One reason to be excited for Revolution was the fact that it's a post-apocalyptic show with a fairly upbeat tone. The future is a mess, people are enslaved, the penalty for having an American flag is death, and so on. But we're going on adventures and wisecracking and having sword-fights all over the place, like Star Wars or whatever. I actually kind of like that notion, enough to give the show a pass on its "all energy gets magically turned off" premise.
But last night's episode, which was shot long, long after the show's pilot, attempted to tweak that tone and maybe darken it a bit. How did it do? Spoilers ahead...
The best thing you can say about Revolution at this point is that it still has loads of potential, and it's finding its feet. And luckily, audiences seem to be willing to give it a chance at this point. Last night's episode had some great moments, but also probably made most people want to murder young Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) who exhibits dangerous levels of passive-aggressiveness in her attempts to control her uncle Miles (Billy Burke).
Unfortunately, the biggest problem with this show at this point is Spiridakos' attempts to convey a lot of emotion, which usually come across as manipulative rather than genuine, for some reason. Her character is written as "naive but a badass," which wouldn't be a bad combination — but the performance doesn't quite sell those things. She pouts so much that the character even jokes about her own tendency to pout being responsible for everything bad that has happened.
In any case, the theme of last night's episode was Charlie confronting the fact that mercy is a luxury in a post-electricity world, much like ice cream. (Which, as a billion people have pointed out by now, did exist before electricity.) At the start of the episode, Charlie stops Uncle Miles from killing a bounty hunter who's after him — and then the bounty hunter comes back and nearly kills Charlie and the gang. Later, Charlie traps Nate the Militia hottie (in a moment of genuine, awesome cleverness) and leaves him cuffed but alive. (It would be kind of nice if we later see Nate's still-cuffed body, half eaten by wolves.) At last, Charlie faces a major test: She has to shoot the "warden" of a slave chain gang to free the slaves and get a valuable rifle for Uncle Miles' friend Nora. Charlie is able to kill two men, by thinking of a time when her mom killed a guy for some food.
As an arc, it's not a bad one at all. I honestly think that it would work pretty well if Spiridakos wasn't so hard to watch. There's just something about her performance that is the opposite of engaging, at least for me and the people I've talked to.
Meanwhile, in the "B" plot, Charlie's brother Danny is still being carted around by Captain Neville (Giancarlo Esposito), who kills a guy for having unlicensed guns and an American flag. One of Neville's men is mortally wounded, so Neville gives him poison or narcotics to ease his passage, and then Danny snorts at his funeral. Given that (as Neville keeps pointing out) Danny is at fault for his father's death, because Danny incited the gunfight that killed him, you'd think Danny would be less smug about all this. Danny tries to be all, "Oh, nothing," when Captain Neville asks him what's so funny about his comrade's death. (Because, again, passive-aggressiveness is a Matheson family trait.) Until Neville goads Danny into coming out with it: Neville and his men think they're keeping order in a world gone mad, but they're just murderous psychos.
In the "C" plot, Maggie and Google Boy are left alone in the middle of nowhere, and Google Boy finds out that Maggie still has her old iPhone. Google Boy is pissed that it's not an Android phone, because if you're going to have a useless brick of a dead phone, it should run Android OS. But it turns out she keeps this phone because it has the only pictures of her kids on it. So Google Boy shows her the Magic Locket that Ben Matheson gave her, and convinces her that if they take it to Grace, the woman who briefly looked after Danny last week, they can figure out what "man-made" phenomenon killed the power. And maybe get it back on again, so Maggie can see her kids once more. (On her phone. Not in real life.) Unfortunately, just as they're on their way to see Grace, she gets a visit from a heretefore unseen baddie — Randall. Who has a Magic Locket of his own, and a high-tech taser of some sort.
In the kicker, we find out that Charlie and Danny's mom (Elizabeth Mitchell) is still alive, and is a prisoner of militia leader Simon Monroe (played by The Cape.) They share probably the nicest scene in the episode, as Rachel tells Simon that she liked him better when he was just a lecherous drunk — and he admits that he, too, liked himself better back then. Then he tells her that Ben is dead and they have her son, so she better start spilling everything she knows about the power outages. (Oh, and the retcon that Rachel is alive makes Ben's death even more senseless. Captain Neville could have just shown up in the pilot and said, "Hey, your wife is alive and we're taking you to see her" and nobody would have questioned Ben going with the troops. But when the pilot was shot, I'm pretty sure Kripke and the gang thought Rachel was dead.)
All in all, this was a pretty okay episode. I liked Charlie having to step up and kill some people — although didn't she kill at least one person in the pilot, too? And I think it's probably a good step for this show to start trying to find ways to darken the "swashbuckling" tone it struck in the pilot. There are bound to be some false moves along the way, as this show tries to strike the right tone — Kripke's Supernatural didn't really find its footing until season two, remember. But the main obstacle facing this show remains Spiridakos' inability to make heart-on-her-sleeve innocence seem remotely believable — so the sooner Charlie becomes a hardened badass, the better, I guess.