Revolution has established that its characters live in a violent place filled with people who are very capable when it comes to taking lives. In that regard, there is a significant amount of apprehension when the cast is met with conflict. It’s one thing to see an important character die by the hands of another individual, as was the case with Ben (Tim Guinee) in the series premiere, but when death occurs mostly because the characters are without access to proper medical treatment, it resonates in a completely different way.
The issue is illustrated both in a story of how a young woman succumbed to tetanus and in the slow, arguably preventable death of Maggie (Anna Lise Phillips). ‘The Plague Dogs’ not only convincingly sets up just how dangerous and random the world can be, but it also adds that sense of worry that these survival-based shows depend on for so much of their narrative weight.
And surprisingly, Revolution also manages to provide someone who’s only been around for four episodes with an exit that actually seems to mean something.
Revolution understands that a death for no reason is a death wasted on manipulating the audience. So it is made clear that Maggie’s passing – and her words to Miles (Billy Burke) beforehand – have likely put a stop to his efforts of abandoning Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) and the rest of the crew whenever he feels like it. The idea that Miles wasn’t into this “hero” thing was well established from the beginning, but after four episodes of that, it’ll be good for the future of the program if he and Charlie can stop going rounds every episode about his commitment to her, and to saving Danny (Graham Rogers). If nothing else, putting an end to the bickering and the whining may help alleviate some of the less pleasant aspects of Charlie’s personality – like keeping (not) Nate (J.D. Pardo) around.
From the title alone, it certainly sounded like death was in the air for the episode, and after stumbling upon a pack of dogs tearing away at a deer carcass, the tone was set. By and large, it was a fast paced outing that combined the overall Miles and Charlie quest with the Captain Neville (Giancarlo Esposito) and Danny subplot pretty well. Additionally, the flashbacks in ‘The Plague Dogs’ managed to land on the more personal level that ‘Chained Heat‘ attempted, but didn’t quite pull off.
Instead of focusing the flashbacks on a single character, the episode works aspects of Maggie and Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell) into the story that speeds things along in terms of the getting-to-know-you phase that the series is still on. Here, the flashbacks also manage to answer some larger questions about the world and the overall effects of the power outage. We see Maggie Skyping with her children back in England when the blackout hits, and then pieces of her quest to find a means of transportation back home. Years go by, apparently, as she travels from one coast to another, only to find that all of the sailboats and steam ships have either been dismantled, or are controlled by the militia. And arriving at the realization that she’ll never see her children again, Maggie was once set to take her own life.
Granted, by the time the audience is aware Maggie’s time is up, it’s a little late for Charlie to thank her for essentially stepping in and being her mom, but the idea that Maggie found some comfort and reason to live through helping raise Ben’s kids is one that ends the character’s arc on a less dour note. It also segues nicely into the reveal of exactly why Rachel left her family behind, and how she ended up in the clutches of Monroe (David Lyons). As the family inches closer to reunion, the disclosure that Rachel’s incarceration came of her own choice, in response to a demand by Miles – who was still involved with the militia at the time – better illustrates Miles’ apprehension about discussing his past with Charlie.
Monroe is still convinced Rachel knows something about the blackout, and now that Ben’s been killed, believes the only way to get the information is through her. Monroe brings in Sgt. Strausser (David Meunier, Justified) to better illustrate the lengths he’s willing to go in order to get details on the blackout – though, it looks to have been just show and tell, as there’s not much evidence anything truly awful happened. Besides, the real threat is what will happen to Danny once he arrives. Monroe makes it clear that he’s willing to pull pieces off of her son in order to get Rachel to talk.
That brings us to Danny’s long journey with Capt. Tom Neville and his militiamen. Last week didn’t have much of Esposito to offer, but thankfully, ‘The Plague Dogs’ grants him some significant screen time.
Apparently, Danny’s a human barometer, and after giving Neville and his troops the forecast, manages to convince them to take shelter so that he can make another escape attempt. Neville cuts Danny’s escape short, but the two are forced to seek shelter in a nearby cellar as a tornado hits. While they wait out the storm, Neville reveals that, in the wake of the initial blackout, things were so desperate and so violent that the militia provided him not only with a relative amount of security, but the promise of a better future for his child. Since the flashbacks have yet to really focus on anyone but the core Matheson group, this is as good as it gets for learning about Neville. More importantly, we learn how skilled he is in terms of manipulating people like Danny – as he convincingly did in order to keep from being crushed under a collapsing roof.
There’s been some speculation about what side of the revolution Danny would fall on – especially since he’s been spending so much time in the company of the charismatic Neville – but as of this episode, he’s not exactly signing his enlistment papers.
For an episode that’s as far away from answering what caused the blackout as the series has ventured thus far, we see just how effective Revolution can be focusing on more immediate tasks and getting into the human elements of the story. In the wake of losing Maggie, perhaps we’ll finally get to see Aaron (Zak Orth) pre-blackout, and find an answer to how he keeps those band T-shirts in such good shape.
Revolution will continue next Monday with ‘Soul Train’ @9pm on NBC. Check out a preview of the episode below: