Full spoilers in the review below:
A solid A-story flanked by a compelling and mysterious B side tale help this week's episode vie for the crown as the best installment of Revolution thus far. There's a lot going on here which warrants delving into, but first credit should be given to director Charles Beeson, who dialed in solid pacing and compelling tonal shifts. There's a common question running through both adventures: to what lengths would you go to ensure survival and how far is too far? This isn't a new question; many narratives reflect on it. What is unique here is that it's being answered in two completely separate ways within the same hour of entrainment.
We all knew that Neville's appointment as the Georgian liaison to Miles would come to a violent head. That it would happen so fast and at the point of so many guns is surprising. Neville isn't completely wrong in his actions (just mostly); I agree that he should have shot Doctor Anthrax (Timothy Busfield). It would be unthinkable to allow that potent of a military asset fall back into enemy hands. And thus you know the measure of how far I would personally go. Charlie isn't willing to take it to the wall here, despite planning to shoot the innocent Emma last week. Neville seemingly has no limits, while Miles works incredibly hard to suppress his.
Billy Burke brought his acting chops to the table this week and slathered them in a rich tormented sauce of the soul. I bought his outburst to Charlie; it really moved me that he did his best to take his vicious nature off the field of play but was pulled back against his will. His arc is one of continually relapse and redemption, very reminiscent of a struggling addict. This brings needed depth to the character. And the opening segment between a cold Miles and an officer he formally trained being executed may be the best moment yet offered in the series. I found it chilling in its detached brutality.
Continuing the examination of right vs. wrong vs. necessary are Aaron and Rachel, who are making their way across the Plains Nation on the way to the Tower. They've come up against that unassailable foe: hunger (and are woefully bereft of snickers). What do you do when, despite offering riches, you are being denied food in trade? Aaron and Rachel haven't eaten for four days, so they steal a small amount of food from a Plains trader. I doubt anyone in the same situation would behave differently. How can the only penalty for a crime in the Plains Nation be death? That's a bit extreme. No wonder everyone wants to go to Texas.
We've known for some time that Rachel, while remorseful in retrospect, is ruthless in execution. Here she's Annie Oakley with a hidden pistol that Miles gave her. Far more interesting is the extent that Aaron goes to in ensuring their escape; stabbing a man is far more brutal and intimate than shooting one. Is it love for Rachel, whether deep-seated or newly budding, which drives him well beyond his typical threshold for violence?
And exactly what is up with the newspaper clipping of Aaron in the Tower journal? As the second biggest reveal of the episode, it's a doozy. Though I paused the TV in an attempt to get a better look, I couldn't make out the text in the body of the clipping. The insinuation is that some program or code which a young Aaron developed forms the backbone of the Nanite Blackout. Rachel may have been right about the nature of his reaction to the news, but her timing is pretty terrible here. Now he's going to have to carry her while a roiling, tumultuous storm rages within him. It will be interesting to see if they make it and in what condition.
So I've got to ask: where did Monroe get a steam powered boat? Since when did he have access to the technology? And if it's available, why doesn't the Republic utilize it in a wider manner like the Georgian Federation? This seems like a major oversight. The assumption must be that it's captured enemy tech, but it would've gone a long way toward audience good will to have a line or two of dialogue confirming its origins.
A new piece of irresistible mystery bait has been dangled from the hook for us. What the heck was on the seventh floor of the Tower? Is it Nanite zombies? That would be in keeping with what's popular among mainstream audiences, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that would be a disappointing turn. Could it be feral survivors? Remnants of the base personal and their offspring driven mad by fifteen years underground? Unlikely given their food supply would have long run out. I get the feeling this reveal will be part of the massive season ending cliff hanger.
This episode brings the A game promise which was only just a seedling at the series' advent. With two great stories, tight action, tough dilemmas, and curious mysteries, this the type of Revolution which we've been waiting for. Great execution this week.
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.