Monday, July 29, 2013

TV Review: Revolution Season One

Today I move away from video games and will be discussing a TV show.  A show created by Eric Kripke, produced by J.J. Abrams, Jon Favreau, Bryan Burk et cetera, and with music by Christopher Lennertz.  For me, that's a pretty decent line up.

Revolution is a post-apocalyptic science fiction drama that takes place on Earth with the primary story happening 15 years after the "blackout."  Now if this didn't sound like a concept that would be cancelled halfway through the first season (especially if it had been on Fox), then I'm not a TV consumer.  Which I'm really not, mainly due to my rotating four-on-two-off 2pm - 10pm schedule, which doesn't allow for consistent on-air program watching.  But that's why I don't work in television, because I would greenlight the first season and order at least two additional seasons of the show, just based on the premise.

Everything in the (long) following article is all just speculation and I'm not pulling anything from chatrooms, message boards, forums or other forms of internet chatter.  This all comes from me watching the first season, minus three episodes (episodes 13, 14 & 15) and drawing my own conclusions, none of which are groundbreaking or revolutionary (eh, eh!?).  On with the show, but be warned, THAR BE SPOILERS AHEAD!

Let's get to the meat.  The primary story of the show takes place 15 years after the "blackout" (the night all power on the planet Earth seems to have disappeared. "All power" meaning anything that runs on electrical, battery power, anything operable by solar power, ALL power.  One of the characters even brings up the absurdity of this in the first episode in a "school-lesson-type" scene saying something along the lines that physics went wrong and stopped working when it shouldn't have, for no reason.  I like that the show acknowledges this fact.  So yes, 15 years after the power goes out is when the TV series starts.

What have people been doing for the last 15 years?  They've been building communities/hamlets and trying to get by without the use of "power."  Revolution does a good job keeping away from Mad Max imagery although it does bear some resemblance to The Postman, which isn't a bad thing.  Apparently 15 years after an apocalyptic event is when people start getting their shit together.  This is one thing that I had a problem with.

Episode one (Pilot) starts with some members of the Monroe Militia (antagonists) assaulting the little village where most of our main characters live.  The Militia is looking for Miles Matheson, brother of Ben Matheson and uncle to Charlie (F) and Danny (M).  Ben is killed, Danny is taken as "payment/hostage" and before dying, Ben tells Aaron (school teacher-guy who has the problem with physics hiccuping) to find Miles who might be in Chicago.  The word is that this Miles guy might know something about how to get the power back on. So Aaron, Charlie and Charlie's step-mom Maggie set out to Chicago to find Miles to help them get Danny back.

So where is the problem that I have with this show?  Season One is essentially a character building story for Charlie, who is roughly 19-20 and very, very naive in how dangerous the outside world is out there.  She has a very optimistic and unrealistic view of how "real" people act in this world.  "Because we're family!" quickly becomes her mantra/catch-phrase for the first half of the season and becomes a bit annoying at times.  She almost comes across as a Pollyanna-type, trying to help everyone along the way who needs help, which doesn't work when you're trying to save someone who is constantly on the move and away from you.

I feel I know why the creators had the story take place 15 years after the blackout.  So that out protagonist, Charlie, would be old enough at the beginning of the blackout to have lived a life with all of our modern conveniences for those memories to be distant, almost dreamlike.  But because this is a character building story, she now has to be old enough for the audience to believe that a woman would travel out in search for her brother with the very probability of ending up dead.  And for her to eventually fall in love with the obvious love interest as well as kill a fair amount of people (when she reaches that level in her development) without the viewing public giving outcry about children murdering others.  I get that.  I get that it's easier for an audience to follow a 20 year old woman than following, say, a nine year old.

So in the Pilot, Charlie and gang set off for Chicago.  They encounter some dangers, but ultimately make it safely.  And in the same episode, they find Miles Matheson.  Whom the Monroe Militia has been looking for, apparently for a number of years.  In the first episode.  No build up.  I personally would have liked it if the journey to Chicago had taken a couple of episodes since they were travelling on foot, you know, to help establish the perils of this world and to show some scope.  While there were some nice vista shots, ultimately Chicago was reached, Miles found, Miles joined the party ("because we're family!") and successfully defended himself and party against a squad of Militia members in order to establish that he's a bad-ass.  I get that by finding Miles so early on, that the audience is immediately thrust into the world and the surrounding conflict.  I personally would have liked to have spent some time getting to know our initial characters, the world a bit more and not have it so easy for someone to be found right off the bat, especially in a world that is being established.

Back to the 15 year thing, in episode 5, "Soul Train," it is introduced that the Militia are bringing steam locomotives back into use.  15 years without power and no one thought to use trains?  I don't remember if it was in this or an earlier/later episode that it was mentioned that trains/boats/planes were dismantled to be used for their parts to build. . . other things I guess, I don't remember. 

One last thing, is that apparently, in 15 years, aside from the children, no one appears to have aged at all.  I'm not saying that different younger actors should have been brought in for Ben, Miles, Monroe, Rachel (Ben Matheson's first wife), you know, the adults, but it doesn't seem like there was made any effort to made the actors at least appear 15 years younger.  Flashbacks are obvious because there are lights on.

Well, after ragging on Charlie for the better part of the article, I feel like she deserves some praise, which she does.  By the end of the first season, she's a much more likeable character.  I do not think that I would have believed she was capable of where she is at now if she did not have the journey that she had.  I just had to sludge through half a season of being annoyed with her before she started to grow on me as somewhat likeable.  Her journey is necessary.

I also want to mention Christopher Lennertz's score for the show.  I was honestly a little disappointed that there weren't as many melodic pieces, but I think that might be more a TV thing than his personal style.  Maybe it is his style as the only music of his that I am familiar with has been the score from Gun, which was pretty awesome epic-western themed.  I can pick up hints of that particular style here-and-there, but overall, the music fits as atmospheric and driving music for those scenes and the world.

I admit I was surprised that this show wasn't cancelled, partly because I liked it and because the last pseudo-post-apocalyptic show I was watching, Flashforward, and the last Bad Robot Production's show, Alcatraz, were both cancelled after their respective first seasons.  I am very happy that Revolution was renewed for a second season of 22 episodes.  The DVD/Blu-ray will be released on September 3rd of this year with the second season premiering on September 25th.


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