Revolution: Chained Heat Review - Mania.com



Revolution: Chained Heat Review

Mania Grade: C+

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  • Episode: Chained Heat
  • Starring: Daniella Alonso, Billy Burke, Tracy Spiridakos, Giancarlo Esposito, Zak Orth
  • Directed By: Jon Favreau
  • Written By: Eric Kripke (creator)
  • Network: NBC
  • Series:

Revolution: Chained Heat Review

A Wolf among the sheep.

By Chuck Francisco     September 26, 2012
Source: Mania.com

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 

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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jedibanner 9/26/2012 5:58:16 AM

I missed the show this week, will try to see if it's still worth it to give it a run.

Dazzler 9/26/2012 6:41:45 AM

It's more actiony than I thought it was going to be which is cool.  Lots of sword fights.  No big drama crap yet.  Good writing.  I'll keep watching til the aliens appear. 

halfbloodprincess 9/26/2012 9:16:56 AM

This episode deserves better then a c

rogue188 9/26/2012 9:27:30 AM

I agree halfbloodprincess, this episode was much tighter than the opener, and deserves a B range grade. So far it has not wowed, but definitely better than C material. I also think the reviewer needs to rely less on material that is taken from other shows/books. This is the nature of Hollywood. They bastardize, beg, borrow and steal from anything remotely being a good a story these days. Also as far as action goes, I preferred the sword fights in this episode as less stylized and more gritty. I don't care how much you don't rely on guns anymore, no ones fights like that except in Chinese martial arts movies. Give me hard action any day over Three Musketeers showboating.

Giancarlo is killing it as a multi-layered bad guy. I hope he becomes the general of the Republic. The guy can go from cool to crazy at a drop of a hat. By far the best actor of the show. As far as the others, I still don't feel like they are comfortable in their roles yet, especially our female lead. Color me underwhelmed.

sportwarrior 9/26/2012 11:54:24 AM

I agree that this is better than a C. The show isn't "next level," but it's definitely solid and executes itself pretty well. It's earned a spot in my rotation of shows for the time being.

Paulyboy69 9/26/2012 2:25:22 PM

 It's not great and it probably never will be but it's just barely enough interesting that I'm going to keep watching. For now anyways. Looking at other fair to middling genre shows on the major broadcast networks in recent years Revolution is one of the better ones among the bunch but certainly not the best one. Another NBC show, Heroes, was much better after two episodes in my opinion.

As for the "borrowing from other things" comment I don't agree with that at all and frankly I'm sick of hearing it. Just because an idea was used before doesn't mean it can't ever be used again. There's always a chance that somebody will take an already used idea and do better with it than the people that originally created it. Besides as time goes on more and more ideas are used up and there's less to choose from. So if somebody can improve on something already used then I say go for it. Original ideas are welcome too of course.

vagabondster 9/27/2012 11:11:38 AM

 does anyone notice that there appear to be three factions here all with different agendas? miles apparently doesn't want the power back sebastian does and theres also rebels with a hard on for the old usa. interesting to see where the chips will fall on this

almostunbiased 9/27/2012 1:21:16 PM

I'm not a huge fan yet, but I have been watching.  Story was a little bit better this time than last, but not much.  Actions is okay but i want to know more, its just not enough to make me want to keep watching if the story doesn't get a little deeper.

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