kind of thing (or had no plans to watch the show and just wanted to hear whether it was at all worthwhile), in which case read on.

There are problems with this show.

Not the BS science stuff, Braak took care of that business. I don’t really care about the fake science involved in all electricity going away and how exactly that makes planes fall straight down from the sky – and neither does the show, apparently, based on the one character’s dismissed complaint that “Physics went crazy” that day – it’s just a means of getting to the low-tech, agrarian, post-government-collapse future setting it wants to play in, so okay, fine.

My problem with the show is it’s paced at a trudge. And not in that slow, considered way the Firefly pilot took its time to do a little world-building. For something that’s touting itself as “A swashbuckling story of hope,” there’s not much of a swashbuckling spirit. It’s not very exciting, so it’s not a lot of fun.

No bounding, no smiles, just walking and complaining and the teenage girl protagonist’s “You can’t keep me on this farm/suburban cul-de-sac, I want to see the WOOOOORLD” deal that makes her seem a lot more like a Disney princess than the survivor of a global catastrophe.

(In fact, like Ariel, she keeps little forgotten treasures, like iPods, hidden away – in a Return of the Jedi lunchbox, which confuses me since why would a teenager who was about 3 when all the power went out in 2012 have a fondness for Star Wars? Unless, in Reign of Fire fashion, her neighbors act it out for them each night.)

Her dad (who somehow caused the global blackout), with his dying wish, sends her to Chicago along with his neighbor and his new doctor girlfriend whom the girl hates (because teenagers on television are always the worst), so they can rescue her asthmatic brother from the evil militia (and having spent the past couple months plowing through Breaking Bad, I will happily spend any amount of time with Giancarlo Espisito, whatever his role, particularly when they give him kicky little sunglasses to wear) with the help of her uncle, Han Solo.

What does she know about her uncle? Not much. “All my dad ever said about him is he’s good at killing,” she tells the neighbor, which seems to be an odd choice for the single detail you share about a family member to your impressionable daughter.

(Maybe he did add a few more factoids – “He’s good at killing…and he had a pretty solid baseball card collection, and an excellent gazpacho recipe.” – but once you hear “good at killing,” you’re probably going to zone out on the rest.)

The problem is, once the show gets the trudging-through-the-woods part done and finally gets to Chicago, things don’t pick up. In theory, this is where the show’s creators should let their imagination loose, showcasing a metropolitan area adapting to and bustling after the end of the world. But save for a perfunctory street scene (which looks like they might have just run out of money by that point), there’s none of that, no real sense of geography. We move right back inside to a hotel/bar flanked by tiki torches.

It’s a lovely stage and all, but the show would’ve gone a long way towards justifying its existence if it seemed a little more invested in the broader setting it’s presenting to audiences for the first time. Wow us, dammit.

And hey, there is a great big swordfight. Uncle Han Solo versus like 20 militia dudes who have been sent to capture him, but apparently this was a low-priority mission, otherwise they would’ve brought along more than two slow-load antique muskets.

So I think the show believes it earned “swashbuckling” by virtue of having a swordfight, but otherwise Billy Burke is just so laconic – one might even say “sleepy” – in every other scene that it hardly brings a burst of energy to the proceedings. It feels more like someone pointed out that the show has gone for 40 minutes without an action scene.

The episode ends by setting up the overarching season plotlines: Uncle Han Solo’s old army buddy Monroe, the leader of the evil militia (the wrist brand that marks his soldiers is, rather hilariously, a copy of his own giant “M” forearm tattoo – under which is written “MONROE,” in case, I suppose, he gets Memento Disease), wants to capture Uncle Han Solo, who may know how to restart the power but doesn’t want to in order to prevent Monroe from dominating militarily.

But wait! That nice hermit lady who helped the asthmatic brother ALSO has the ability to turn energy back on…DUN DUN DUNNNNN.

There’s enough in this pilot to bring me back for a few more episodes – I like the visuals, the plot is essentially “Star Wars in an Agrarian Future America,” I still kind of miss Gus Fring, and frankly I’m just grateful to Billy Burke for being the lone oasis of non-suckiness in those Twilight movies.

Jeez, I just realized the girl is Luke, the dad-girlfriend is Obi-Wan and the complaining bearded nerd is C-3P0.

So really my point is, for a show that has definitely taken a lot of plot cues from the old Star Wars movies, they definitely missed the part where those movies were fun. Maybe now that they’ve settled in and done the heavy lifting required of the pilot, subsequent episodes will have that kind of spark.

Or it could quickly devolve into a lot of vague power struggles, flat characters, and BS sci-fi techno-jargon.

So, the new Star Wars movies.

  1. braak says:

    Also, fortunately for Han Solo, the militia is not well-versed in “get ‘im!” tactics, and so they keep trying to attack him in groups of three.

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