Revolution: Pilot Review -

Revolution: Pilot Review

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  • Episode: The Pilot - Revolution
  • Starring: Daniella Alonso, Billy Burke, Tracy Spiridakos, Giancarlo Esposito, Zak Orth
  • Written By: Eric Kripke
  • Directed By: John Favreau
  • Network: NBC (Universal)
  • Series:

Revolution: Pilot Review

The times, they are a'changing.

By Chuck Francisco     September 18, 2012

New science fiction television shows are always met by the geek community with cautious optimism. Like a romantic relationship, we're afraid to open ourselves to the chance of being hurt. There's plenty of history to back up that trepidation. Well produced shows never realize their promise, or worse they do but are cut down by networks that don't recognize their brilliant (*cough* Firefly *cough*). Still, there are a number of hands in the pot here, including John Favreau in the director's chair, and J.J. Abrams in an executive producing role. Also running in Revolution's favor? It's not on Fox.

Revolution starts with an interesting enough premise: all electrical power shuts off completely one day, resisting any attempts to reestablish it with new infrastructure. Ben Matheson (a cool nod to author Richard Matheson) is aware of the impending disaster, and rushes home to his wife and children with supplies, arriving only minutes before the event. He only just completes downloading a file to his flash drive, and inserts it into a fancy pendant, as over a century of progress comes crashing down (in the literal sense; jetliners plummet straight down, crash landing all around). Ben had also been calling his brother Miles, a marine who was out drinking with comrade Sebastian Munroe. Here the story jumps forward in time fifteen years (The time we've jumped passed is filled in by flashbacks of key moments), resuming once a new society has been established by brutal militias, which levy taxes in the form of crops from the small settlements that have established themselves in the remains of suburban Chicago.

Ben, along with his son Danny and his daughter Charlie, live in one such small community. It looks like a former suburban housing development, that's been given the wooden fortification treatment. They might want to rethink their wide open gate policy and their guard dog, as combined these provided them with only enough time to glance up as bad ass Captain Tom Neville (another nod to Richard Matheson; I Am Legend), rides into their town. He's restrained menace, masked in thin veneer of civility. Actor Giancarlo Esposito (Gus on Breaking Bad) should be arrested for grand larceny; he steals every scene he's a part of. Neville is a captain of the Monroe Militia (yup, Miles' marine buddy gone bad). He's been searching for Ben and Miles, with orders to return them to Monroe himself. The limited information we get in flashbacks doesn't cover exactly why, but speculating, it's likely that Miles told Monroe about the very small snippet of conversation he'd had with Ben, or what he know about what Ben did for a living (we don't know at the moment). 

In the ensuing struggle, Ben is shot and killed; Danny is captured to be returned in his place; and captain Neville swiftly ends the conflict with cold, calculated violence (dude is quite badass). It's lucky that Ben had entrusted Aaron, a formal Google executive, with his McGuffin pendant, as he joins Charlie and Maggie (a doctor and Ben's love interest after his wife died). Together they set of in search of Miles, who is somewhere in Chicago itself. 

There are several interesting things that I found fascinating discovered along the journey. Maggie's hints that the road is riddle with menacing bandits is realized when they're beset by three such men. She tries to appease them with a bottle of whiskey from her pack, then suffocates one of them brutally as they cough and bleed from the mouth. Charlie suggests the whiskey was poisoned, but given the results, I'd speculate that it contained ground glass. Either way, Maggie seems to be a lethal combatant, hardened by time spent on the road. This resentful mother daughter relationship is going to be interesting to watch develop. Sharp eyed viewers may recognize the shell of a house where Charlie first encounters Nate Walker (spy for the Monroe Militia), as the same one used as shelter by The Walking Dead survivors in the last scene of season two. 

The group meet up with Miles at his Tavern, built into the old Grand Hotel. The locale is cool, and his magnificent living area, the lobby with marble staircase, feels like a set straight out of an old Republic serial. Indeed the epic fight scene between Miles and a squad of militia would be right at home in an adventure of The Three Musketeers. Guns work in this post power aftermath, but ammunition must have become scarce (and hoarded). All militia men are armed with distinctive swords (with a brass knuckle like handle), some have muzzle loading rifles or crossbows. So the combat feels very Errol Flynn by way of Alexander Dumas. All the sword play, the dodging of musket fire, the timing of attacks to take advantage of reloads, and the practical fight choreography add up to bring a classical combat approach to the fighting. It's honestly refreshing with the glut of impossible Matrix-esk battles infecting many films today. It almost reminded me of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, with out the purposeful campiness or tongue planted firmly in cheek.

Unfortunately, anyone who's seen The Postman may immediately cry foul at many of the post civilization similarities: a militia controlled incorporation of villages who use a brand to mark members, a militia officer who held a mundane job before the collapse but is a badass now, and reverent zealotry amongst the ranks of soldiers. Fortunately, almost no one actually saw The Postman, so America will likely let the pilfering of ideas go unchallenged here (I still contend that it was an underrated film; overlong with it's share of problems, but still underrated).

I'm going to throw my first episode speculation out there, based on the little we actually have been shown so far. I believe that the perpetual black out is being caused by a weaponized satellite system, that's continuing to bathe the planet's surface with an EMP field. This could explain why we saw devices go out in the rush of a wave (thinking of the car lights here), and why any device manufactured after still wouldn't work. If this is true, then the McGuffin pendants, which allow electronic devices to work when they themselves are activated, must create some sort of dampening field, which counteracts the satellite system in a short area around itself. Of course, I'm making a lot of assumptions. What's your take?

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 famous Colonial Theatre in Phoenixville, PA (home of 1958's 'The Blob'): First Friday Fright Nights and Colonial Cult Cinema. You can hear him on awesome podcast You've Got Geek or follow him out on Twitter. 


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DaForce1 9/18/2012 12:53:57 AM

 Just found out that Abrams ripped this whole thing off from author S.M. Stirling's series of books titled "The Change" series (which starts with the book Dies the Fire). Here's a synopsis:

A trilogy set in the world that the island of Nantucket left behind when it became an "Island in the Sea of Time". This world is hit by "The Change" causing electricity, high gas pressures, and fast combustion (including explosives and gunpowder) to stop working. This is very bad news for the majority of the population, but the books follow some of the survivors and show how different groups choose different ways to adapt to the changed world.

Not surprised really. Abrams has, and alway will be, a no talent hack. 

fatpantz 9/18/2012 1:20:38 AM

You do realize that Abrams is simply a producer for this series, right?  And that the concept was created and written by Eric Kripke (Supernatural).  Your argument is now invalid because we all know how unoriginal and terrible Lost and Fringe were.  (See Darth, that is how sarcasm works)


perzen 9/18/2012 4:39:01 AM

Did I miss the review? This seems more like a summary of the first episode imho. Some final conclusions/thoughts perhaps?

vagabondster 9/18/2012 5:10:37 AM

 a fair beginning, I'd say. Obviously Charlie's parents were part of a movement to start a revolution, and Charlie's going to have to finish what they started. It'll be interesting to see what its purpose was and why. Also interesting is why miles and sebastin had a falling out.

wish 9/18/2012 5:31:52 AM

interesting plot with potential for some great characters courtesy of Billy Burke and Giancarlo Esposito, but everyone looks a little too clean and healthy, too many cliche'd characters, like the teens, if this wasn't primetime there would be no need at all to have teens on this show. 

Also, the planes falling from the skies bugged me, they wouldn't just go into flat spins and drop, electricity might be gone but planes would still coast for quite a distance without any power, any pilot would know that.

Last Resort is a much better show, it debuts a little later this month but I got to see the pilot and it's pretty awesome.


JonnyRotten 9/18/2012 7:13:58 AM

 Not sure about this show yet, will have to give it another couple of episodes.  I like the idea of the show, the fight scene was a little strange, one guy vs 25 and he wins?  


Meegle 9/18/2012 11:15:36 AM

Turned it off 15 minutes in. Reminded me of the same low level of value as Terra Nova.

samson 9/18/2012 2:38:10 PM

 I'm giving this show a chance, but I wish it had a more "worn" look to it, It looks like a 90's era show. Everyone is so pretty with perfect haircuts in a time that is suppossed to be about survival. It just reeks of "broadcast network thinking." 

It should have been on a cable network where they're not afraid to get dirty. With that said, the first EP was good enough to make me wanna watch the second.

RedHood2010 9/18/2012 4:21:44 PM

My 15 year is saying repeatedly "it doesn't work like that".  lol  According to my son, even though we don't know exactly WHAT has caused this, he says an EMP would only fry the chips in the plane that was plugged in, so they would have a back up set that would go in and keep them in the air.  Now, I have no clue, I just thought it was funny.  Reminded me of when they re-released Star Wars Epsiode 4 and added Jabba and people were crying fake, fake.  lol

RedHood2010 9/18/2012 4:26:11 PM

@Samson - totally agree.  They don't look 'rough' enough.  Nice clothes that fit like they should and very very clean.  lol  And nobody has their own fire arms left?  Just muskets?  I, myself, have 3 automatic weapons.  I will say though, that Captain Tom is a mean insurance salesman...

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