Revolution: Review: Season 1 Ep 1

NBC, 17 September 2012

When electricity is switched off globally, civilization collapses. Fifteen years later, a family are targeted by the ruling militia who think they might know the cause of the event…

Written by Supernatural’s Erik Kripke and produced by Lost’s J.J. Abrams, NBC’s pilot episode for Revolution too obviously attempts to buy into the kind of narrative tricks already exhausted by their own earlier shows.

This is more or less a fairly efficient set-up show for what they obviously hope will be a long running mystery drama, but the premise doesn’t appear to offer much more than has been already provided by the likes of the current The Walking Dead on AMC or the post-nuclear Jericho (2006) or even Jeremiah (2002-04), J. Michael Straczynski’s post-apocalyptic show of life after most of the population is wiped out by a deadly virus.

All these shows draw from Terry Nation’s pioneering mid-1970s Survivors, and unfortunately they all take a similar American approach to the post-apocalyptic world, with the community split into townships focused on survival and militias (led by Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito) bent on power, with abundant echoes of frontier life thrown in.

Revolution (at least in the pilot) sticks to this well-worn playbook. There’s a Hitchcockian MacGuffin in the form of a seemingly otherwise useless USB stick containing some pre-catastrophe information downloaded in a hurry just before the lights went out. There’s a couple of early ‘I know the face’ deaths (Elizabeth Mitchell, Tim Guinee—both will probably continue to be seen in the Lost-style flashbacks that appear set to pepper the episodes). There’s a family devastated by the bad guy’s search for this information, that have to track down the black sheep uncle (Twilight’s Billy Burke) to find answers. Oh, and the chief bad guy after the information is Monroe, once the best friend of the black sheep uncle…

There are feisty females, ridiculously unfeasible sword fights (the bad sheep uncle wipes out an entire team of supposedly battle hardened militia without breaking into a sweat), and a geeky ex-Google millionaire hanger on (Zak Orth) who is the custodian of the holy USB. Naturally by the end of the episode, a seemingly minor character is revealed to have not only a working computer but also an internet connection she uses to chat with a mysterious someone on the other end…

This set up is all perfectly fine, and fairly efficiently done (with some nice direction from Jon Favreau), but it feels exceptionally tired story-wise as we’ve seen all of this before in one form or another in a variety of failed shows. It seems unlikely Revolution will become another Lost, or even enjoy the extended longevity of the relentlessly formulaic Supernatural unless it has a few genuine narrative surprises up its sleeves. These shows are supposed to be imaginative fiction, but they’ve become so hide bound by tried and tested technique they’re simply boring.

Verdict: So-so start with a less-than-intriguing mystery: this show needs a genuine narrative revolution if it is to be worth sticking with…

Episode 1 ‘Pilot’: 5/10

Brian J. Robb

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