Revolution: The Children's Crusade Review (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, November 07, 2012
It can be quite startling how the deluge of vicious political advertisement can push friends right to the ragged edge of civility. In-between segments of one of the most popular scripted shows on network TV, I found the desperate short fiction tales, masquerading as commercials, to be boring and taxing (as I'm certain may of you did too). Despite their tedium, these last ditch political hail mary's spurned an interesting revelation in me: human beings truly have tribal behavior patterns hard wired into their make up. As I reflected back on where Revolution has taken us, I'd almost overlooked how binary the post blackout world became. The "us vs. them" ideology is magnified to lethal levels, in it's way becoming very reminiscent of football rivalries. It's no wonder the sport is so popular; demonizing the other lends credence to our cause and fuels our furious righteousness.
With this in mind, it becomes easier to comprehend how so many militiamen could continue to follow orders, despite witnessing actions that are clearly wrong in many ways. That's in addition to the thorough indoctrination process that all newly conscripted soldiers undergo. The glittery curtain of brutality is pulled back, and we get a peak at the forceful structure that makes the Monroe Militia such a deadly and competent foe. Charlie's daring jaunt aboard the recruit training ship is a bold move, which rewards her with a nasty Monroe brand of her very own, and very nearly claims her life. For the second week in a row, I'm happy to cede that she's growing as a character. The world is shaping her like so much red headed Play-Doh. She's hardening, she's reacting, and in doing so is filling out from a two dimensional being, to become a person we actually kinda want to watch. Progress, dear Maniacs, is happening right before out very eyes.
Did I mention that as much as she's coming along, Charlie's plan still failed? Even mad man Miles' daring rescue attempt was unsuccessful. Their lives were saved only on account of the timely, though accidental, activation of the pendant in Aaron's possession. No longer electrically impeded, the lighthouse they're hiding in broadcasts a confusing beacon of light, stunning the big bad militia, and allowing our heroes to slaughter them, then escape. This well plotted moment forces the narrative of the pendant forward, as Aaron can no longer keep secret the nature of the device he carries. Upon realizing what it's capable of, Miles immediately calls for the destruction of the special necklace of +5 to Restore Power. I think that's telling. Having created this evil empire with Monroe, Miles knows the havoc and pain which his old friend could unleash given even one piece of working military hardware.
Back in Philadelphia, Neville has become far less of a fun loving monster as he settles into the role of Monroe's head torturer. His highly motivational methods have enticed more information out of Rachel, even enlisting her complicity in tricking the location of a pendant out of one of her former friends. Monroe and Neville are brilliant, which compliments their ruthlessness in ways that I shudder to think about. By applying expert pressure exactly where they're weakest, I've no doubt we'll see war machines in action at some point in the series.
Our pre-blackout scenes this week contain bombshell reveals. Ben and Rachel Matheson owned a small start up company which developed technology that disrupts the normal flow of electricity. Failing to attract investors, Ben approaches Randall Flagg Flynn of the Department of Defense, who wishes to weaponize their invention. Though we won't know it until the final moments of the episode, we've met Randall before. He's the cattle prod armed menace who's attacked Grace, and is keeping her captive for some unknown reason. In the past, he slimed his way into acquiring the Mathesons technology (getting Rachel into clinical trials to save her pregnancy), and I'm speculating that he's to blame for the blackout. Perhaps it was a military system glitch, or maybe it was a calculated plot to enhance his personal power. It seems like it could have backfired, but we aren't working with a full enough deck yet to know.
While there's plenty of fascinating lore in this episode, it does suffer from pacing issues, seeming to slow up where the pack of wild children are concerned. It's so many pages out of Lord of the Flies, without all of the meaningful message. And how, exactly, is there an obese kid in the apocalypse? It feels like he was inserted by the writing treat simply as a middle finger to fans who complain about Aaron's extra weight. More detrimental still to the episode is the boring fight choreography, which is again comprised of rapid MTV style cuts. Let us actually SEE the sword fighting! It's exciting, please let us be entertained by its spectacle, rather than leaving us confused and slightly discombobulated. Swing the pendulum back around to the sort of combat showcased in the pilot to re-engage some of those drifting fans.
Overall, what we've got here is a middle of the road episode, that's high on revelations, but stumbles on the action and pacing portions. We're coming up on a critical time, with few episodes left before the winter break. Revolution needs to finish incredibly strongly to encourage viewers to return after a long hiatus.
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: B-
Episode: The Children's Crusade (Season 1, Episode 7)
Starring: James Alcorn, Nadej k Bailey, Lucius Baston, Daniella Alonso, Billy Burke, Tracy Spiridakos, Giancarlo Esposito, Zak Orth
Written By: Eric Kripke (creator), Matt Pitts
Directed By: Charles Beeson