For the first time in the series' history, my allegiance shifted from the rebels to the republic. As the delightful Captain Neville is cruising down an abandoned highway in an amplifier powered Humvee, grooving to the soulful sounds of Lionel Richie courtesy of an iPod, we wish the moment could last all night long. Sorry! Forgive the indulgence, I couldn't resist. The scene is so quirky that it's projection TV burned into your long term memory. Here's Giancarlo Esposito riding shotgun to an eighteen year old militiaman. He wants to maintain composure but when will he ever have the chance to enjoy music like this again? It's nostalgia as heroin here, with the human need to remember winning out without many battle casualties.
Consider for a second how alien this experience has to be for the unnamed militia soldier. There's already the stress of being alone in a car with one of the highest ranking members of the Monroe Republic, now he's having to try and figure out Lionel Richie. Keep in mind that this kid's only concept of music is acoustic in nature and campfire rustic. I'd long for the impending Rebel bomb attack too. So for a precious few seconds, my sympathy switched sides. I wanted to see more of that moment, that ship in a bottle of people unaccustomed to electricity discovering some of its fruits. Nora has to up and ruin all of that with a carefully concocted detonation. The shots of a concussed Neville staggering from the explosion are well conceived and go a long way to disorienting us along with him. Especially effective are those which used a rig to attach the camera to him. Keeping him as the unmoving center of focus which the world wobbles and swings around was an excellent choice.
Moving beyond Giancarlo's Lionel Richie moment, we're hit with an informational nuclear bomb; we finally know what caused the Blackout and it goes a great distance to explaining why nothing works. The scene which illuminates this mystery for us is actually quite low key for the bombshell that explodes in our midst. Aaron and Rachel have clearly been conferring for hours; she's physically exhausted simply from the depth of detail they've been digging down to. The truth is much cooler than I'd anticipated: microscopic nano machines, no larger each than a virus, inhabit the entire breadth of the world around them. They are designed to do only two things: absorb all electricity and replicate themselves. Simple, elegant, and frighteningly effective. Rachel can't even resist smiling at her own brilliance when she tells Aaron that there hundreds quadrillions of these nano machines in existence by this point.
It isn't stated, but the pendants must nullify any of these machines within a certain vicinity, with the amplifier exponentially increasing that range. The flash drive portion must contain the code which tells the nearby machines to temporarily cease absorbing all electricity, and the casing piece must contain a power source while offering shielding from the absorption effect. I'd speculate that the Tower contains the means to send code to all of machines world wide, rewriting them into a dormant state. Still, their existence goes a long way toward shoring up what viewers long considered plot holes: why is it that older machines don't work when they lack computers?
I can't mention the figurative bombshell this week without discussing the literal destroyer of worlds. Neville is tasked with trading thirty pounds of diamonds for a working nuclear bomb at an old cement factory in Virginia. I can't make the point any better that one of the characters, who compares the sticks and stones of the rebel army to the ultimate destructive power now wielded by Monroe. How do they even begin to combat that?
There were a good number of technological wonders in this episode to fill out that side of the equation. The reason that this week was so excellent is that it didn't rest on those accomplishments alone. Instead sharp writing gave us a double dose of solid parent-child conflict. Explored are two sides of the same coin. Rachel and Charlie have a dysfunctional relationship which neither knows how to fix but both seem amiable to trying. Neville and Jason have a violently dysfunctional relationship which it seems both have given up on. Jason's learned from his father though. Perhaps the most compelling scene in the episode has us believe that Jason has secretly come to confront his father. We watch as the elder Neville appears to completely manipulate his son into giving him what he wants. But the dice where loaded from the start, as Jason tricks his father into revealing the information that torture never would have yielded.
For those of you still reading but who stopped watching because of Charlie's frequent crying sessions in the early goings of the first half of the season, there's been a breakthrough. She's now on record as telling her mother "We can't get emotional". Cue the party poppers, sprinkle the ticker tape, and unleash the streamers! Seriously though, Tracy Spiridakos has developed this character a great deal, evolving her into someone we want to root for. She deserves credit for honing her craft and applying that feedback.
This may be the best Revolution episode so far, a feat accomplished with clever writing (Miles' "boy band" line and Jason's confusion brought some needed levity), revealing that an enduring mystery had a solid and interesting logic under the hood, and believable interpersonal drama. Hopefully they can maintain this momentum and continue delivering the goods.