Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Revolution 1.02 'Chained Heat' Recap

These recaps will be leaning quite heavily on the snarkier side of things so be forewarned. If you eye-rolled often Monday night this one's for you. For a proper review of the series so far check back with us next week as we see what kind of overall impression the first trio of episodes have made. Remember this is mostly all in good fun. We’ll probably root the ‘bad guys’ in the Monroe Republic on a lot as well. It’s more fun to watch that way. This is a full recap so there are spoilers.

Things kick off with a flashback to a week after the big blackout where we see Rachel with young Charlie as they prepare to leave the city.

Apparently there’s supposed to be more resources there but I have a feeling that everywhere is pretty much equally screwed by then. Rachel tells Charlie that it’s her job to look out for little brother, Danny, and well all know she’s not exactly doing an A-plus job with that in the present. But hey, it’s not as though she and her brother have practically grown up their entire lives with things as they are now so I guess we’re forced to give them slack when they screw up royally. Oh that’s right they have actually been living in this changed world since they were young kids well I guess I forgot that from how naive they both are.

As Charlie pensively looks off into the distance while she apparently remembers what we just saw, and she probably just stood there in awkward silence the entire time as Maggie (British lady also a doctor) and Aaron (former Google guy) just stood there and waited for her to move the story forward again. Thankfully, that duty was put onto one of the only truly compelling characters the show has to offer when Miles Matheson found himself in the middle of a sword fight with a bounty hunter. I swear they only put scenes like this in to make the world feel super dangerous at any moment even though things are often resolved quickly enough.

Everyone with a shred of common sense knows that when the world turns flip upside down in one way or another be it zombies or a massive worldwide blackout that defies all logic—morality shifts over to a more grey area. Miles should have offed that bounty hunter but a quick bat of the eyes from Charlie and he backs down. Something tells that’s going to go down in the regrets column later on. Oh, and the whole time that Nick dude was there, the Militia member Charlie practically invited to capture all of them by flirting with him back in the pilot. So those of us who were begging for that incredibly forced star-crossed lovers crap to go away after the pilot can scream now.

The group makes their way past the city limits of Pontiac, Illinois—where the buildings somehow look like Roman ruins but the people are still fairly photogenic and clean. Charlie witnesses some random extra getting beat up and she bites her lip to ask why on earth that’s happening to him and I swear I can feel Miles roll his eyes from here when he replies. They started the series off by saying that Charlie and her brother were sheltered but if the Monroe Militia is really that present of a threat in this world than her stupidity of why they do what they do is fairly inexcusable. Miles ditches the group to take ‘talk to some people’. I bet they’re shady people and Charlie’s going to have something to say about associating with them.

Miles asks a proprietor of a gambling den if he’s seen Nora Clayton recently since apparently the group as is can’t take on ‘Monroe and 20,000 of his men’ but if they add one more person the odds will easily shift in their favor. In the middle of his conversation with the man, Miles is confronted by the very same bounty hunter from before. He actually says the words, ‘you shoulda killed me when you had the chance’. Word for word out of the action show cliche dialog handbook. Oh and if you don’t want to keep track, the bounty hunter also does that supposedly badass thing where all you do is repeat what the other guy says but you do it in a more menacing fashion. I’m not making this up. Before a fight can go down between them the rest of the group is carted out. They didn’t even last five minutes on their own without getting captured.

I’m pretty sure the entirety of the first season is going to be a ‘Who Gets Captured this Week?’ guessing game. All Miles can do is turn himself in and all Charlie can do is try her very hardest to glare at the bad guy—it comes off looking more like the kind of pout a teenager gives when told they’re grounded but it’s all she can muster up. Miles really has the capacity to be such a badass character and he’s so much better off on his own than with the group. It’s evident from how easily he dispatches his captors and finds out where the mysterious Nora is in mere moments using the best tool he has—violence.  

The story finally goes back to the second of the three interesting characters on this show, if you’re keeping track, Militiaman Captain Tom Neville (the glorious Giancarlo Esposito). He was the reason I started watching this show and he’s the reason I’m going to try to get through it. The militia’s posse is on the move with the captured Danny in tow when a sudden gunshot rings out nearby. They stop at the home of a local who has a recently killed deer on his property. That alone isn’t grounds for militia involvement but the fact that the man clearly has at least one gun is. See, the series is trying to paint the Monroe Militia as the bad guys of Revolution. If we had a series of characters on the other side that we could give more effort into caring about that might have worked out a little better. As it stands though, the Militia is the side that’s actually worth rooting for. All they’re doing is bringing order to a land that would be full of chaos if they weren’t around. Crime and punishment have been around for centuries with or without electricity and we’ve yet to see them do anything that wasn’t warranted because of a law being broken no matter what any character might feel about the punishment meted out.

It’s not as though they’re brutal animals either we see Tom give the man a chance to come clean about his firearms contraband and we also see the president of the republic, the mysterious Sebastian Monroe, stop an interrogation that started off on the bloody side of things. They’re fairly reasonable men in these uniforms but the laws are the laws. No one else seemingly stood up to ease the unrest of the land but everyone’s going to complain about how it’s being handled, of course. Danny’s starting to get a first-hand view of the fact that these are mostly decent men in Monroe’s militia and it’s worth wondering if he’ll start to see his opinion of things shift the longer he’s in their custody.

Back with Miles and his band of mostly useless companions he smartens up and decides to split up from the group. Charlie whines about it and the other two don’t seem to really have an opinion on the matter as they just stare at him silently when he goes. The next morning to the surprise of absolutely no one who’s paying attention to what a headstrong moron she is, Charlie steals some provisions and heads out to find Miles on her own because she just does so very well by herself. She’s reunited with Nate and employs a ruse to trap him. This is the first scene of the episode where the writing forces Charlie to be good at something that she’s never been good at before so we’ll stop rolling our eyes at her. There will be more. She can’t quite walk away without having a ‘moment’ with Nate as the music swells. It’s back everyone, the forced love interest angle. You’re welcome.

Maggie and Aaron get a decent scene together. It makes you think they’d be so much better off without Charlie as well like how Miles is. I’m noticing a theme here. She explains to Aaron that she keeps a useless iPhone around with her not for the reasons of product placement, but because it’s storing photos of her children that she someday wants to be able to have access to. It’s a nice moment actually and it makes you wish they gave more screen-time to both of these characters, and no I’m not counting when they just stand around behind Miles and Charlie not contributing.

At the militia we see that not only is Tom Neville a merciful man he’s also a God-fearing one as he eases the mortally wounded soldier into death as painlessly as possible. Danny witnesses all of this and surely even he can appreciate mercy in this messed up world they’re all part of. Charlie’s walking alone in the woods so there’s no better time for another flashback to her childhood. She’s with Danny and her mother outside of the University of Chicago where her father vaguely needs to pick up some things. When she loses her basketball it shows us how early the precedent was set for Charlie getting herself into trouble and putting everyone else in danger because of it. Or at least that’s how it seems at first when a man shows up threatening the little girl if Rachel doesn’t give over their provisions.

We jump back to the present and Miles sneaking up on Charlie. They insist upon these two characters being the heart of the show—being family and all but my god they have little to no chemistry so it’s just awkward every single time they’re forced to trade lines with one another. She complains that Danny being gone is her fault and she needs to help Miles even though I think the word she’s looking for is actually hinder because that’s what she usually does.

It’s been clear since the get-go that this is the kind of show that’s going to rely heavily on its mythology and antagonists if nothing else and when we see Aaron give the mysterious pendant over to Maggie it’s clear that we’re supposed to be infinitely intrigued. Mildly intrigued is more accurate but that could be because the show’s central premise isn’t really that interesting as it sits right now. The electricity went away and we don’t know why…okay well entire civilizations lived just fine before it was even invented so after a certain amount of years it doesn’t make sense that they’re being forced to dwell on it. But this is what we’ve signed on for so the pendant is an important piece of this puzzle. Aaron explains that he’s meant to give the pendant to a woman called Grace—the woman from the pilot episode who seemed to be communicating with someone on a very old computer. She has power. Aaron goes on to explain that if the blackout was man-made than it can be fixed so that’s the hope he’s operating under at least. He probably wants all of his Google money to mean something again.

Back with the militia, they’ve stopped to hold a brief burial service for their fallen comrade. All Danny can do is scoff and smirk his way through it. Tom may be a murderer to you but you sir, are a murderer of respect.  Well Captain Tom Neville gets all up in Danny’s face and really sells the terrifying angle because if Danny wasn’t somehow the central focus of most of the ‘family’ side of the plot I’m sure he’d already be dead for all the trouble he’s caused for the Monroe militia so far. Tom doesn’t a give a flying you know what about what this snide punk-ass kid thinks and he shakes him up a bit. Good for him, he should just gag him I think he’d really save himself (and us) the trouble of hearing what this brat has to say about things he knows nothing about.

On the other end of the endless woods Charlie and Miles spot Nora chained up and doing hard labor as a prisoner of the Monroe republic. They’re dragging a helicopter through the woods using only man power and it boggles the mind why the cart they’re using to do so doesn’t even wheels on it. Wheels aren’t in need of power to work. It’s clearly just trying to make the Monroe republic look downright monstrous in how people are treated even though people who are on that chain gang could be like the would-be rapists we saw back in the pilot. The mysterious Nora is reviled to us and she’s probably the most impossibly clean, pretty, and fit prisoner anyone’s ever seen. For an NBC show this series really likes to pull from the CW playbook—have an important central character introduced, make them young and beautiful no matter what.

They hatch a plan to break her out but it turns out that Nora actually was too clever for the room since she got herself arrested on purpose. All in order to steal a sniper rifle—they earn big bucks on the black market since firearms are banned remember. The next day the trio hatches a plan in which everything actually rides on Charlie to not screw up. It’s beyond clear that make these situations on the show so that they can force the idea of Charlie being capable on the audience.

It leads to a scene that inspires a great deal of disbelief as Charlie goes from whining at the idea of killing anyone to doing so with no problem because suddenly she’s trying to be the savior of all the poor oppressed people. We’re supposed to marvel at how awesome she’s becoming…that really isn’t how a lot of people viewed it I’m sure. Lazy writing to try and make this character useful seems more like the right idea here. Everything about the scene is heavily telegraphed and obvious from the build of the music to the slow-motion as well as the flashes of the scene fifteen years ago where it’s revealed that Charlie’s momma is a bit of a badass when Rachel guns the stranger down for threatening her family. The idea being to show a parallel of how Charlie’s got her mom’s killer instincts instead it comes off more like a plea to root for this character or the family angle of the show actually starts to fall apart.

They release the prisoners and Miles is forced to give a crap about his niece’s issues about doing what was necessary. Oh we also learn that Nora is part of the actual rebel group we’ve yet to meet thanks to a tattoo on her back that somehow Monroe’s prison camp wardens couldn’t see despite the fact she’s wearing a tank top and the ink is on her back. I fear from the name of this show that they’re going to try and prop Charlie up as some kind of rebel leader to lead the revolution of the show’s title. You know, because she’s so damn special or unusual or whatever the characters are forced to say about her. They have a term for this it’s called  Special Snowflake Syndrome—it’s no compliment to be accused of having it in a piece of fiction’s writing.

Grace receives a visit from some mysterious man wearing another one of the pendants (god are they actually that abundant that every fifth character has one) and she seems frantic even before it seems he’s wielding some sort of electric baton. She tries to send out a message to the person she’s been in communication with on the other end of her computer but he soon has her cornered. And he knows who she is. Things wrap up with our big OMG moment except I don’t think anyone could be shocked that Rachel is –gasp—alive! She’s being held under lock and key by Monroe himself and let’s hope we get more of this story and less of Charlie pouting in the woods next week. This is the stuff that actually makes sitting through the hour seem close to worth it.

Monroe tells Rachel (the third character most worth watching/knowing more about) that her husband is dead and that he has her son. See the main difference between her and her daughter Charlie is she’s actually much more likely to act. It may not always go her way but you don’t see her whining about things before she goes about doing them. When her attack against Monroe fails he assures her that she’s going to talk about everything she knows. We’re left to assume that Rachel at least knows why the power went out but it really doesn’t come off as dramatically as it’s probably meant to.

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