Entertainment Magazine

Review #3699: Revolution 1.2: “Chained Heat”

Posted on the 27 September 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Edmund B.

Written by Eric Kripke
Directed by Charles Beeson

Ever since “Lost” fascinated (and infuriated) viewers with its methodical revelations, slowly rotated through the back stories of the main cast, the debate has been joined about the best way to roll out a show’s secrets. “Revolution” (or perhaps, “R___evolution,” as per the opening credits,) has decided on the opposite approach; chucking plot points up on the screen willy-nilly. The frenetic pace of the pilot continues, leaving no chance to get to know the characters. Unfortunately, what little we do learn doesn’t make us care about most of them. A few parts are working, but only where the actors manage to rise above the material.

Review #3699: Revolution 1.2: “Chained Heat”

With that happening primarily on the militia side, the show also feels oddly unbalanced. Giancarlo Esposito’s Capt. Neville continues to intrigue. His role as a flag-burning enforcer of gun control, driven by a deep, abiding faith, smashes together viewpoints we’re used to seeing oppose each other. Despite Danny’s protestations, I don’t see him liking the killing. The power, yes, but every shooting’s been provoked. Given the circumstances, and Giancarlo Esposito’s persuasiveness, General Monroe’s approach is becoming almost understandable.

Introducing the Stars and Stripes as a resistance symbol feels like a lazy ploy to demonize the militia and generate instant sympathy for the resistance. As does Monroe’s use of torture/stabbing when insulted. While I prefer my human conflict with some shades of gray, a battle of good and evil is certainly something Eric Kripke has shown an affinity for. However, it only works when the good side is as compelling as the bad.

Danny vaulted to the top of my most annoying Matheson chart this episode, but is still followed closely by his sister. I seriously question their father’s parenting when they are both this clueless and naïve fifteen years after The Event. (Yes, I’m already evoking that NBC predecessor.) They apparently led blissfully sheltered lives in that cul-de-sac, never questioning the social structure around them, or getting a hint that Dad might know something. Kids pick up all sorts of clues from their parents, especially given their harrowing Escape from Chicago. If we don’t get more of their journey, that is the TV movie spinoff I want to see. The flashback held more tension and interest than the rest of the episode.

It also established Rachel as the parent with the guts and common sense, which perhaps explains the state of her kids in her absence. The reveal of her survival, and velvet imprisonment by General Monroe, was a welcome development, even if it does continue the trend of the militia having the more interesting story. It also does little to dispel our memories of Elizabeth Mitchell as Juliet in “Lost.” Once again, she is ideally placed to be a connecting link between the two sides.

Miles is further established as the biggest bad-ass around by both an opening sword fight, and an escape from handcuffed capture. Unfortunately, it’s getting undermined by his opposition’s continued use of the Hong Kong attack-one-at-a-time style of fighting. That continues into their rescue of Nora from the incompetently guarded chain gang. Plus, Charlie appears to have learned her lesson after letting the bounty hunter go, and embraces necessity with the pretty cool derringer shooting. But she immediately backslides into whining idealism. Mama Bear better be reunited with her cubs soon. I don’t think they’ll survive much longer otherwise.

The rest of the fellowship heads off in search of Grace, the lady with the other amulet. Aaron has a clunky infodump of speculation. But Maggie has the most affecting moment with her explanation for hanging onto her dead iPhone. (No doubt inspiring parents to revive the tradition of carrying photos in their wallets.) Meanwhile, Grace is threatened by Randall, the holder of a surprising cattle prop and yet another amulet. He is also apparently such a casting coup, we can’t see his face yet. Presumably, we’ll learn something about him next time. Provided they don’t throw another five new characters at us.

Writing: 1/2
Acting: 1/2
Directing: 2/2
Style: 1/4

Total: 5/10


Contributor: Henry T.

Even though it is early, I think this show as a whole is not good. This impression is one that is continued from the pilot episode. There are certainly parts of “Revolution” that I like, and as such, I wish there was more of those to balance out the parts that desperately cry out for development. For now, we are left to judge what we’re shown, and it’s a disappointment so far. The bigger question of why the world’s power went out is pushed to the background in favor of more immediate goals and objectives. The various characters are put in situations in the future world that demand action. That is more welcome than keeping some characters on the move with no clear purpose, which is what happened with Maggie and Aaron. This episode is building certain parts of the world, though it’s trying to figure out the mechanics of the post-blackout world. It’s still going to take some time for all of it to come together.

Review #3699: Revolution 1.2: “Chained Heat”

So far, my favorite part of “Revolution” is still Captain Neville. He was the best part of the pilot, and continues to be the best part of this episode. The character continues to be a tangential part of the overall narrative, but there’s a sense that he is a product of the post-blackout world more than every other person on the show. Part of that is the actor who plays him, and part is how the character is written. Neville goes through a myriad of emotions throughout his part of the episode and exposes more of the world in the process. When he encounters a gun owner in his home, Neville is firm in laying down the law. It’s a repeat of one of the laws from the pilot (something common in second episodes of many series), but this time, there’s a palpable sense of danger involved, and that comes from Neville. He is a true believer in the rule of law laid down by the Monroe Republic and is incensed that the gun owner has an old world American flag in his possession.

This is the first indication of a conflict that I hope the show will expand on as the season progresses. True to its name, the series is slowly showing a kind of twisted version of the American Revolution, with a bit of the Civil War mixed in. The Monroe Republic is the ruling party and the United States plays the resistance. That resistance is small for now, as indicated by the tattoo on Miles’ friend Nora’s back. The show needs to do more of this: Show the new world order that has grown out of the blackout that occurred in the past. There just hasn’t been enough of that. Neville is an eminently watchable character, though, and this episode proves that. Danny definitely shouldn’t mess with the guy very much because I got the sense that he means to do exactly what he says, and would have no remorse in killing people in cold blood if it served his purpose.

The other characters and storylines on the series don’t hold much appeal to me right now. Miles looks and acts like a badass with a sword and a quip for every situation, but to me, he’s the least bland character in a group of bland characters. Charlie is the worst of the bunch, and to somehow pile on the bad traits, the writers have saddled her with this upstanding morality that feels completely out of place. Miles wants to kill someone and Charlie is right there to only tell him that “killing is wrong” simply because she says it’s wrong. Charlie’s mentality is an odd one given the world she has grown up in. It is one lacking in the rule of law if anyone is outside the Monroe Republic, and even those loyal to General Monroe seem more like gangsters than soldiers.

What is valued in this world (aside from electrical power) is guns and arming yourself for protection against any threat. Those threats are hard to take seriously if the consequences are nearly as bloodless as they are shown to be here, though. So it feels like the show is contradicting itself when it sends Charlie to shoot the chain gang warden in order for Nora and company to steal one rifle. Is Charlie going to regret taking on that mission in the coming episodes? She has proven skilled at hunting, evasion, and deception, but the character is written to strangely ignore the moral conundrum she faces here. The flashback in this episode didn’t help matters either because it revealed more about Charlie’s parents than what she faced then.

All of the material concerning the electrical power mythology of the show — the supposed “hook” of the show — was of little interest to me. Grace gets threatened by a mysterious man named Randall, who is apparently a character who is weaponizing electrical power. It’s very unclear right now, as is what exactly Grace is doing on her rudimentary computer. It’s all supposed to tie together eventually with the motives of General Monroe, who is shown in this episode to be harboring a special “guest” in Rachel, Charlie and Danny’s mother who is unsurprisingly revealed to be alive.

Genre favorite Elizabeth Mitchell is a part of the main cast and the reveal had little impact because you had to logically assume she would have a larger role than just staying in the flashbacks. So Monroe thinks he can extract the secret to what happened with the blackout from her. While it has potential to be interesting down the road, the storyline just isn’t developed enough to be appealing here. There isn’t too much screen time devoted to it, and that is an unfortunate byproduct of the show’s wide scope. The characters are too scattered across too large a space. “Revolution” needs more time to gel. I wonder if it can develop into something more worth the viewers’ investment.

Score: 6/10

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