REVOLUTION 1.01 ‘Pilot’

Charlie Matheson goes on a desperate quest to find her uncle after her brother is kidnapped by a militia.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Pilot"

Writer: Eric Kripke

Director: Jon Favreau

Premise:

15 years ago, the power went out all over the world and technology as we knew it ceased to exist. Now, Charlie Matheson and her uncle, Miles may hold the key to restoring the world that once was… if they can survive.

Story:

In the present day, Rachel Matheson (Elizabeth Mitchell) is watching over her children, Charlotte and Danny when her husband, Ben Matheson (Tim Guinee) races into their home and frantically tells her that the power is about to go out everywhere… forever. As Ben attempts to copy files from his laptop to his thumb drive, he calls his brother Miles (Billy Burke) and attempts to explain the situation before something happens and the power cuts out almost like a wave. Miles and his friend, Bass (David Lyons) are mystified as every car on the freeway shuts down while Ben watches planes literally falling from the sky and exploding.

15 years later, we meet Aaron (Zak Orth) as he attempts to teach a group of uninterested children how the world has changed since the power went out. In this farming community, we see that Ben is now with a new lover named Maggie (Anna Lise Phillips) while Charlotte has grown up and is now calling herself "Charlie" (Tracy Spiridakos). Charlie explores an abandoned RV with her younger brother, Danny (Graham Rogers), but she cuts their trip short when he has an asthma attack. Forced to take Danny home, Charlie argues with her father about traveling to places outside of the town and she lashes out at Maggie for acting like she has a role in their family.

While Charlie visits her hidden cache of postcards and trinkets, a militia led by Captain Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito) rolls into town looking for Miles and Ben. When Ben tells him that he hasn't seen Miles in years, Neville orders him to come with him back to see his leader, Monroe. Although Ben agrees, Danny attempts to use a crossbow to hold Neville's troops at bay. The other townspeople start to rally behind him and shots ring out on both sides. Ben is mortally wounded, so Neville departs with Danny as his prisoner. By the time that Charlie returns, a dying Ben tells her to find her uncle Miles in Chicago to help her free Danny.

Charlie attempts to do so, unwillingly accompanied by Aaron and Maggie. Unknown to Charlie, Aaron has the thumb drive that her father used 15 years ago to download the info from his laptop. On the road, Charlie briefly meets a young man named Nate Walker (J. D. Pardo), who flirts with her as she gets water from a river. That night, a trio of bandits take Charlie and her group by surprise and the leader attempts to rape her. Maggie tricks two of the bandits into drinking poisoned whiskey while Nate arrives and shoots one with his bow. Grateful for Nate's assistance, Charlie allows him to travel with them to Chicago, but Maggie warns her not to trust him.

Elsewhere, Danny manages to escape from Neville's custody and he runs off into the night. Hours later, he comes across a small cottage and farm before he passes out from another asthma attack and sheer exhaustion. Hours later, Danny wakes up with a gun to his face, held by a woman named Grace (Maria Howell). Grace explains that she dragged him inside and she gives him an inhaler to help with his asthma. At first Danny offers to leave and make sure that he doesn't cause Grace any trouble, but she seems to warm up to him when he says that he's running from Monroe's forces. Plus, Danny is not exactly in any shape to go anywhere.

In Chicago, Charlie and her party make it to a formerly grand hotel, where she finds Miles running the bar. After Charlie establishes her identity, Miles takes her aside and she asks for his help freeing Danny. However, Miles refuses to go with her… and he exposes Nate as a member of Monroe's militia who was sent to gain her trust and expose Miles. Startled, Nate pulls out his bow and he immediately retreats. Although Miles knows that Monroe's forces will be there soon, he still refuses to leave with Charlie. At Grace's home, Neville shows up looking for Danny and Grace attempts to say that she hasn't seen anyone.

However, Neville is in no mood for games and he sees through her lies before she relents and lets his men take Danny away. Sometime later, Nate returns to Miles' hotel alongside several militia men who demand that Miles surrender. Instead, Miles pulls out a sword and he proves to be a very efficient killer, striking down several men. Charlie and her party also return to help even the odds, but Charlie soon needs a bit of saving; which she gets from Nate before he runs off again. As Charlie's group goes back to Miles, he finally agrees to come with them. In flashback, we learn that Miles' friend Bass is actually Sebastian Monroe, the leader of the militia currently looking for him.

Back at Grace's home, we see that she has a room secured by multiple locks. Once she is inside, she powers up a crude, but working computer and sends a brief message telling someone that the militia came to her, but did not find the machine. The person on the other end asks her "what now?"

Breakdown:

"Revolution" may be the most "CW" show that NBC has ever done. And that's not a compliment.

Look, I understand that TV is a business and that there's always a desire to stock a cast with young and attractive people on any television series. Tracy Spiridakos, Graham Rogers and J. D. Pardo each have a physical look that could make them stars… I'm just not convinced that any of them can act. Much like the CW tends to do, I think that they may have been hired simply for their appearance alone.

On paper, Charlie was probably meant to be a strong female character. While she is willful, "strong" is not the word I would use to describe Charlie. Strong characters usually don't need to be saved (twice) by secondary characters to set up a possible romantic angle between them. Strong characters are usually the ones doing the saving. Strong characters usually have vivid personalities that shine through in every scene that they're in. And yet Charlie is relentlessly bland and her brother is even worse. There's no way around it, the performances of Spiridakos, Rogers and Pardo were neither engaging nor compelling.

The supporting characters aren't much better. Aaron appears to be the comic relief character who isn't actually funny while Maggie is the stereotypical replacement mother figure who will eventually form a bond with Charlie. It's all been done before and done much better in dozens of shows. As for our mystery woman, Grace; she barely registered at all. While I'm sure the ending was meant to be intriguing, leaving us with a text message that says "So, what now?" is not exactly the strongest note to go out on. And holy crap… NBC hired "The Cape" star David Lyons as the main villain for this series! He wouldn't have been my first choice… or my fifteenth. 

If it wasn't for Giancarlo Esposito and Billy Burke, I'd be willing to write off "Revolution" entirely. But they managed to inject so much life into their scenes that it gives me hope that "Revolution" could eventually become a show worth watching every week. Fairly fresh off of his memorable turn as Gus Fring on "Breaking Bad," Esposito once again demonstrated his ability to convey a subtle menace when he threatened Grace. When I heard that Espositio had been cast in "Revolution," I was hoping that he'd be a heroic character just to play against type… or at least one of the leads. While Tom Neville's familiar persona is clearly within Esposito's wheelhouse, he was the only character I wanted to see more of through out the show.

Likewise, Miles turned the story around as soon as he made his first appearance in Chicago. Miles was a bit of a dick to Charlie and her group, but at least he's funny. And I appreciate that Miles still hasn't fully embraced Charlie as a member of his family. The sword fight between Miles and the militia was really well done and it was absolutely the highlight of the episode. I've long been of the opinion that there aren't enough sword fights on TV, so I'd love to see more scenes like that. The staging of that sequence also reminded me of Neo's chateau fight in The Matrix: Reloaded.

The premise for "Revolution" is really fantastic and that opening sequence showed a lot of a promise. Not everything that came after it lived up to that potential, but there's still a chance that this can be a really good series. Still, Eric Kripke's pilot script was surprisingly weak and I expect more out of him after wowing me on "Supernatural." It's been years since NBC has had a genre show truly breakout and "Revolution" may be the first one in a long time to do so. Nothing would make me happier than to see "Revolution" find itself and become something truly special.

However, it's not there yet.