New TV show Revolution a promising disappointment

The cast of Revolution standing on set.

It’s a geek’s nightmare: Every electronic device in the world is instantly snuffed out. No more TV. No more cellphones. No more cars. No more computers. No more modern medicine.

That’s the premise behind J.J. Abrams’ (Lost, Alcatraz, Star Trek, etc.) newest television creation, Revolution.

The series premiered Monday, Sept. 17, with a promising start that introduced a fistful of conflict and a smattering of interesting characters set in a world mixed with candle-lit modern homes and armour-clad bands of men.

Beware, there are spoilers from here on out…

“$80 million in the bank, and I would trade it all right now for a roll of Charmin.”

— Aaron, the former Google exec

The series starts with frantic father Ben Matheson running into his home frantically saying, “We don’t have much time.” His wife then says, “It’s happening, isn’t it?” He begins to download something off the Internet. He then calls his brother Miles, a young Marine who’s driving a car on the highway, to tell him, “It’s all going to turn off and it’s never going to come back on again.” The call is cut off and we see the headlights all go out on a long line of cars. Back with Ben, just as the file finishes downloading, the power goes out. His son Danny starts to cry as Looney Toons goes black on the TV. Ben removes the intriguingly decorative flash drive from his laptop, which downloaded whatever it was at an uncanny speed, then goes outside and watches as planes fall from the sky and explode nearby. The camera moves to a view from space, and a wave of darkness washes over the planet.

It would have been interesting to see more of the chaos play out, but disappointingly, the show zooms ahead 15 years. Just an aside as to why this annoyed me so much: while I’m not a huge fan of Lost, the show’s premiere is one of the best single TV episodes ever aired. The plane crash aftermath still haunts me when I think about it. Revolution really missed a chance to boggle my mind by simply focusing on the disaster for the first episode and then shifting more naturally into the future.

Back to the show. Ben and his family have settled down in a quaint little village. Ben’s wife has died somehow and his new lady, a doctor named Maggie, doesn’t get along well with his grown daughter, Charlotte. Big surprise there.

The village’s peace is shattered when a group of soldiers under the command of General Sebastian Monroe, the militia that seems to run things, marches into town looking for Ben. Stealthily, Ben hands the flash-drive to former Google executive Aaron, asking him to “Take it and don’t let anybody know you have it… Keep it safe.” Capt. Tom, who’s leading the soldiers, demands Ben come with him. However, Danny, who’s apparently the overzealous son, points a crossbow at the dozen soldiers, and demands they go on their way, despite his dad’s pleas to put the weapon down. After a few tense moments, gunfire erupts and crossbows are blasted. Ben is shot in the chest. Capt. Tom is angry, since he’s been looking for Ben for years, and he takes Danny hostage so he doesn’t have to return to General Monroe empty-handed. Charlotte, known as Charlie, hears the gunfire and comes running back, but misses all the action. Instead of a fight, she finds her dying dad, who tells her to seek out his brother, Miles, in Chicago to help rescue Danny. Miles, says Ben, is good at killing, which we find out later in the episode is very true.

And there you have it, lots of conflict to drive the story. I won’t spoil anymore.

“I’m not scared of bees, I’m allergic to them. There’s a difference.”

— Aaron, the former Google exec

It’s an interesting premise, though if an interesting premise alone could keep a TV series alive, Steven Spielberg’s Terra Nova — in which a doomed future sent waves of men, women and children back to the time of dinosaurs to preserve the human race — wouldn’t have been trampled last year. (Kudos if you made it through that run-on sentence in one go.)

The premiere was a pilot, so I guess I can forgive some of the horrific acting, which surely will improve… right? Also the dialogue has some room for improvement. The constant reminder that the lights went out (repetitive dialogue to the tune of “Gee, I wonder what could have caused the power to go out?”) gets tiresome. We get it; the power is out everywhere. You don’t have to beat it into our skulls.

Front to back: Charlie, Aaron and Maggie on their way to find Miles.

That said, there are a few shining gems of dialogue. For example, when Maggie tells Charlie she’s coming to Chicago with her, Maggie says “You don’t seem to understand, I don’t want you to come.” Maggie replies, “And you don’t seem to understand I’m not doing this for you.”

I hope that Revolution can find the right balance of withholding information and giving answers, which has seemed to be the downfall of a lot of these types of shows.

And I definitely hope that we see a lot of flashbacks to the early days of chaos when the power went out.

I have high hopes for this show.

Follow me on Twitter @editorgeek

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