Revolution: Nobody's Fault But Mine Review (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Wow. If there's ever been a reason to despise midseason cliffhangers, this, ladies and gentlemen, exemplifies it. While it's true that we aren't facing unsatisfied questions for an entire year, as we languished over Battlestar Galactica during the prolonged writers' strike, I'm going to find it painful filling the void till spring with guesswork and speculation. How exactly is our party of intrepid rebels gong to escape a helicopter armed with chainguns and a missile launcher? They're clearly running along the rolling grasslands north of Philadelphia. It's certainly a great shame that there aren't any nearby wooded areas for them to take shelter under in Pennsylvania (the state name literally translates as "Penn's Woods" - oh the silly things you retain from grade school). I'll sheathe my schadenfreude, though. I think we can all agree that there's far too much excitement in bashing Revolution around the tubes of the Internet. Part of the evolved human experience includes the gratification we gain from watching something so many love, fail. For all of its failings, its slightly chipped veneer, Revolution is a solid show, providing mixed portions action, mystery, serial adventure, and political intrigue. This week's parting shots tantalized us with some long awaited answers, offered several excellent character moments, and left us wanting to order desert immediately.
The first thing I was struck by, upon reflection, is just how marvelous David Lyons is as Munroe. His range is impressive, walking us through three critical turning points in his character's life with stunning conviction and versatility. As a Malcolm Reynolds-esk browncoat solider in a flashback to the Trenton campaign (five years after the blackout), he displays commendable loyalty to Miles, as well as a steadfast soldier's courage in the face of death, even the downright disdainful bravado that Nathan Fillion gleefully displays in the Firefly pilot. Further back, in a time before the blackout, Miles finds Bass at the graves of his family; all four of them cut down in one fell swoop by a drunk driver. Bass is broken, only the barest of compulsion is left within him. He's drinking down the courage to end his life, which he sees as devoid of anyone he cares for now, when Miles reminds him: "You've got me". This is another pivotal moment in Monroe's developmental advancements, driving him to be the man at the head of a republic. He has a brother; a man who is with him through thick and thin; someone to whom blood means nothing when you have loyalty. Armed with all of this backstory, his present day motivations enter stark relief. It's no wonder he wants Miles taken alive; he wants his best friend back.
Which brings us to the final amazing scene with David Lyons in the driver's seat. The long built up confrontation between he and Miles in the present ends with an impressive sword fight, which only partially suffers from the longstanding insistence on choppy, quick cut action. More important is the encounter leading up to that point. Brokeback Mountain jokes may be an easy defense to bring to bear for those shallow folks who are unable to accept a deep friendship between men, but in 2012 I would hope that they linger in the air uncomfortably, like the tasteless quip your racist uncle makes at Thanksgiving. Here is Bass, a broken man who misses his brother; who has defined most of life in parallel to his brother, pleading for him to be part of his life again. If anything stands out of this scene like Gandalf at a Bilbo's birthday, it's Billy Burke's overly stoic acting. It feels wooden and flat in the face of such an emotional outburst from Bass. I understand that Miles is supposed to be slightly broken himself, the product of his grievous misdeeds during his days at the head of the Monroe Republic, but a man about to murder his brother might show a bit more emotion. It would only seem natural.
Enough of that, let's discuss the deeds and misdeeds of Captain Tom Neville, who makes a decision to save his wife, which might ultimately lead to his execution. I consider it entirely likely that if Monroe discovers Neville's complicity in freeing Aaron and Nora, he would either kill Tom, or his wife (as an example). In trying to discourage complying with the enemy in a similar future situation, knowing that their family member hostage would be killed either way may force militia members to think more selfishly of themselves in deciding what to do. It's just this manner of brutality that made Miles leave in the first place, and is no where beyond the doctrine of Monroe at this juncture. Earlier in the episode, we're given another example of Giancarlo Esposito's charismatic badness, which has been largely absent since early in the season. He's been one sidedly evil since around episode four, so it's incredibly welcome to see him back in his element of gleeful duplicity, rimmed with wicked confidence. His recognition of Aaron from his Google days, and his vicious taunting about the topsy-turvy change in pecking order, are bad cop. Then Neville flashes his incredibly dangerous good cop smile, letting Aaron know he used to admire him for exactly that which he just admonished him. His hammer and anvil approach is what will continue to make him a dangers adversary as the series rolls on.
Of course, no Revolution episode discussion is complete without a good, old fashioned Charlie bashing session. Except we really have no grounds on which to dog pile her anymore. The crying gal who insists on dangerous tactical blunders, dictated by her heart, is gone. In her place, we appear to have been given a tough, yet well rounded young woman, who has come completely to terms with what it takes to survive in this harsh environment. My pendulum swung from "indifferent" to "would have a beer with" when Strausser is toying with Rachel; making her decide which of the children he'll shoot. Charlie unflinchingly demands that it be her; that her mother not submit to assisting in genocide; and then she doesn't even blink as the hammer is drawn back. The natural order of internet based hate is that once something is deemed to suck, it will continue to do so forever (nananana!). If you've stuck with Revolution, it should be obvious that the writing team deserves credit for listening to viewer feedback, then working to try and give the people what they want. Charlie has come a long way, admittedly stumblingly, but she's there now. If your primary reason for avoiding the show was her, you can joyously high five the closest carbon based life form, and get back on the blackout train (which should totally be the name of a hard drinking whiskey band).
On a note of much grander implications, the pendant amplifier is complete, in the hands of Monroe, and currently being used to power the attack chopper bearing down on our heroes. If Rachel's information regarding it's range (up to a half mile) is truthful and accurate, Monroe is about to embark on an unprecedented reign of terror. Have you ever speculated with a friend about traveling back in time with modern technology and handily defeating any opponents? This is, without exaggeration, exactly the situation Bass no finds himself in. If I had to speculate, I guess that the only way which the group escapes is if Rachel built some sort of timed shutdown mode into the amplifier. It would be consistent with her nature to secret build a flaw into the device. Or Charlie breaks out her new can of assault rifle kick ass, sniping the pilot in mid-flight. What? It could happen.
It's a long wait until late March, were we pick up the saga of Revolution again. The break and fresh start should do wonders for the show, helping to shake off the established Internet vitriol. After beginning on shaky legs, Revolution has vastly improved, and is on it's way to living up to the hype of the premise. I, for one, can't wait for more.
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 and Colonial Cult Cinema. You can hear him on awesome podcast You've Got Geek or follow him out on Twitter.
Mania Grade: B+
Episode: Nobody's Fault But Mine (Season 1, Episode 10)
Starring: Daniella Alonso, Billy Burke, Tracy Spiridakos, Giancarlo Esposito,
Written By: Monica Owusu-Breen & Matt Pitts, Eric Kripke (creator)
Directed By: Frederick E.O. Toye