Tuesday, September 4, 2012

LOL, Okay: A Review of Revolution 1x01, "Pilot"

For the past several years, many shows have tried to fill the television void left by Lost. These shows vary, dealing with everything from aliens (The Event) to dinosaurs (Terra Nova) to worldwide blackouts (FlashForward), but they all try to replicate Lost's complex mysteries and mythology. Even if these shows don't intentionally imitate Lost, the comparisons are inevitable.

This fall season's Lost-esque contender (which actually has J.J. Abrams attached as a producer) is Revolution, a show about the world 15 years after all electricity has been shut off. More specifically, it focuses on Charlie Matheson (played by relative newcomer Tracy Spiridakos), a plucky young woman trying to find her uncle and obtain his help to get her brother Danny back after he's been taken by the evil "militia."

So is Revolution any good

Let's start with the positive. During the 44 minutes I was watching Revolution's pilot, I was never bored. There's some exposition and a few flashbacks, but most of the episode focuses on the show's here and now. The pilot is pretty well-paced and moves along fairly quickly. There's a good bit of action, but there's also some smaller moments that let viewers begin to get to know the characters and understand what they're going through. One of my favorite moments of the pilot was a short scene right after the power goes out where Charlie's parents let her eat as much melting ice cream as she wants and tell her to remember what it tastes like.

The characters themselves are a bit of mixed bag. I'm going to need a few more episodes to decide how I feel about the show's female lead Charlie. I think she could be a likable character, but her can-do spirit and repetition of the "we're family" argument could also become grating. Her gruff uncle Miles (played by Twilight's Billy Burke) serves as a nice foil to Charlie. Miles is probably my favorite character. He's kind enough to be likable, but his pessimism adds a nice element of spice that the show needs. My second favorite character is Aaron (Zak Orth), a semi-dorky ex-Google employee, who provided a not overly over-the-top bit of comic relief.

I loved Giancarlo Esposito's performance as Gus on Breaking Bad, but his performance here as Captain Neville, part of the militia, is decidedly less impressive. His threat to Charlie's dad to "re-educate" his teenaged children so that they wouldn't remember his name is a joke compared to Gus's threatening of Walt's family. Pretty much everyone who plays a bad guy in Revolution is similarly campy and over-the top. Watching them trot around on horses made me laugh rather than fear them. Monroe, presumably at least the show's intial big bad, didn't get enough screen time for me to decide if he suffers from similar campiness. However, his giant tattoo of his own name on his arm points to yes.

It isn't just the villains of Revolution that are campy. The whole show is pretty silly. I admittedly don't know much about what the world would look like if electricity everywhere was shut off (and maybe Revolution is spot on), but I feel like Revolution takes some major liberties with the concept. It explains that many people died from lack of medicine and other complications of the electricity blackout, but the world looks far more deserted (and full of vegetation) than I would expect it to a mere fifteen years after the blackout.

I enjoyed watching Revolution quite a bit, but I managed to do so by saying "LOL, okay" to many of its aspects and embracing the silliness. Here's a sample of those "LOL, okay" moments.

Warning: This section may contain spoilers from Revolution's pilot.
These children's clothes? LOL, okay.

This magical electricity necklace? LOL, okay.
Danny using a crossbow? LOL, okay.
Gus on a horse? LOL, okay.
More 19th century clothing? LOL, okay.
The idea that Danny could even temporarily escape the militia's capture? LOL, okay.
Expecting us to think Elizabeth Mitchell's character is really dead? LOL, okay. (Although I suppose I may have to eat my words on that one if she really is.)
Nate's general existence? LOL, okay.
Danny's general existence? LOL, okay.
Extreme vegetation? LOL, okay.
The fight scene where Miles takes on a hoard of men with only minimal help? LOL, okay.
This tattoo? LOL, Okay.

Vague, covert instant messaging using the handy, dandy electro-pendant? LOL, okay.

Revolution is no Lost. It's silly and will probably end up suffering from some of the same problems that Lost's failed successors have. Still, it's pretty fun, and I'm interested to see where it's going. If you enjoy high-concept, mysterious shows and can accept the absurdities of Revolution with a "LOL, okay," (I promise guys. That's the last time I'm going to use that phrase. Well, it's the last time in this post.) it's worth a shot.

If you're interested in Revolution, you can check out its pilot now on Hulu or NBC.com. Alternatively, you can wait until its television premiere on NBC on Monday, September 17 at 10/9c.

Have you seen Revolution's pilot yet? What did you think? Who's your favorite (or least favorite) character? What moments, if any, stood out as absurd to you? Do you plan to keep watching? Let me know in the comments.

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