Mania Grade: B
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- Episode: Born in the U.S.A. (Season 2, Episode 1)
- Starring: Daniella Alonso, Billy Burke, Tracy Spiridakos, Giancarlo Esposito, Zak Orth
- Written By: Eric Kripke
- Directed By: Steve Boyum
- Network: NBC
Revolution: Born in the U.S.A. Review
By Chuck Francisco
September 27, 2013
Full spoilers below
Revolution ended its first season upon a teetering precipice of a cliffhangers. Randal Flagg revealed himself to be an agent of the United States government (self exiled to Cuba) after launching nuclear missiles at Philadelphia and Atlanta. All this possible thanks to Aaron's reactivation of the world's power, the last episode faded to black with the MIT grad desperately attempting to reactivate the nanites, thus saving both capitals. That makes for a hell of a hiatus to wait out, and redoubles expectations upon resumption.
Rather than elaborate the minute details of those tense final seconds, Kripke and company let us live in the aftermath. This first episode uses the Revolution timeline as its own personal hopscotch course, bounding around the weeks and months following twin costal atomic holocausts. Our stalwart ensemble have scattered to the winds, and are pursuing divergent aims. This serves multiple ends, as it will allow further exploration of the barely explored Plains Nation, and an extended first glance at The Republic of Texas.
Rachel has been unflappably calculating in her approach to problem solving, but it seems she's taken the nuclear attack and internalized the guilt. Having already ended life as we knew it, this extra horrific helping of pain rendered her catatonic. Making Rachel the broken doll, always in danger of relapse, is a smart choice which should open up avenues of introspection that seemed to only occupy the surface during Revolution's first season. Miles and Aaron have sought help from Rachel's father, and have taken up residence with them in a small Texas town.
Good news perpetual gripers; the new Aaron is a slim shadow of his once more robust self. He's taken up residence with lovely woman who appreciates that he is a sweet guy, before being summarily gutted by an invading war clan band. Zak Orth groupies can breathe a collective sigh of relieve though, as the preview for next week spelled out for us Aaron's techno mystical resurrection through the magic of green firefly nanites. What does this mean for our protagonists though? Are these the same nanites or have they evolved? Do they somehow recognize Aaron as their creator? Is Aaron now a super hero? (The bearded wonder)
Charlie is making her way across the Plains Nation on a quest to revenge herself upon Monroe. Bass has burned the Republic's mark off of his arm and is thriving as an alcoholic bare knuckle boxer when they finally converge. He's snatched up seconds before she can exact her vengeance by what I would venture to guess are bounty hunters. I like the idea that Charlie is now a completely self sufficient operator, both cunning and lethal, let's hope this proves to be the case.
Jason and Neville have been searching refuge camps amassed around Savanna for their missing family matron, when remnants of the United States government arrive with supplies in a sailing ship. Spreading propaganda from the outset, their representative repaints the nuclear attacks as having originated from the destroyed cities. Meanwhile the swampy White House's bones are being reclaimed, as mysterious cages are being erected. There's quite a bit of mystery being built up from the outset here, as our shadowy former government (if they are whom they claim to be) took great pains to position the game pieces in precisely this way. Neville regains his purpose and prepares to again assume the role of the duplicitous agent, which is honestly how I enjoy Giancarlo Esposito best.
Kripke uses classic rock to paint a robust landscape from the outset, with acoustic versions of both Tom Sawyer and Crazy Train, and references to Smoke on the Water during "the spark" (the colloquial name given to the four minute period during which the power was back on). This is expertly handled, as it was during season one's Kashmir episode, broadening the cultural pallet from which the creative team can draw, while also firmly establishing the connective tissue between this realm and ours.
The season two premiere does a number of things well but it is also packed tight with a clustered opening salvo of new plot threads which, while a necessary cog in establishing the forthcoming story arc, leads to a jumbled hour of television. And speaking of jumbled, the sword fighting sequences could not be more disappointingly impossible to follow. This has been a perpetual issue on Revolution for nearly every episode save the pilot. It's massively disappointing that they do not feel the need to truly engage action fans honestly without the duplicity of MTV style cuts.
Despite my minor griping this is an engaging kick off to the second season of Revolution, and I'm quite curious to see down which road it leads us. While I would normally opt for a C+ or B- Mania grade, I'm giving it a B because, despite analytics, I found myself entertained throughout. What did you think?
Chuck Francisco is a columnist and critic for Mania, writing Wednesday'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 famous Colonial 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.