Tuesday, 25 September 2012

TV Review: Revolution Season 1 Episode 1 'Pilot'

Revolution is the latest in a series of shows that have been touted in their adverts as being from the producers of ‘LOST’, in the past this hasn’t been so much a boost in popularity as it has been a curse (just look at ‘Flashforward’ and ‘Alcatraz’). Will ‘Revolution’ be the show that succeeds where the others failed?

Electricity is critical to keeping the Earth going. When one day out of the blue all electrical items including batteries cease to function, the citizens of the earth have to cope with a very different life than they are used to and find a way to endure. 15 years after the blackout a commune of survivors dwell in the grassland that once was a town, Charlotte “Charlie” Matheson must journey out from her home in order to rescue her brother Danny who has been kidnapped by a local militia.  Charlie must venture to the ruined city of Chicago in search of her long lost uncle whom she hopes will aid her in her quest to return her brother.

Where are they getting all these crossbows!?

I’m always interested in a drama set in any sort of post-apocalyptic world so ‘Revolution’ immediately had my attention. The way in which the show deals with its post-electricity subject matter is through depictions of societal degradation as well as environmental. Without electricity in the world to create fossil fuels and power factories, the power of nature seems to take hold of the world and asserts its power by flooding the manmade streets and buildings with lush, green foliage. The story of the show itself is too slow and plodding for a pilot episode in my opinion, it lacks the necessary hook in its storytelling that will really bring the viewer into the lives of the characters that a long-form story like this really needs and a few high-octane fight scenes towards the end of the episode only serve to slightly alleviate the sense of the forming plateau in the pace of the show.

The cast is mostly unimpressive save for Giancarlo Esposito who shines in his role as Captain Tom Neville, a former insurance adjuster. The lead character is not much of a lead really and actress Tracey Spiridakos doesn’t deliver anything resembling a unique performance, instead she gives one that seems like a weird amalgamation of Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen and the average teenage heroine, nothing remarkable. Spiridakos even turns on the tears during this pilot in an attempt to give her character the emotional depth she doesn’t currently possess. Billy Burke stands out as notable among the other mediocre performers aside from Esposito, Burke’s character definitely has the potential to ignite the mystery aspect of the show as well as deliver on the action elements, so far Burke is developing the character of Miles Matheson quite well and I’m sure he will continue this throughout the run of the show.

As a whole ‘Revolution’ is very well shot for the average television show, the images of the once modern world overrun with nature is an excellent backdrop for the post-apocalyptic landscape this show inhabits whilst the scenery observed during the wider shots is stunning.

A great example of the show's depiction of nature's reclaiming of the Earth.

The overall feel of the show including the excessive use of crossbows as well as the young adults who wield them all feels a little too similar to ‘The Hunger Games’ for my liking. While I can appreciate the fact that it makes sense to appeal to the huge number of people currently infatuated with ‘The Hunger Games’ I still can’t get past the fact that it really takes away from the uniqueness of a show like this which has the potential to set itself apart from all the rest in this congested season of pilots.

The script is often very predictable and unsophisticated, the plot of the show itself has the potential to go to any number of places dramatically which makes it frustrating to see such basic writing be used in this episode, if I were to judge ‘Revolution’ purely by this pilot alone I would have no choice but to declare it nothing more than a quite formulaic affair concerning a youth venturing out on a quest from their dying parent to explore the strange world.

As I’ve mentioned before, the general idea behind ‘Revolution’ has potential but it is not necessarily completely unique to television as shows such as ‘Jericho’ have featured similar plots and still failed to capture the interest of a wider audience. However the root of the story of ‘Revolution’, the sudden absence of electricity throughout the world, is singularly its own and if its writers can pull off an action packed season that provides questions and answers to the mythology of the show in equal measure then they could well have a hit on their hands. But if they carry on with such predictable stories and uninspired dialogue such as that of this pilot, then they are going to find it extremely tough to keep this show, which is no doubt quite expensive to produce, on the air for long.

‘Revolution’ as a pilot hasn’t impressed me much, but as a series, as an idea, I think it has potential. So if the writers deliver the series that they are signposting with this opening episode then ‘Revolution’ could well become a great show, and perhaps even better.

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