Revolution: Chained Heat Review (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, September 26, 2012
It seems easier to be accepting of borrowed plot elements in a series the further engrossed in it we become. Perhaps that's because the show has had more of a chance to build on the foundations of the pilfered materials. So it seems with the Monroe Militia (which felt as though it was taken wholesale from The Postman during the pilot), as it's given room to grow into beyond that mold. Once outside of it, there is plenty going on in an attempt to hook a steady audience. It's somewhat effective in getting us to follow the breadcrumb trail, but some of the morsels aren't as delicious as they should be. The world is expanding, though, trying to become fully realized.
Our expanded perspective of the militia comes thanks to more time with the coldly vicious Captain Neville, and two poignantly enlightening scenes with Sebastian Monroe himself (which are more overtly brutal). Neville seems to be a zealot, in the vein of The Operative of Serenity; he views himself as deeply religious, strongly convicted, and absolutely necessary in this new world. But there are obvious cracks in the self righteously glossy veneer, and testing those fractures can be a costly and lethal gamble. Giancarlo Esposito turns in another stellar performance; most evident during the scene where he's comforting one of his dying men. His poetic description of the afterlife is so vividly and convincingly delivered, yet the subtle change of his expression as the man expires could hint to either deep regret at the loss, or to his own recognition that his words ring hollow.
Monroe seems like a much more two dimensional bad guy when compared to Neville. He's smart, possessing guile in spades; he's brutal, turning murderous once charisma fails; but he comes of as somewhat of a mustache twirling mastermind (if it keeps up, I full expect a "muhahahaha" moment). Monroe was also part of the biggest reveal of the episode, engaging in threatening dialogue with Charlie's mother, who is much more alive than we were previously lead to believe. As was probably the intention, this scene brings up a number of interesting questions, namely: how is it that she was thought to be dead, instead of captured, and what is the purpose in keeping her secretly alive?
The low point of the episode again seems to be the character of Charlie. I don't mean that she's being poorly acted; that isn't the case at all. Rather, it seems she's either being poorly written, or poorly directed. She is supposed to be the idealist of the group, striving for a better way, but there is such a thing as taking it too far (and Revolution has had her dancing in that territory in nearly every scene she's in). It's frustrating to have our heroes imperiled, not because of a well written and compelling reason, but because Charlie has a conscience attack again. It was almost groan worthy when she stayed Myles' hand against the bounty hunter, who then showed up to capture them in the very next scene. It's poorly contrived and viewers know better. Fortunately Charlie reaches a turning point later in the episode, assassinating a prison warden in cold blood to kick off an ambush. She appears to come to terms with it with the help of a fifteen year old memory of her mother doing something similarly necessary to survive. Let's hope that this marks a milestone for her character, which will preclude more plot points directly caused by Charlie's conscience.
The fun, swashbuckling sword play of the first episode takes a step backward this week, trading classic, easy to follow framing for tightly blocked shots and rapid fire editing. It was a major failing of the second Daniel Craig Bond film, Quantum of Solace, and it's huge let down here. I'd been very excited to see the Errol Flynn-esk swordplay in the pilot, and hope that future installments will return to sword fights where we can actually follow the action without feeling like an epileptic raccoon.
With regard to the mysterious pendants, which allow localized use of electronic devices, we're introduced to the menacing Randall. Cloaked in shadow and wearing an active pendant, he attacks using a cattle prod. Hopefully this is just a referential nod to The Stand (as with other character names thus far) and not an appropriation of the character (as with the Militia), replete with super natural powers. How many of these pendants are out there; who has them; and were did they get them from? These are all hook questions which sink in very deep. Clearly, we'll have to keep tuning it to find out, but I hope that this is a shallow perpetual dangling carrot, and that there is some rewarding payoff.
Like a baby foal, Revolution, is still stumbling to find it's legs. If it can, look for it to grow into a strong show with a long run. I'm still very hopeful for the series and will keep tuning in. I suggest you do the same, even though the second episode was a small step down from the pilot. If nothing else, the tidbit hinted at in the preview for next week should prove vey interesting indeed, and Giancarlo Esposito is so deliciously awesome to watch!
Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Saturday Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a horror co-host of two monthly film series at the world famousColonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA (home of 1958's 'The Blob'): First Friday Fright Nights andColonial Cult Cinema. You can hear him on awesome podcast You've Got Geek or follow him out onTwitter.
Mania Grade: C+
Episode: Chained Heat
Starring: Daniella Alonso, Billy Burke, Tracy Spiridakos, Giancarlo Esposito, Zak Orth
Directed By: Jon Favreau
Written By: Eric Kripke (creator)