Revolution | TV Review
In the years following the premiere and instant success of Lost, adventure shows with ensemble casts and genre elements began popping up on every network. They also had a nasty habit of disappearing quickly, never able to capture the ratings gold of the castaway mind-bender. And now, two years after Lost closed the book on its mysterious island, networks are still chasing its glory. Revolution, much like last season's failed dinosaur show Terra Nova, attempts to broaden the appeal by mixing some family drama with the swashbuckling adventure. The bland teenage characters there to provide this added four-quadrant draw, combined with some lazy world-building prevent Revolution from grasping the very attainable goal of dumb fun.
Revolution begins in the here-and-now with family man Ben Matheson (Tim Guinee) rushing home to with the news that "it's all going to turn off." Ben's prophecy proves accurate as, within a few minutes, everything in the world run on electrical or battery power shuts down, from televisions to mid-flight airplanes. How Ben knew this we don't know, nor does he say what he downloaded onto a small device in the final minutes of power. These are the mysteries on which Revolution's mythology will be based.
Rather than show us the bleak years of famine, disease and death resulting from this permanent power outage, the show elects to jump 15 years into the future. Ben is now living in a quiet community with his two children Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) and Danny (Graham Rogers), his wife having died some time during the fast forward. Those that have survived the outage lead simple lives: growing crops in the engine block of obsolete vehicles and bow hunting for food. "Why do they use bows?" you may ask, "Guns don't run on batteries." Well, in the aftermath of the big event, totalitarian militia rule became the way of things. In an effort to keep the power they have, the militia has made owning a firearm a hanging offense, leaving regular citizens to make do with bows and blades.
When these nasty militia men, lead by Giancarlo Esposito's Capt. Tom Neville, come to town in search of Ben and what he may know about the blackout, things get ugly. Danny's attempt to defend his father against the soldiers goes sour and ends with him being taken captive. Ben tells Charlie that she must go to Chicago and find her uncle Miles (Billy Burke), a former military man, who will help her get her brother back. Ben's nerdy friend Aaron (Zak Orth) and doctor girlfriend Maggie (Anna Lise Phillips) join Charlie on her journey.
It's not so surprising that Revolution is incredibly silly, adventure stories often are. What is a surprising is how little fun it is. Outside of Burke's performance (including an extended sword fight that is both ridiculous and enjoyable), everything in this show drags. A lot of the delight in futuristic stories like these comes with discovering the world these characters now live in and how it compares to and comments on our own. Abandoned vehicles and overgrown cities aside, this seems to be far from Revolution's mind. Of course, it doesn't help that our window into this world, Spiridakos's Charlie, makes for a very inadequate guide. Little more than a (very) poor woman's Katniss Everdeen, the creators put a crossbow in her hands and gave her boy's name in the hope that this would deliver an instant action heroine. But Charlie spends much of the pilot getting rescued by male characters and moaning about family obligations. This behavior and Spiridakos's uninspired performance make Charlie a major drag on the show. Perhaps this could improved in future episode with more screen time given Burke's Han Solo-esque rogue, but he is sadly absent for half of the pilot.
A problematic and convuluted mythology and an uninspired young cast prevent Revolution from becoming the entertaining, escapist television it could have been.
Revolution airs Mondays at 9pm on NBC.