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On TV Today's Date:

Chained Heat
original air-date: 09-24-12

Revolution is about extremes: Life with electricity, and life without electricity. The solid, captivating performance of Giancarlo Esposito as Captain Neville, and whatever Tracy Spiridakos does as main character Charlie Matheson. These beginning episodes are somewhat reminiscent of early LOST episodes: some actors stood out and/or grew, others mostly went away.

Let's hope that Abramesque trend carries over to this show because the overall story arc, scenery, and action (though a bit frenetic at times) are delivering decent fun. After a clunky narrative intro, the second episode opens with another flashback. This time the story revisit's Ben with young Charlie and family just one week after the blackout.

Unfortunately, these flashbacks are mostly acting as hamfisted plot devices that also suffer from inconsistent storytelling. Last week Ben was frantic to get his family on the move before the blackout. Yet here they are a week later still packing up? And in a later part two of the flashback they need to "stop by his office" ? Didn't we already see Ben rush home with the one critical item, the pendant, he needed?

Instead this flashback, along with another one later on, are supposed to show us why Charlie is so committed to her brother. And why she's also willing to do whatever it takes, even killing.

Sure, the show makers must find the right balance between showing and telling. But sometimes skillful telling can be great, particularly when a strong performer offers a striking monologue or story. Maybe that's why the directors let Giancarlo Esposito's Captain tell us about his past while Tracy Spiridakos as Charlie gets more flashbacks. Oh, and did we mention the utter lack of chemistry between her and JD Pardo as Nate?

Alas, Charlie as a character is also problematic from inconsistent writing. The character is tactically smart but strategically stupid. For example, she is clever enough to trap Nate, yet tromping off after her Uncle alone was just dumb. This move, her devotion to the barely-seen-in-this-episode Danny, and her reaction towards the chain gang suggests the writers want to portray Charlie as a capable idealist. Hmm...

There is also an inconsistency with the Miles character, though this flaw actually works in favor of the viewers. Apparently, Miles is weaker when fighting just one person, but stronger when faced with overwhelming odds. He struggles early on to defeat a bounty hunter (yes, yes, just like Boba Fett > Stormtroopers, this bounty hunter > Monroe Republic Militiamen. But still, Miles is supposedly famous known for his killing skills).

Later, after said bounty hunter returns after escaping from a box car Uma Thurman Kill Bill style, Miles beats a small gang with his hands chained together (plot nitpick: why did Miles assume said bounty hunter knew about Nora?). So Miles is basically Fezzik from The Princess Bride: He takes down groups no problem, but has trouble one-on-one.

Those takes downs are pretty fun. But many of those group fight scenes are just too fast. The scenes seem well choreographed, so It' a bit of a shame not to see some slow, detailed action replacing the current flurry of fast cuts.

Perhaps some of that action will involve Nora, a new character who shares a past with Miles. Possessing an apparent McGyver-like ability to craft bombs (and concealed impromptu firearms), Nora is part of the resistance, i.e., people who want to restore the United States. She even sports a surprisingly well-defined flag tattoo to go along with her excellent skin and teeth.

Yes, by now all Revolution watchers will just need to accept that people and settlements in this world are ridiculously clean. Given the lack of electricity and the collapse of human society, nature should be getting cleaner, but people should be getting dirtier.

One and a half other new characters include Randall, a pendant wearing, cattle prod wielding baddie who breaks into Grace's makeshift IT center, and Rachel, Ben's wife and the mother of Charlie and Danny. Unfortunately, neither of these scenes pull of the level of surprise as the two fourth quarter reveals of last week. Most viewers probably figured Rachel was still alive; that's why she only counts as half of a new character. Also, the directorial fake out attempted by cutting from Aaron and Maggie to the knock at Maggie's door just didn't work.

What did work? The overall story arc is still intriguing, i.e., how did this possibly man made future happen? Who are the pendant keepers? How does everyone stay so clean? (OK, maybe not that last one…) The scenery and effects are gorgeous. And Giancarlo Esposito's solid acting sets a high bar for others to work towards. He delivered the second best line to Aaron's "cornholing of nature": "…just a finger in the dam…"

For now, keep watching. But be sure to take a shower, brush your teeth, shave, and comb your hair so you'll fit right in.

Chris Crotty


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