Around the Water Cooler: “Revolution,” the Mid-Season Finale and Season 2 Progress Report (SPOILERS)

THE SPECS:

Who: “Revolution” currently airs on network TV, specifically on NBC, Wednesdays at 8:00 PM.

What: “Revolution,” a science fiction thriller and action drama set in a post-apocalyptic landscape.  In Revolution, in the year 2012, scientists Ben and Rachel Matheson (Elizabeth Mitchell, Lost) developed nanotechnology that somehow caused electricity to disappear from the entire world, resulting in chaos and anarchy, particularly in the United States. People were left without vehicles and any other powered apparatuses, and the world descended into uncivilized madness, until two men, Rachel’s brother-in-law Miles (Billy Burke) and his best friend Sebastian “Bass” Monroe (David Lyons), took it upon themselves to form a martial colony that later becomes the Monroe Republic based in Philadelphia.  Other territories begin to sprout up across the devastated nation as well, but Monroe becomes power-drunk and merciless as well as obsessed with finding out how to turn the power back on.  Miles defects shortly before Monroe orders that Ben be found and killed, leaving his daughter Charlie (Tracy Spiradakos) and son Danny orphans.  Danny is thereafter kidnapped by Monroe’s men , including trusted soldier Major Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito, Once Upon a Time), in an effort to bait hostage Rachel into working on restoring power.  Charlie and family friend Aaron (Zak Orth), along with others, seek the help of Uncle Miles to rescue Danny; though initially successful, Miles and Charlie find out how intricately their family is involved in the worldwide blackout and must deal with the ramifications of the post-apocalyptic environment and the vast spectrum of human nature in a world where all must scrape by to survive, all while bands of rebels claiming to be American patriots fight the demagoguery of the territorial governments, (for a more detailed Synopsis, read here: http://www.aceshowbiz.com/tv/revolution/summary.html).

When: The Season 2 mid-season finale aired on Wednesday, November 20, 2013, on NBC at 8:00 PM.  The show is expected to debut the second half of its season on Wednesday, January 8, 2014, at 8:00 PM.

Where: The show spans the country formerly known as the United States in a fictitious future but started primarily on the East Coast in the Monroe Republic and in the Southeast in what is known in the show as the Georgia Federation.

Why: The executive producers and creators of this show are Eric Kripke (who created Supernatural) and J.J. Abrams (Lost, Fringe, Alias, Felicity).  That is an epic team of creativity, and I am a great fan of their previous (and some current) series.  In addition, Elizabeth Mitchell, who played Juliet Burke on Lost, and also appeared on V, is a featured member of the ensemble and is one of my favorite television actresses today.  In addition, the concept of the power going out all across the world, suddenly and without explanation – that doesn’t intrigue you?

How – as in How’s It Going? (THOUGHTS…at present)

Season Two has been quite the roller coaster ride since the season premiere.  The story has taken some unexpected turns, and our characters have found themselves surprisingly far away from last season’s quest of attempting to restore power worldwide.  The themes of this season revolve around the mysterious agenda of the so-called Patriots/American government and what is, ultimately, the prescient artificial intelligence powering the nanotechnology invented by Ben and Rachel Matheson, the same technology that caused the blackout initially.  Let’s review the story from each character’s perspective and revisit questions, old and new.

Rachel Matheson (Elizabeth Mitchell):

After the season one finale, when Rachel, her daughter Charlie, her brother-in-law Miles, and family friend Aaron successfully reached the Tower in the Plains Nation and turned on the power via the nanotechnology invented by Rachel and her deceased husband Ben, missiles were launched at key sites around the country, resulting in the destruction of the populaces in Philadelphia, the seat of the Monroe Republic; Atlanta, the seat of the Georgia Federation; and other major populations around the country.  Believing that her decision to turn the power back on directly resulted in the fallout and catastrophic loss of life, Rachel returned to her father Gene in Texas (i.e. the Plains Nation), where he comforted her during what was clearly a psychotic break.  In the meantime, Charlie left to seek her revenge for the deaths of her father and brother, while Miles stayed to tend after Rachel and to suss out information about the mysterious Patriots and the perpetrators of the missile strikes.  The unspoken love between Miles and Rachel resulted in her mental healing; however, life was complicated for them all when Patriots rolled into town.  Rachel, along with Miles, suspects them from the start, and she frequently gets herself into trouble as she sneaks around, looking for answers, and challenges their authority outright.  Yet, her primary purpose, as the inventor of the nanobytes that caused the power outage, is to discover and explain the new behaviors exhibited by the technology, particularly when it revives Aaron from death.  In addition, though Rachel manages to rebuild trust with her daughter, she discovers that her father has been secretly tipping the Patriots off with information related to Miles’ identity and whereabouts, though he is unaware that her life is also in danger, and that a reward for her capture has also been posted.  As of the cliffhanger, Rachel learns finally that Miles truly loved her all along, but that he is dying of a slow burning infection to an injury he sustained during their many skirmishes with the Patriot soldiers.

Miles Matheson (Billy Burke):

Miles chose to hide in the Plains Nation with Rachel, and it has become clear in the first half of this season, if it wasn’t clear before, and certainly by Miles’ own admission, that he has long nursed a deep-seated love for his widowed sister-in-law, a love that began with some kind of affair while Rachel was still with Miles’ brother, Ben.  Miles’ identity and very life were endangered by the arrival of the self-styled patriots, who the viewer finds out came to town on a tip from Rachel’s father, Gene (Stephen Collins).  The American government has issued a bounty for the capture of both Rachel and Miles, as well as Bass Monroe.  Miles, going by the alias of Stu for most of this season until recently, made it his mission to discover the true aims of the Patriots, though he was first captured by a war clan run by a psychopathic ex-patriot attempting to cure his fatally sick wife.  Then, matters were complicated when Charlie returned to the Plains Nation with Bass, who had news of the bounties, in an effort to enlist Monroe’s help in sussing out the secret agenda of the Patriots.  Though Miles attempted to solicit the aid of the Texas Rangers (headed, briefly, by Jim Beaver, or Bobby of Supernatural) with the hope of starting a war, the larger distraction has been Aaron’s trials and tribulations centered on the nanotech, which seems to be at the heart of the American Government’s official plans.  The viewer also discovers that Monroe had a child with a woman who also loved Miles, and Miles secreted the child away from Monroe, as the baby was conceived when the Monroe Republic was ascending in power and control.  Miles’ life and relationships with his family and friends, with the exception of Charlie, remain quite complicated.  As of the cliffhanger, an injury that he sustained while skirmishing with patriot soldiers has become infected, and he is succumbing to the infection, even though Aaron successfully causes the nanotechnology to burn the patriot soldiers, who are laying siege at the old high school, alive.  This character’s struggle centers on redemption for his past misdeeds with his best buddy Bass, the future of his survival, and his ongoing feelings for Rachel.

Charlotte “Charlie” Matheson (Tracy Spiradakos):

Charlie has grown up fast since her father and brother died in season one.  Not only has she become an unflinching soldier, able to kill with reckless abandon not unlike her uncle, she has also learned truths about her family and friends that she would just as soon forget.  Her prolonged feeling of abandonment at the hands of her mother Rachel, and her anger over the missile strikes as well as the deaths of those she loves, cause her to leave her mother, grandfather, and uncle Miles to seek out Monroe with the intent of killing him in revenge.  When both he and she are captured, and he saves her life and releases her from her bonds, Monroe tells Charlie about the bounties on her mother and uncle’s heads, as he supplicates her to let him accompany her back to the Plains Nation to start a war against the shifty patriots alongside former best buddy Miles.  She agrees and brings him there, much to the consternation of Rachel and Miles.  Yet, her decision may be sound, as Bass becomes profoundly useful in the efforts to investigate the Patriots.  In the meantime, she is able to make cautious amends with her mom, though her concern is for helping Rachel and Miles to escape capture and to avoid the collection of the bounties on their heads.  Also, and this viewer may be imagining it, but there seems to be a weird sexual tension between Charlie and Bass, which would also be kind of gross, considering that Bass is her uncle’s age.

Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito) and Jason Neville (JD Pardo): 

The Nevilles have experienced quite the side adventure, which has not yet dovetailed with the Mathesons and Monroe.  When the season begins, Tom is racked with grief about the apparent death of his wife Julia (Kim Raver) during the missile strikes, and he and Jason find themselves in a refugee camp somewhere in the Georgia Federation, alone and outcast as well as homeless in the fallout.  Tom is also drunk and angry most of the time, and Jason does all he can to slap some sense into his typically slaphappy father.  When persons identifying themselves as members of the American government arrive in the camp with fresh supplies and a seeming mission of rescue and hope, Tom decides to adopt his own mission of infiltrating the ranks of the American government with the intent to kill the President in the name of his dead wife. Most of the season so far has found Tom utilizing his bevy of machination and political schemes and skills to weasel his way into the security forces for the patriots, though Jason is momentarily shipped against his will to a “reeducation center,” where he is brainwashed into fighting for the patriots without discrimination, including shooting at his own father.  Tom is able to save his son and revive his good senses as well as to find his way aboard a train heading for Washington DC, where–twist!–he finds his wife, very much alive and married to someone else.  Their reunion is one filled with love and sex, and Julia is able to see her son briefly and in passing, but Julia convinces Tom, as the power-hungry couple they have always been, to wait to kill the president, as she has plans of her own.  This family has been deemed the antiheroes of the bunch; it’s interesting to see how they have been written as people to both cheer for and despise, all at once.

Aaron Pittman (Zak Orth):

Aaron accompanied Miles, Rachel, and Charlie to the Plains Nation and was actually successful in moving past the heartache of the previous year.  He found his former wife alive in the latter half of last season, and, realizing that she didn’t love him anymore, propagated most by his crippling lack of confidence and cowardice streak, Aaron decided to become a teacher and search for purpose in the sleepy Texas town where his friends were hiding.  At school, he met and fell in love with Cynthia (Jessica Collins); yet, when a war clan attacked the town, Aaron was caught in the crossfire and died – until the nanotechnology revived him and began making his thoughts come to life, such as by burning people alive and healing the wounded and sick.  This discovery horrifies Aaron and even frightens the unerringly loyal Cynthia, until some of the patriots who roll into town make the connection between Aaron and the nanotech based on a tip from Gene, Rachel’s father.  When an official played by Zeljko Ivanek begins to torture Aaron and to threaten Cynthia, hoping that Aaron will cause the nanotech to heal a cancerous tumor in his brain, Aaron cries possum, unable to understand how he is controlling it or why he, of all people and things, is what the eerily glowing nanobytes respond to in the end.  In the cliffhanger episode, the nanobytes adopt the form of a little boy that Aaron used to know as a child and explain to him that because he “woke them up,” by programming them to start the sequence to reset worldwide power in the Tower, they hear his “thinks” and want to help him, but the boy/nanotech is confused by Aaron’s changing whims of healing his now deceased girlfriend and killing those who threatened them.  This little boy also kept asking him about a city in Oklahoma with the second largest ball of twine.  This viewer imagines that this location will become significant in the second half of the season, if the show continues to be too “X-Files” even for Miles by exploring the nanotechnology and its relationship both to Aaron and the worldwide power outage.

Sebastian “Bass” Monroe (David Lyons):

Bass spent much of the first quarter of the season running and hiding from the authorities, who labeled him a war criminal and placed the highest bounty on his head.  He prolonged his survival by engaging in black market boxing matches for money and drinking his days away, missing his best friend Miles.  When Charlie tracks him down with the intent of killing him, the two are captured by bounty hunters expecting to turn them over to the American government, but Monroe is still the ruthless soldier he always has been and manages to rescue himself and Charlie before entreating her to bring him to Miles.  Against her better judgment, she acquiesces, and the two find the rest of the Mathesons and Aaron deep within the Plains Nation/Texas.  Monroe initially attempts to convince Miles to start a war against the patriots; however, their attempts fail, and Monroe is recaptured and sentenced to execution.  Though Rachel and Gene are responsible for administering a lethal injection, Rachel has second thoughts in the end, though those thoughts are largely directed toward Miles, whom she loves, and she creates a non-lethal injection and unearths him from his unmarked grave.  Miles also tells Monroe in his alleged final moments that he has a son by a woman for whom they both shared love.  When Monroe is restored to consciousness, he is hellbent on discovering out the whereabouts of this child, though Miles wants his friend’s help to save Aaron from the clutches of the patriots.  Monroe initially seems to be the same as he always was, ultimately in it all for himself and his own aims, but he does return to help Charlie, who he seems to care about, when she is most cornered by patriot soldiers in the old high school.  What his ultimate endgame is may be the biggest mystery of all, since he is not nearly as predictable as any of the other characters.

Questions, Impressions, and Future Considerations (including questions raised during the premiere)

1) Are the nano-bytes irradiated from the nuclear fallout?  What are the luminescent green things?  They have to be those nano-bytes, right?  And did they revive Aaron at the end of the episode?

Answer: Yes, the nanobytes did revive Aaron.  They are the luminescent green things, though they are not irradiated but are sentient artificial intelligence, attempting to appease who they deem to be their creator (Aaron) and to understand their new world.

New Question: Why did they really leave in the end?  And what purpose, if any, will they continue to play in the ongoing story of Revolution? There is some discontent among viewers and fans that the nanotech portion of the narrative distracts from the overall themes; yet, the show was originally about the power going out worldwide, and the fallout that such an event created, which was propagated by this unique bit of science fiction.  I hope the story continues to follow the life and growing consciousness of the nanotechnology and to find Rachel becoming more involved with it again.

2) What is the real nature of the relationship between Miles and Rachel, and why can’t they explore it if Ben, brother and husband, is now deceased?

Answer: They are definitely in love.  I think Miles was keeping his distance out of respect for his brother’s memory, and possibly for Charlie, but I expect this to change in the second half of the season, assuming that Miles survives his infection.

3) Charlie was an annoying character, but she really came into her own when the death of her brother in season 1, in addition to her proficiency at killing attackers, hardened her.  Yet, this quest to find Monroe is really ill-advised.  What is her endgame?  She kills him, and then what?  Bad things happen when she does the “stupid,” as Miles called it.

Answer: Her endgame was to kill Monroe, but she wisely changed her mind.  

New Question: Will her feelings of revenge re-materialize?  In some ways, she and Monroe are quite similar.  I also still maintain that there is an odd strain of sexual tension between these two characters.  Am I imagining it?

4) Miles and the sheriff of the town occupied by Rachel’s father were captured by a war clan with a dandy of a leader at the end of the premiere.  Who is this guy, and what is his purpose?

Answer: He was a former member of the American government whose wife became fatally ill.  He found a loyal and supportive network in the war clan, but his only purpose was to introduce the Patriots as a body into the town where Miles, Rachel, Charlie, and Aaron hid as well as to be a narrative device to show the dangers, other than the obvious forces like the Patriots, still threatening our heroes.

5) The most interesting piece of the story right now centers on Neville.  He was a broken man at first blush in this episode, assured that his wife is dead, and Jason, their situations reversed from the first season, had to smack some sense into him.  With the arrival of the ship and parties claiming to be government, he’s found a new purpose, and he raised some very good questions and suspicions about their new friends.  What will he find out?

Answer: See above.  

New Question: He and Julia are both power-hungry little B-villains.  Will their aims and goals remain as parallel as they have in the past, and exactly what is Julia’s plan, and what is it exactly that they “have always wanted?”  Also, will Jason be along for this ride, and will it be voluntarily or involuntarily?

6) Will the power ever come back on?

This question has not yet been answered and still holds.

PARTING SHOTS

Because the Revolution writers stuck to the central themes, such as the shady organization behind the power outage, Aaron’s role in it all, and Miles and Monroe’s love/hate relationship, the show has really become better and better each week, delivering mysteries and entertainment in epic and grandiose style. With Eric Kripke at the helm, who plans story arcs well in advance, it will be interesting to see how it all continues to play out.  This viewer hopes, however, that the show does not forget its original premise: worldwide blackout and post-apocalyptic survival.

LOOKING AHEAD:

Revolution was ordered for a full season by NBC, a ravaged network that is hanging on to whatever successes it can muster (much like the characters in this show), but TVLine.com is listing possible renewal for this show as “could go either way.”  Also, the show will be preempted for some time during the Winter Olympics, which will air on NBC during February sweeps.  A renewal decision will likely not be made until May sweeps, depending on where the overall story goes.  Let’s see how it fares.

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