Revolution: The Dark Tower Review -

Revolution Review

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  • Episode: The Dark Tower (Season 1, Episode 20)
  • Starring: Daniella Alonso, Billy Burke, Tracy Spiridakos, Giancarlo Esposito, Zak Orth
  • Written By: Eric Kripke, Paul Grellong
  • Directed By: Charles Beeson
  • Network: NBC
  • Series:

Revolution: The Dark Tower Review

In like a lamb, out like a lion.

By Chuck Francisco     June 05, 2013

Non-Spoiler Review:

The best episodes of serial story telling put all of their cards on the table. Every pawn is in play, the holodeck safety protocols are disengaged, and anyone could perish. This week's Revolution enjoys the added bonus of being the season capper, so it has the luxury of giving us some of the answers we've waited for all season and leaving us hanging with the ultimate cliffhanger tease. There are number of excellent acting performances from throughout the cast, and this is combined with a breathtaking, breakneck pace to deliver possibly the best episode of the show. If you want more, you'll have to join me in spoiler land below.

Full spoilers in the section below:

I'm told that starting at the beginning is a very good place to start, so let's chat about the opening montage. In classic music video fashion we're treated to a "best of" montage highlighting the most important story beats from across the first season. This functions not as a way for people to jump on from having never watched an episode but instead as exam review, to remind the audience about the critical happenings from the past year in the post Blackout United States. It's quick, it's comprehensive, and it's a little bit moving (if you've been following along at home since the beginning).

Now that I've responsibly placed a paragraph sized buffer out of consideration for those who haven't seen the finale...Randell's been in the employ of the remnants of the Unites States government all of this time? They're holed up at Guantanamo Bay, waiting for their agent to topple the powers of the East Coast so they can safely retake D.C.? That is one hell of a hook. Of course for long time PC gamers (so I'd imagine quite a few Maniacs), it's a hook we're all too familiar with. It's the same big reveal from Fallout 2, which saw the remnants of the Government coordinate the retaking of the country from an offshore oil rig facility. Most viewers won't know that and there isn't an unreconcilable conflict since the plot device is being used with significant differences here. 

The reveal leaves a number of questions to ponder over the summer break. Logistically: how did the government get themselves to Guantanamo Bay in the wake of the Blackout (did they have pendants or forewarning)? Who triggered the back door in Aaron's code to trip the nanites and cause the Blackout? Since the characters specifically didn't mention nuclear, can we assume that the ICBMs carry a traditional payload or will nuclear fallout blanket the east coast? 

A number of potentially interesting collaborations are possible now too, in the wake of a more significant threat. There was still time to stop the missiles (though admittedly not much). Neville sent a militiaman to get more C4 to blow the door, but it wouldn't be necessary if one of Miles' group opens the door to parlay with them. That's a pretty absurd notion, but the C4 would likely blast the glass and allow them access to the control room. As Neville's wife is all the leverage needed on him, and she is in one of the blast zones, a temporary alliance could take shape. Accessing those computers would probably allow a tech savvy guy like Aaron to discover the government remnant forces en route back to the mainland, which could serve to galvanize alliances between Monroe and Miles, Miles and Neville, and even The Republic and Georgia (though if the old US isn't planning on violent dictatorship, it's possible Georgia would ally with them).

I've speculated quite a bit about the future but let's not disregard the here and now. There are a good number of amazing performances this week. We've grown accustomed to stalwarts like David Lyons and Giancarlo Esposito leveling the dramatic gravitas and stealing scenes, which they again do in the finale. Lyons' exchange of words in the woods with Miles is the best showdown they could ever have. It's better than any gun or fist fight. As the hurt brother in anguish over betrayal, Lyons is captivating. This is possibly my favorite scene from this week. Not to be undone is Esposito, who returns Neville to the Cheshire Cat grinning manipulator which we loved to hate from the first half of the season. He's deliciously wicked here, which is where he's most interesting. It's very interesting that he wishes to appear different than Monroe in his brutality, but doesn't actually wish to be different. 

Nora became the sacrifice which galvanizes Miles and will likely influence his actions this coming season to a significant degree. Her tragic death will haunt him, dogging his every thought. Though I am sad to see Daniella Alonso go, she went out on a superb note. Daniella's dramatic and drawn out demise could have backfired if it worked the heartstrings wrong, but she too steps up and hits an acting homerun. Her moment of goodbye with Aaron really serves as her sign off, though she doesn't perish quite then. It was a solid and wrenching decision to have her quietly die in Miles' arms as he races to get her to the infirmary. No last love speech between them. Even the soundtrack begins to drop out, increasing the magnitude of the loss.  Billy Burke's quiet fury and tearful shaking makes for more of a gut punch than any screams or sobs could have. His restrained misery is there, we can share it, and in it being subdued we aren't taken out of the moment by any other distractions or thoughts. It's just Miles, the loss, and sadness. Kudos all around, especially to Burke and director Charles Beeson.

There were a few, very minor nitpicks but this episode powers through them to the point were they're easily forgiven. The comfortably man sized drain pipe from inside the über secure government facility was the most glaring of these and did leave me scratching my head (why even bother with the door, just follow the pipe back inside?). With the breakneck pacing though, all nitpicks are quickly washed away.

Revolution has come a long way from a show with interesting ideas, great but unexecuted potential, and inconsistent (and unlikable in some instances) characters, to a fascinating, mostly great exercise in adventure and intrigue. Sometimes it's a morality play, most times it's a little bit heavy handed, but there's no denying that Revolution has proved the power of its legs and has learned to run. Hopefully the wait for new episodes in the fall won't feel like an eternity. I'm sure the forthcoming first season DVD set will help tide us over until then. In the meantime, I'd love to hear your thoughts on both this episode, and the season as a complete arc, in the comments below.

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.


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Dazzler 6/5/2013 3:51:31 AM

Figures the first thing we try to do is nuke each other with the power on.  Should have just left the power off. 

Iridan 6/5/2013 4:29:08 AM

I'm glad I stuck with the show. It was very uneven in the beginning (at least from what I remember) to now one of my favorites. Yeah, I'd like to see the writers clean up some of logic issues that seem to creep into every episode, but it was a very enjoyable season finale (thankfully not a series finale).

I agree with your assessment of David Lyons. Once again a strong performance by him. You didn't mention the flashback scenes with Monroe and Miles. I thought those added a lot of weight to the characters actions. And Billy Burke was great too. Let's not forget Elizabeth Mitchell. While her character becomes less sympathetic each episode, she has a great presence on screen. All three actors do such wonderful work just with their expressions.

I'm going to disagree regarding Neville. I thought he was the best thing in the show early on, but he's getting really boring for me.

I'm a little concerned where the show is going to go now that the power is back on, but I'm looking forward to finding out. An 'A' from me as well.

DarthBob 6/5/2013 4:47:23 AM

I lost interest early on and fortunately DVR'd all of the episodes.  I went back and watched them and I was surprised to see how the show continued to get better.  Sh!t's going down next season now that the power is back on!

jd25u 6/5/2013 6:59:52 AM

The whole "man-sized drain pipe from inside the uber govt facility" thing is laughibly rediculous.  I can tell you, having some experience with govt. secure facilities ... that would not exist.  It just seems like a convenient way to get them back outside.  And curiously, if that pipe is there, how come the nanites did not penetrate the facility and affect the power inside?  These continuing plot holes and conveniences are freaking frustrating.  This show is so close to being one of the top shows on TV, but these things (and the continual shaky camera, cut-centric fighting scenes) keep bringing it down.  Overall though, I agree with the review.  The acting, and a few scenes mentioned in the review in particular, put this episode over the top.  Either way, the show has me hooked ot return to it next year.

acidsquall73 6/5/2013 7:08:41 AM

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that in the season premier, since Aaron can, he's going to turn the lights back off. All the program he ran did was shut the nanobots off. I assume they can be turned back on. Turning them back off again will immediately make the ICBMs just fall to the ground, and if they are nuclear, just hitting the ground really hard won't detonate them, so catastrohpe avoided. Or at the very least, maybe only one of the missles will make it to it's target. Or they both do and nothing happens because they've been sitting inert for 15 years. Wiping out the East Coast just doesn't seem like a good starting off point to end/start a season. Of course, there is the possibility that the ICBMs aren't nuclear, and are just dirty bombs or something and will only wipe out a small part of each of the targets. 

I agree with Iridan. The Neville thing was awesome at first, but now he's getting boring. You can only switch sides so many times before the shock goes away and there's nothing left to do. Of course, if Philly is wiped out, he could be in line to take over what's left of the Militia, and a possible show-down with Monroe will possibly happen.

I like the possibilities the show has at this point. Many doors opened up in the season finale.

wish 6/5/2013 8:25:41 AM

I too think the power goes off in next season's premiere, it likely becomes the only way they know how to stop the nukes from falling on Atlanta and Philly, and yeah they are nukes for sure, they don't bury conventional warheads in farm field silos.

This is a great episode from a show that really turned on the juice in the second half to earn its place as one of the best new shows of the season!

I'm really looking forward to next season!

brandfrontier 6/5/2013 12:23:53 PM

 So... knowing that Nora was dying... why didn't they cut the nanobot cylinder out of Rachel's leg, and pop it in her side real quick like? I know it has to be programmed, but for all they knew they were accessing a massive computer system on Level 12 and could have reprogrammed the cylinder in a snap... considering they did so using a system that amounted to a Super Nintendo in the back of the van. 

And I agree, it's those plotholes/inconsistancies that has really brought the show down for me. 

I know all Sci-Fi and fictionalized entertainment has them, but a little common sense goes a long way in keeping those leaps in logic from being too glaring. It has seemed very convenient to me that the brother of the guy that helped create the blackout just so happens to have a buddy/brother whom he teams up with to take over and create a republic. After 15 years of not being able to find him, they find the guy after years of searching... and then for the rest of the season everyone and their storylines seem to conveniently overlap each other. The republic is a vast amount of land to cover without conventional transportation, yet after the series opener everyone seems to be able to eventually interact with all the other main characters in short order, as if they start existing on a small tract of linear land mass. 

And that is just the tip of the iceberg... ::: sigh::: 

eldrik 6/6/2013 1:51:18 PM

 I think the logic issue with the nanites not sucking the power from the tower is that the tower itself is like a massive pendant.  It generates a massive dampening field where the nanites are ineffective.  



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