Three Strikes for NBC’s RevolutionOctober 5th, 2012
Well that’s three strikes for NBC’s new series Revolution. There have been three episodes, the Pilot, “Chained Heart” and now “No Quarter” and every one of them was the same mix of great potential, groaning disappointment and a scattered few decent fight sequences and one liners that just manage to make the show tolerable. So, spoiler alert. This is going to be scathing, and I’m going to be giving away some plot details you wouldn’t know if you haven’t seen it.
Such fantastic potential! The show premiered right as the Ron Paul campaign was winding down. The enthusiasm bubble was about to burst. The marketing value of the name alone was immeasurable. They even flicker the “R” in the opening sequence so it says “evolution” for just a split second, a distinction especially meaningful to the voluntaryist crowd. The “O” in revolution replaced by the ubiquitous computer power button symbol, creating instant appeal to the whole Internet generation. Wikileaks. Anonymous. BitCoin. A clever writer could have found ways to transform their logo into a symbol known to all these cyber revolutionaries. And the premise is genius. All power goes out, the government collapses, then what? It has all the neo-primitive allure of Walking Dead, but with political intrigue instead of Zombies.
With only a minimum of effort this show could have been a great unifying drama for an entire generation who have been possessed by a revolutionary spirit. It could have become the cultural milestone that Matrix and V for Vendetta became. It could have been the FireFly that wasn’t cancelled. Because there’s a huge market for a show just like this right now. A vast, untapped groundswell of malcontent rebels desperate to see any expression of their frustrations in mainstream culture.
Sadly no. Swing and a miss. Frankly, the show looks pretty stupid.
First of all, the world is poorly realized. For some reason they’re firing muskets, as if they went back in time. Why, in 15 years, hasn’t anyone figured out a steam engine? A hat tip to Steam Punk would be good for ratings, and they’ve got all these abandoned trains hanging around.
It gets more absurd than that. When Nora is introduced she’s among prisoners, all wearing matching yellow tank tops. Hard to imagine where they get them. And they drag a helicopter through the woods by ropes, like slaves hauling granite blocks in ancient Egypt. What could possibly be the point of that? They have cattle and horses around that could pull it. But most of all… what the hell good is a helicopter?
In the third episode they are trapped in a shopping mall, surrounded by 50 militia men. Their bright idea for escape is to dig. Miles says, “We are going to Shawshank our asses out of here.” It’s just idiotic. In the Shawshank Redemption Andy Dufresne dug a tunnel over the course of years. It was a message about pressure and time, something Miles has neither of. Somehow a single sniper is able to hold off the entire militia for hours from the roof. In the basement they’ve dug about 6 feet. When they finally run out of ammo the militia swarms in and the take the captain hostage. They then trade the captain and the sniper riffle for Miles. It’s absurd. Once the militia has their best weapon and their best warrior… why wouldn’t they do whatever they wanted?
Second, they’re blowing the premise. They skip ahead 15 years. So the struggle for survival after the initial panic is almost all back story and flashbacks. The global blackout is the best thing the show has going for it. But even in the first episode they were already foreshadowing that the power was coming back on. There are a handful of these metallic pendants floating around which apparently allow the power to come back in a small area. It’s just bad science. Unless you’re working from batteries or a generator electricity doesn’t just magically appear in one area of the grid if the power plant itself is broken down. Already we’ve seen a woman with a working computer, a man with a working tazer, a man with a working portable CD player, and a woman with a working iPhone. And apparently these magic pendants just randomly turn off and on when writers can’t think of a decent way for a defunct Google executive to figure it out on his own.
But worst of all it’s the politics. The villains of the series are the Monroe Militia, essentially the government. The heroes, at least some of them, are the Rebels. Forgive me if I’m a little protective of the term since the heroes of our film are also called Rebels. There is a lot of potential allegory there between a tyrannical government and freedom fighters, but now it’s been revealed that the lofty goal of the Rebellion is merely to reestablish the United States of America, which in all likelihood caused the black out in the first place. The American flag is called the Rebel Flag, and is illegal to own. So, at least for this series, “revolution” doesn’t mean anything new or innovative. It carries no great message of liberty or emancipation. It just means going back to the way things were. These aren’t rebels. They’re just conservatives and patriots. Forgive me if I’m not enthusiastic about a series that’s shaping up to be little more pro State propaganda.
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