The Problem(s) with Revolution

Since Revolution is on a break this week to make room for the final Presidential debate, I thought I’d take this time to write my thoughts about the show thus far. Let me start off by saying that I really want to like this show. The premise is quite compelling. The world has essentially returned to the dark ages because all the power has gone out. Not just electricity either. Batteries too. Nothing requiring power works. People have had to learn how to grow their own food and make due with arrows, swords, knives, and crossbows for weapons. The world is controlled by various militias that keep the peace but also scare the crap out of all the civilians. It’s promising. So, I am really having a hard time with how terrible this show has been thus far. In my view, there are a few things wrong that Revolution needs to fix if they want to keep me.

First, the show has major writing problems. The pace is entirely too slow. I find myself looking at the clock about 15 minutes into the episode and being disappointed that it’s only 15 mins into the episode. Revolution is not pulling me into its story. It’s not engaging me. I rarely get up to go to the bathroom during a show, because I don’t want to miss anything. That’s not the case with Revolution. That’s disturbing coming from from Eric Kripke and JJ Abrams. I am obviously a Supernatural junkie, so I know that Kripke is capable of better than what’s going on with Revolution. I know that he is capable of telling an engaging, coherent story that will leave me desperate for the next episode. I was discussing this problem with a friend of mine, and she suggested that Revolution just needs to find its legs. To a certain extent, I think that’s true. In the beginning, especially with genre shows, you have to take some time to establish the rules of the universe and the character relationships. However, if the characters are engaging, then that set-up doesn’t feel laborious. The writing for most of these characters is weak at best. I kind of like Zak Orth’s Aaron because he’s slightly (very slightly) amusing. But the other characters are mostly forgettable. Giancarlo Esposito and Billy Burke seem to get the best stuff. Or maybe they’re just making lemonade out of lemons. I was also a liking Anna Lise Phillips’s Maggie Foster, but TPTB decided that the only interesting female character needed to die in the 2nd or 3rd episode. Bad call guys because Charlie is most certainly not an engaging character. As a matter of fact, she is annoying and much more immature than someone of her age would be after having gone through the blackout and its aftermath. Not only that. She’s actively stupid. I’m still trying to figure out what her aversion is to following simple instructions. Miles tells her they need to do A to get Danny back, so she goes and does B because, well, she’s stupid. Then of course she has to sit down and cry about it. Or if she’s not crying, she’s yelling at Miles as if it’s somehow his fault. And they’ve also had a few moments where she’s supposed to be the voice of moral superiority over Miles, but the truth is, she comes off less morally superior and more bratty; talking about things way above her pay grade. There is absolutely nothing redeeming about her character at this point. And if TPTB don’t figure out how to write their lead better, they are going to lose this viewer. Because few things bother me more than stupid female leads on genre shows.

Second, this show has casting issues. Casting is just as important as writing is on a show. The actors need to embody their characters and they need to have presence on the screen. Revolution’s casting has been spotty at best. Billy Burke is a fantastic casting choice. He brings depth to Miles Matheson. He is a man with a past that he regrets and consequences that he can see played out daily.  He plays Miles as a man that believed he was doing a good thing, but in the end it all went very wrong. But most importantly, he keeps me engaged the entire time he’s onscreen. The same is true of Giancarlo Esposito’s Captain Tom Neville. I don’t think Giancarlo Esposito has ever been in anything where he asn’t been amazing. Revolution is no exception. He plays Neville with the kind of dark ruthlessness I would imagine a person needs to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. He understands that a smile can be much more sinister than a scowl. He is cold and cruel. And I just want to pause here for a moment to point out something Revolution has (I think) been trying to make clear through Neville. People are what they are, and circumstances only reveal what’s already inside a person. In Neville’s case, prior to the blackout he was a violent, vicious, sadistic man, but he never showed that to the world because it wasn’t socially acceptable. He didn’t think he could get away with it. After the blackout, however, he was free to let that out. It was socially acceptable. Not only that, it was encouraged. I think Danny nailed it when he told Neville that he (Neville) didn’t join the militia because he wanted a better life. He joined the militia because he likes killing. Zak Orth and David Lyons do a solid enough job with Aaron and Sebastian Monroe respectively. Revolution’s primary casting problem is Tracy Spiridakos as Charlie. Much of the problem with Charlie has to do with the writing as I mentioned above. But the casting is also an issue. Spiridakos does not command the screen. And she always looks like she’s not entirely sure of what’s going on at any given moment. It’s as if she knows she should be thinking something, but she’s got nothing going on in her head. There are no subtleties or nuances to her performance, and it’s as if she’s just regurgitating the lines she learned for this week. And watching her cry for the umpteenth time during an episode makes me have very bad thoughts.

Finally, the filming on Revolution has been, for the most part, horrible. They have gone totally overboard with the shaky cam. It is simply beyond ridiculous. At one point, I was watching 3 characters having a conversation, and I was so distracted by the camera movement that I yelled at my tv in frustration. There is absolutely no reason, NONE, that the camera should look like there’s an earthquake going on while the characters are standing stationary having a conversation. It completely takes me out of the plot action. And since I’m already kind of bored by the story and annoyed by the characters, I have a hard time getting back into it. Shaky cam is lazy filmmaking. STOP IT! In case it’s unclear, I hate, hate, HATE shaky cam.

So, that’s where I am with Revolution right now. I really want to like this series because, as I said, it has an interesting premise. Not only that, there aren’t all that many genre shows on network tv. But if they don’t figure out how to fix this writing and stop it with the shaky cam, I’m just not going to be able to stick with it.

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