As far as relationship building in Revolution is concerned, everyone – estranged Matheson-clan included – is starting pretty much at rock bottom, and not doing much to work their way up from that. There’s more than a few fundamental differences that exist between Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) and her good-at-killin’ uncle Miles (Billy Burke), but the core difference explored here is Charlie’s reluctance to kill just anyone who happens to get in their way.
This reluctance probably stems from the series’ need to not have Miles kill Nate (J.D. Pardo) the next time the two meet – and with Nate (or not Nate, as he later admits to Charlie) stalking Miles like some obsessed Twilight fan, Charlie had better convince her uncle some lives are worth saving pretty quickly. To her credit, she gives it a shot after stumbling upon Miles engaged in a swordfight with none other than C. Thomas Howell (because who hasn’t been there before, right?), and persuades him to spare Howell’s life.
As it turns out, Howell is a bounty hunter, and the prize for bringing Miles to Monroe (David Lyons) is worth sacrificing the bones in his hand. After a second scuffle with the bounty hunter – this time in a market, in Pontiac, Illinois – Miles decides enough with the uncalled-for family reunion, and ditches Charlie, Aaron (Zak Orth) and Maggie (Anna Lise Phillips) to go off in search of an old friend named Nora (Daniella Alonso).
‘Chained Heat’ picks up not long after the events in the series premiere, but also provides a longer, episode-specific glimpse back to just after the blackout occurred – affording a closer look at Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell) and Ben (Tim Guinee), and offering confirmation on the fact that Charlie has always been a magnet for trouble. ‘Chained Heat’ is mostly interested in balancing out the extremes of its two leads by giving Charlie justification to take a life and Miles the perspective to understand why his niece doesn’t take killing lightly.
When Charlie runs off in search of Miles, it puts Aaron and Maggie on their own with plenty of time to ponder the necklace Ben bequeathed upon Aaron, and the true nature of the blackout. It seems as though the majority of the population is convinced the blackout was some kind of natural phenomenon, but as Aaron has pointed out for the second time, the blackout violated the laws of physics – and as far as he’s concerned, that means the event was deliberate and manmade. It also allows for Revolution to try and offer some insight into what the survivors of the blackout have been going through for the last 15 years.
In Maggie’s case, she’s been stranded in the United States with an iPhone full of pictures of her kids she may never see again, which makes Aaron’s lamenting toilet paper and his $80 million seem a little shallow. Nevertheless, Aaron and Maggie at least have a purpose now that exists beyond simply tagging along and staring in awe as Miles slays half a dozen men while in handcuffs.
Charlie however, isn’t so lucky; she’s stuck playing No. 2 to her uncle, and after the arrival of Nora, is quickly reduced to being just a cranky-faced third wheel. As it turns out, the chain gang to which Nora’s been sentenced is actually all part of her plan to retrieve a sniper rifle carried by the warden who’s like a little homage to Boss Godfrey from Cool Hand Luke. After Miles’ rescue efforts actually stymie Nora’s attempt to secure the weapon, it’s up to Charlie to step up to the plate and become a more active member of the group beyond telling her uncle he can’t kill all the guys he wants to kill.
In getting a hold of the sniper rifle, the trio manages to free the rest of the militia’s chain gang, and in doing so, further illustrate the scope of the ongoing conflict between the Monroe Militia and the rebellion hoping to restore the United States.
It’s in the reaction of Neville (Giancarlo Esposito) to the presence of the American flag in the home of the gun owner’s that the series’ larger, more interesting narrative thread is revealed. After a while (and possibly already) the question of how the lights went out and why, will not be enough to fuel interest in the show and its characters’ quest. But the idea of a larger conflict set against the mystery of the blackout gives hope that any resolution of current plotlines – like rescuing Danny (Graham Rogers) – will give rise to a more sustainable, involving story that gives characters like the Matheson siblings a reason to make more of an impact within the group and the overall Revolution storyline.
Though he’s only seen a little in ‘Chained Heat,’ Danny manages to help provide a better understanding of his captor, Capt. Tom Neville. As he was in the premiere, Giancarlo Esposito is exciting to watch, and makes Neville’s diligence in carrying out the search and seizure of a man’s house and weapons, and later assisting in the death of his own wounded soldier to be something that’s a pleasure to watch, instead of a mere distraction from the body count Miles is racking up.
The episode makes sure to tack on plenty of forced intrigue as it draws to a close, doubling up on last-minute cliffhangers by introducing Randall, a faceless, cattle prod-wielding nemesis for necklace-owner Grace (Maria Howell), and revealing that Rachel is actually still alive. She’s being held as a “guest” by Monroe on account of her potential knowledge of the blackout, and Monroe being the caring dictator that he is, gently informs her of Ben’s death and Danny’s capture before threatening her some more.
It feels like episode 2 had more energy overall than the rather ho-hum premiere last week, but there’s still a long way to go. With some intriguing avenues exposed in ‘Chained Heat,’ Revolution has delivered on the possibility of its storyline – now it will be interesting to see what the rest of the season does with all that potential.
Revolution continues next Monday with ‘No Quarter’ @10pm on NBC. Check out a preview below: