REVOLUTION -- "Pilot Episode" 101 -- Pictured: -- (Photo by: Bob Mahoney/NBC)

‘Revolution’ Pilot Recap: “What’s in the Whiskey, Bitch?”

I’m a snob when it comes to television – not just because I think that 99.9% of TV programming is a complete waste (which I do), but because I have to watch so many shows, that when I finally get to watch something that I want to see, it better be worth my time. After watching the pilot for NBC’s ‘Revolution’, I can’t quite say that I’m ready to devote myself to this new series.

Episode summary: A guy frantically races home one night, throwing his wife (Elizabeth Mitchell, a.k.a. Juliette from ‘Lost‘) into a panic. He calls his brother (Billy Burke from ‘Twilight‘) to warn him about something bad that’s about to happen. Before he can explain, it happens – all electricity goes out. This outage isn’t temporary and isn’t contained to one location. It’s for good and it’s worldwide. Unlike an EMP blast, this outage has completely destroyed everything electronic. Battery-powered objects don’t work. Cars don’t run. Planes cartwheel through the sky (from some stupid reason). The world has reverted to the Stone Age.

Cut to fifteen years later. The world resembles that in ‘I Am Legend‘. We’re shown countless shots of man-made edifices and monuments that are now covered in vegetation. People live in small enclosed colonies like the crazy families in ‘The Village’. This part of the United States is now like ‘Firefly‘ – a semi-futuristic Western frontier without laws or lawmen. A self-appointed leader known as General Monroe has deemed this land “The Monroe Republic” and has sent the Sheriff of Nottingham (Gus from ‘Breaking Bad‘) out to find the panicked man from the opening scene. Thanks to his teenage son, the father is killed and the son gets taken, leaving his Katniss-esque daughter to hunt down the missing uncle for help.

Episode Thoughts: In typical J.J. Abrams fashion (he serves as an Executive Producer), the series is bound to use flashbacks to slowly unroll its one pivotal mystery: Why did the lights go out and how will the characters turn them back on? This mystery is mildly intriguing in the pilot episode, but fails to sell the weight of the dire need for energy. Fifteen years later, people are doing just fine without it – aside from the militia and the roaming bandits. Any desire to have energy again is strictly driven by nostalgia.

As of now, I’m not committed to ‘Revolution’. I’ll give it another episode or two or three, but if it doesn’t wow me by then, I’m walking away. This pilot is less than gripping and only half as well done as I expected it to be, especially considering that it was directed by Jon Favreau. I kept expecting the overweight kid from ‘Super 8‘ to pop out and yell “Production value!” because this series seriously lacks it. The sets resemble something you’d see in a community theatre production, and the costumes are much too nice and pretty for a world that’s been without energy for fifteen years. Our fashionable cast dons new, pristine designer clothing.

Another distraction is the lack of characterization. Instead of getting natural characters that we like, care for and connect with, we’re given a standard set of clichéd caricatures as if they were plucked out of popular culture: the tough teenage archer girl (Katniss from ‘The Hunger Games‘), the cute boy that she likes who we’re not sure is good or bad (either of the male leads in ‘Twilight‘), the dumb kid with good intentions that really just causes problems (the douchey brother from ‘The Vampire Diaries‘), the bearded and overweight comedic relief (Zach Galifianakis in every film he’s in), the unliked stepmother (I don’t watch enough chick flicks to pull a witty example here – and neither does Mrs. Hickman!), the anti-hero good guy (Sawyer from ‘Lost‘), the ruthless second-in-command bad guy (as I mentioned, the Sheriff of Nottingham from ‘Robin Hood’), his henchmen (the League of Shadows from the ‘Dark Knight‘ trilogy) and the mysteriously evil villain who controls them (the Emperor in ‘Star Wars‘).

Further bastardizing the direction of the series is the cliffhanger ending to this pilot. I couldn’t place my finger on what I didn’t like about it, but my friend Mark expressed my feelings exactly upon exiting the theater. The first season of ‘Lost’ made the audience wonder, “Why is this island so weird and how are the characters going to survive?” The climax of the Season One gave us a huge revelation: They’re not alone! Someone is inside the hatch!

SPOILER ALERT: The ‘Revolution’ pilot leads us to believe that energy will never exist again, but the cliffhanger ending to the 44-minute pilot reveals something that should have been saved for the first season finale much like ‘Lost’ did: Some random character has a magical flash drive that provides an energy hot spot. The power generated is enough to run the DOS-driven computer with networking capabilities from the Dharma hatch in ‘Lost’. All that’s lacking is the 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42 command. This knowledge stops us from connecting with the characters’ dreadful reality. We’re almost instantly shown that energy still exists if you can get your hands on the USB Of Power. END SPOILER.

Why am I giving spoilers in a recap for a show that technically hasn’t premiered on television? Well, that’s because I’m sure that many of you saw this episode before I did. When I received a press invite to a theatrical screening of the pilot, I was excited to see it eleven days early. What I didn’t know was that the entire episode would be available for streaming on NBC’s site and On Demand services. Had I known this prior to sending in my day-of RSVP to the studio, I would just have watched it from home instead.

If I had to judge this series based on this episode alone, I’d predict failure. Like ‘FlashForward’ a couple years ago, ‘Revolution’ has a good idea but poor execution that will ultimately lead to cancelation.

6 comments

  1. Paulb

    Was pretty disappointed because it was so cheesy and unrealistic in how a human might act. Right off the bat you had a fight where apparently arrows now have the mass and force of a linebacker as someone in a full sprint is stopped dead and knocked back by one. You have a bunch of people die and community members leaving in this obviously tiny village and it is like Star Trek losing a red shirt. I could overlook it if it was just dumb stuff like the stylish cloths that you can apparently find for growing kids and the amazingly clean interior of an RV that has been there with its windows out for who knows how many years. But if they don’t make the humans and situation start to feel and interact and emote like actual humans I’m not sure how much longer I’m gonna watch (if it wasn’t sci-fi I wouldn’t watch the second episode). Also, they need to come up with some sort of explanation as to why traditional weapons, steam engines, etc no longer work as they have jack to do with electricity or at least include it in the “physics has gone so wonky we can’t even understand why X doesn’t work buy Y still does!” (such as muskets working but not a standard handgun?). Overall it feels much more cheesy than even Terra Nova (which I thought might actually have some potential towards the end of the season).
    Oh and btw, I didn’t get the sense that the USB thing was giving power as much as I thought it was shielding whatever is stopping it from being able to work. Could be wrong.

    • trk2

      Handguns do work because the Sheriff of Nottingham used one. I too am confused why after only 15 years muskets (a relatively rare gun) are the most common firearm. I’m hoping the reason is that the militia is not given modern rifles so they can’t be too powerful.

      • Paulb

        Ah shoot, forgot about his gun. Ok, even more explanation as to why it is a privileged weapon. Assume the lame explanation would be something about manufacture of the bullets so only what was made prior to the event would work.

        • Deadbeat

          I had just guessed that manufactured bullets would be hard to come by, but if you have the gun powder and lead for muskets then you can easily reload bullets. I think there was a line used by the sheriff that owning a gun was illegal so that may address it to some point. I wasn’t as disappointed in it as others, I’m willing to give it a few more episodes.

  2. Watched this On Demand. As Luke says, it’s exceedingly lame. The premise is poorly thought out, the acting is bad, and the fresh-from-The-Gap wardrobe is ridiculous. I predict massive failure.

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