Revolution: The Stand Review (

By:Chuck Francisco
Review Date: Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Revolution went out in grandiose fashion last November. Resuming from the instant from which it left off, our motley collection of rebels flee across an open field from Monroe's freshly reactivated attack choppers. Four months ago I couldn't fathom how they were going to escape this Kobayashi Maru no win scenario. As it turns out the relative safety of trees was not as far off as we'd been lead to believe, and diner kitchen meat lockers provide adequate protection from helicopter missiles (in addition to defending against The Blob). Taking off from the starting line at breakneck pace, the first episode of Revolution really doesn't slow down; they cover a great deal of ground in their allotted forty-five minutes. 

Some nice design touches early on work to re-ground us in the post apocalyptic setting: a wagon made with car wheels and featuring repurposed car seats stands out as the most effective, despite the simplicity. Tracey Spiridakos reminds us again early on that she is a talented actress when her character is working to deceive. Bluffing her way past a sentry post, her companions hidden in caskets, she exudes roguish charisma. The shame is that this isn't her normal characterization of Charlie. I'd love to see Ms. Spiridakos in a Nathan Drake or Han Solo-esk role. It seems like she'd knock it out of the park. Here she's ok, and Charlie's been allowed to evolve beyond bleeding heart cry machine into someone who understands the prices to be paid in blood for resistance. 

With our heroes fleeing the newly elongated arm of the Monroe Republic, Bass decides to unleash his dogs of war, sending his choppers to wipe out every rebel base they can uncover. Once they're off the board, he plans for the Republic to extend from sea to shining sea. It's a race against time to save the main resistance headquarters, with Miles and Rachel splitting off to enlist the help of one of her former coworkers, while Charlie, Nora, Danny, and Aaron go on to Annapolis, Maryland to warn the rebels. Here is the point where disbelief requires suspension (if yours hadn't been hung out to dry during the first half of the season). The distances travelled by characters on foot are enormous in the time that's being suggested. It's true that they don't ever specifically tell us how much time is passing from scene to scene, but it never feels like enough for amount of ground covered. I'm ok with giving Revolution that kind of leeway, it is a post apocalyptic fantasy after all, but some folks won't be able to let those details go. That's ok and understandable too. Thankfully the show is strong enough to overcome those type of nitpicks. 

I'm not really sure how I feel about the uncomfortable romantic interlude between Rachel and Miles. Are we supposed to infer that they have a romantic history, suggesting that she cheated on her husband and he betrayed his brother? If we buy that (for a dollar), should the speculations start about Charlie and Danny's true lineage? It may be a bit early to label the Matheson children bastards just yet, though it is clear that Rachel and Miles have a clandestine history, a past which she seems hesitant to allow resumption of at the moment. Also interesting is her faked death, including stand in corpse, which fooled Miles enough to believe it. Monroe is a cunning man to successfully pulled a Swordfish with the limited technology available to him. Billy Burke and Elizabeth Mitchell seem to elevate each other's game, with scenes between them rising above the rest. It may be a bit early to claim sizzling chemistry between them, though it wouldn't be beyond reason to infer it either. It's going to get complicated. 

And speaking of complicated relationships, the Neville men have finally reached the point of no return. Jason is unable to bear the wanton slaughter of rebel men, women, and children at the end of a helicopter chaingun, butting heads with his father over the complete lack of honor and fairness which this restored combat brings. Tom has no patience and even less understanding for his son, whom he treats with more disdain than he seems to his enemies. Giancarlo Esposito is still a joy to watch, though gone is much of nuance of his character from earlier in the season. Now that he's risen through the ranks of power further, he's left behind his cunning crouching tiger persona, adopting instead the brutal doctrine of a roman commander. Make no mistake, that side of his personality was always there, but he used finesse as his primary weapon before, instead of relying on brutality. Now that veneer seems to have been put away. I feel like it's a mistake to take him in is direction; he becomes a Monroe-lite. 

Though the helicopter and gun combat is interestingly well choreographed, excellent melee combat seems to continue to elude the Revolution team. The brutal fist fight between Jason and Tom Neville is chock full of horrid MTV quick cuts, which so rapidly change angle and direction that no solid progression to the fighting can be followed. This is a crutch, making the user feel safer but ultimately weakening them. The producers of Revolution are better than this (they proved it in the pilot with Miles' amazing set piece sword battle), and they need to abandon this crutch. Leave the camera where it is for a few seconds at a time and allow us to watch the choreography unfold. Cutting every half second during a fist fight isn't edgy; it's confusing.

Randall's base of operations gets a name: The Tower. It seems Grace's servitude has been pressed to repair the elevators, allowing access to the ominous level twelve. What secrets it holds and it's true purpose may be the prevailing mystery of this half of the season. I'd speculate that it'll allow access to restoring the power (not an enormous leap). It may be the secret government bunker which caused the outage in the first place. Alarmingly, Randal is teaming up with Monroe to apparent mutual gain. At least he does it in style, driving up to Philadelphia in a Cutlass Sierra. 

I haven't said anything about the death of Danny yet. Mostly because I found it an empty death, lacking punch and effect. The choice to kill him almost feels like an after though of the writing team, which is fitting because he dies almost as an after thought of a soon to be splattered chopper gunner, who squeezes the trigger in his death throes. Viewers haven't been back with the group long enough to be rocked by the loss of Danny in the same was as they were by the loss of Maggie. The only purpose served is in piquing the curiosity around the strange pill shaped technological implant which Rachel cuts out of her dead son. What it is and how it still remains powered will likely remain a burning mystery for the time being. 

For now, Revolution is back with has much style and mystery as it left us four months ago. It will be interesting to see if the hiatus hurt its viewership at all or if people are amped to have something worth watching again on NBC. What did you think, my Maniacal 'Luters?

Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Saturday's Shock-O-Rama, the weekly look into classic cult, horror and sci-fi. He is a co-curator of several repertoire film series at the world famousColonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA. You can hear him drop nerd knowledge on weekly podcast You've Got Geek or think him a fool of a Took on Twitter.

Mania Grade: B
Episode: The Stand (Season 1, Episode 11)
Starring: Billy Burke, Tracy Spiridakos, JD Pardo, Giancarlo Esposito, Zak Orth, Elizabeth Mitchell
Directed by: Steve Boyum
Written By: Eric Kripke (creator), Anne Cofell Saunders
Network: NBC
Studio: Kripke Enterprises, Bad Robot, Warner Bros. Television