Over the second half of its season – and especially the last few episodes – Revolution has thrown out so many surprises and twists in regard to the series’ central storyline that the basic premise of the show was no longer visible behind these new wrinkles in the narrative. The result, of course, is that the series has ostensibly deserted its original concept in favor of heading off in a new direction.
For viewers who had signed on for the promise of a series about a world without power, where regions that once made up the United States were in a constant struggle with one another while men and women caught in the middle fought gallantly with swords and crossbows – and simultaneously searched for answers to the mystery of the blackout – you’ll have to look elsewhere; Revolution is no longer that show. And although the season just wrapped, it’s difficult to gauge whether or not this development is good or bad at the moment.
The idea of a world without power was an intriguing one that the series struggled to build a compelling story around from the get go. The swashbuckling charm of Billy Burke’s Miles Matheson was capable of carrying the story only so far and other promising elements like Breaking Bad‘s Giancarlo Esposito were criminally underused for much of the season. Meanwhile, the early efforts to center the series around teenage characters didn’t feel like the right fit and was subsequently abandoned – a move that saw Tracy Spiridakos’ Charlie relegated to just a few lines per episode while her on-screen brother, Graham Rogers, was written off the show completely.
And then the series began to be rewritten after the halfway point. But as ‘The Dark Tower’ proves, some problems will continue to shine through, no matter how much talk of energy-sucking naomachines or threats of setting the world on fire there is. One of the primary examples comes with the lack of resolution to last episode’s cliffhanger, which saw Miles and Monroe facing off for what feels like the umpteenth time this season. This latest standoff is equally short-lived, as the marginalized Tower support crew interrupts the confrontation, and in the ensuing skirmish, Miles and Monroe fall into the Tower’s water system and wind up washed up on the shore outside.
The two then spend the day attempting to beat the snot out of one another, talking (yelling) their issues out and dodging Monroe’s men who are now under the command of Tom Neville. And while the series has frequently highlighted the conflict between these two men, this scenario has played out so many times this season, with no real sense of conclusion anywhere in sight, it all just feels like padding for an hour that’s really just about Aaron hitting the ‘enter’ key and the audience finding out whether or not he’s going to set the world on fire.
It also doesn’t help much that the Miles/Monroe conflict is padded by some flashback sequences that are heavy on the exposition but really only lead to Monroe’s unfulfilling “everything I do, I do it for you” justification for his actions that is later delightfully skewered by Neville when he says, “Sir, I could never say this under your employ, but you have become foolish and erratic and you have a borderline erotic fixation on Miles Matheson.”
Neville’s line feels like a bit of prickly self-awareness on behalf the writers, but that self-awareness is contained in those words alone, as yet another round of surprises and twists are ushered in as an attempt to correct a muddled storyline within the confines of the season’s final hour. And although they imply a clear direction for season 2, these changes are a fairly drastic departure from the show’s initial concept, suggesting the writers are comfortable sacrificing certain characters and elements in favor testing out a newer narrative.
For starters, Nora is unsurprisingly killed off so the series can focus on the romance between Miles and Rachel. And while it’s also no surprise that Aaron doesn’t set the world aflame by turning the power back on, it is something of a shock that, before committing suicide, Randall manages to launch some nukes at Atlanta and Philadelphia – apparently under the order of the president, who is residing in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
As mentioned above, it’s difficult to gauge the efficacy of all this, as we essentially have a whole new show on our hands. In that sense, Revolution has found a way to get past the things that weren’t working by shifting the narrative around and essentially starting over. While it’s more extreme, this is a promise the series has made before when it returned from hiatus. The concern here, however, isn’t that this will prove to be a solution to all the things that didn’t quite work, but rather that it’s simply adding several new potential problems to the mix.
Ultimately, this first season felt too much like it was being hastily constructed as it went along; there simply wasn’t a sense that the narrative was headed in any definitive direction. Whole plots were abandoned (for the good of the series, admittedly) while certain inexplicable subplots (like Monroe’s child) would pop-up only to be forgotten about and, in the end, the show’s entire narrative wound up being completely reconfigured.
The question now is: Will these changes make for a better series, or will they wind up being tossed aside as well? We will have to tune in for Revolution 2.0 to find out.
Revolution will return to NBC on Wednesdays this fall.