Revolution: good idea, flawed show

22:23, Oct 17 2012

Not content to let TV3 & Four have all the fast-tracking fun, TV2 started sci-fi series Revolution over the last two nights, three weeks behind the USA*. The high-concept show is brought to us by a truckload of creative talent: Supernatural creator Eric Kripke, Lost producer JJ Abrams and Iron Man director Jon Favreau (who directed the pilot) all worked on developing the show, and Billy Burke and the brilliant Giancarlo Esposito lead the cast.

The question is, with so much talent onboard, how did Revolution end up swamped in so much mediocrity?

(Warning: this post contains spoilers from the first two episodes of Revolution.)

Before you start thinking I hated it, and even though I do think there are some major flaws that are already apparent, let me say that there was plenty to like about Revolution.

I think the premise - What would happen if electricity ceased to exist? What would life look like, 15 years from now, in a world without modern technology? - is great. Post-apocalyptic dramas are always interesting and Revolution was no exception, whether we were watching planes drop out of the sky in the immediate aftermath of the blackout, or looking at an overgrown Wrigley Field in the near future. The lengths people will go to in order to survive is a great source of drama.

Revolution is also a good looking show, with the near-future realised in vivid detail. As the wonderful documentary series Life After People proved, there is something creepy yet beautiful about the decay of the infrastructure of our society, especially when it combines with the 19th century western settings society has reverted to here. The action is great, too - as it turns out, post-apocalyptic civil war-styled ninja sword fights are hella awesome.


I'm also loving Billy Burke and Giancarlo Esposito; Burke has a charisma on-screen that was quite surprising, given his minor role in the Twilight movies (hey, it's Bella's dad!), while Esposito shows again that he can play an incredible villain following his spectacular turn as Gus Fring on Breaking Bad.

Yet for all the good the show brought us over those first couple of episodes, Revolution has some major, major flaws.

For a start, aside from Burke and Esposito, there really isn't anyone to like in the cast. Female lead Charlie (Traci Spiridakos) is a teenage girl in the rich tradition of countless annoying teenage girls who live to cause problems for the other characters (especially Miles, her uncle on the show) while trying to do more than they're capable of doing.

Her brother Danny (Graham Rogers), captured by the militia in the premiere, is no better, letting his mouth run away on him so often that my eyes were rolling at around 300rpm. Charlie's companions Aaron (Zak Orth) and Maggie (Anna Lise Phillips) exist to provide a few chuckles and medical treatment, respectively - and that's pretty much it.

This isn't a big problem in itself, but the team behind Revolution also missed the memo about how mystery shows only work with strong characters. In the first two episodes, we learned that the evil Monroe militia is being led by Miles' former best friend, that some people are in possession of pendants that can power up items within a small area, and that Charlie's mother, believed dead, is actually alive and being held prisoner by Monroe.

If Lost, FlashForward, The Event, Heroes, The X Files, Rubicon, Invasion, Jericho and the rest taught us anything, it's that amassing mysteries, but not accompanying them with strong characters or interesting stories, just can't work. Sadly, none of the main characters, or indeed any of the periphery characters, are doing anything remotely interesting so far.

It's early days, but the show has an odd "I've seen this before and I can tell what's coming" vibe about it, as if every storyline is being telegraphed miles ahead - Charlie is going to learn a few life lessons, Miles is going to confront his best friend, the bad guy is going to get what's coming to him, and the kids will reunite with their mum.

At least we might get a few more epic ninja sword fights along the way.

Did you watch the first couple of episodes of Revolution? What did you think? Will you wach again?

(*) Hey, it's not quick, per se, but it is better than waiting six months, right?

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