It was always a good bet that Revolution, like another series set in a post-apocalyptic world, would, at one point or another, feature a group of kids who have banded together to survive and have become untrusting of anyone else, especially if they're "old." To a certain extent, this episode mirrors the Falling Skies season 2 episode 'Young Bloods,' and acts as yet another side mission distracting the core group from rescuing Danny (Graham Rogers).
Due to its shortcomings that haven't quite yet been worked out, Revolution really is better off focusing completely on the main adventure, so the idea of taking yet another week to tell a one-off story certainly isn't doing it any favors. Making matters worse is the inclusion of the aforementioned kids running around with sharp things, lacking adult supervision and generally being as annoying as either of the two Matheson children. The difference being, this group of children has an excuse for why they can't help themselves from actively making a mess of things. Honestly, given that the majority of the criticisms this series has received are directed solely at the younger portion of its cast, it's amazing to think the solution to the problem would be more kids. At any rate, at least Miles (Billy Burke) gets to say, "It's irritating when a dumb kid tells you what to do, isn't it?"
'The Children's Crusade' follows the same basic set-up as last week's more enjoyable 'Sex and Drugs,' which, though still flawed, worked better largely because of the manic performance by Todd Stashwick as the Monroe Republic's heroin supplier, Drexel. In lieu of the more adult themes in that episode, here the audience is treated to a very Peter Pan-esque group of kids whose guardians have all been conscripted or killed off by Monroe's men, leaving them to fend for themselves. Surprisingly, despite their introduction to the group, the kids seem to be largely ignorant of the militia and it's purpose – they only know to fear its members when they come around.
The group is without its eldest, a young man named Peter (of course his name is Peter), who was taken by the militia to be conscripted to fight. Peter's younger brother Michael has taken it upon himself to embark on a suicide mission to free his sibling, but is stopped short by Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) and, surprisingly, Miles, who both decide to take up the task of rescuing Peter. For whatever reason (possibly just to pad the runtime of the episode) the plan is to allow Charlie to infiltrate the boat where Peter and all the other recruits are being held by posing yet again as a defenseless girl. Naturally, the plan goes awry; Charlie is taken on board the vessel, but instead of freeing Peter (or anyone else for that matter), she's almost immediately sniffed out by the boat's commanding officer, Slotnick (Joshua Cox), imprisoned and branded for her troubles. The most frustrating thing about Charlie's failed excursion is how successful Miles' rescue mission is. He and Nora (Daniella Alonso) quickly cut a swath through Slotnick's people, secure Charlie and Peter, and are only stymied by the fact that Michael (clearly emulating Charlie) winds up as Slotnick's hostage. Naturally, things turn out okay (well, not for the militia guys), but it begs the question: why didn't Miles just go on one of his patented killing sprees to free Peter in the first place?
Sure, it's all a means by which Miles can learn of the pendant Aaron (Zak Orth) has been holding – since it mysteriously turns on and brings a lighthouse to life – but reaching that point in the story could not have been clunkier. In the end, though, 'The Children's Crusade' is really more concerned with finally relieving some of the tedium behind the question of what exactly turned the lights off. Through this week's flashbacks, it's established that Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell) and Ben (Tim Guinee) were part of a research team at the University of Chicago, investigating ways to create low-cost power, but inadvertently discovered a way to diminish it instead. As is typically the case in fictional situations such as these, the Department of Defense gets involved – courtesy of the always-fantastic Colm Feore – because they immediately see the benefit to Ben and Rachel's invention as a kind of weapon. Complicating matters is the discovery that Rachel's pregnancy is at stake, and despite her reservations in providing Flynn (Feore) and the DOD access to the device, Flynn offers her a reason to do just that in exchange for helping with her medical problem.
Back in the present, Monroe (David Lyons) influences Rachel into getting the location of a pendant from one of her and Ben's former colleagues, Dr. Brad Jaffee. Jaffee's not willing to let Rachel sacrifice the safety of the entire planet for Danny (given how annoying Danny is, Jaffee's stance is more than reasonable), until its revealed that Monroe – acting on information he gained from Rachel – has Jaffee's daughter, Eve, in custody as well. The end result is that Rachel appears to be too easily persuaded to do Monroe's bidding, and winds up with a lot of dialogue that displays the unfortunate Matheson trend of creating a wave of incessant bleating as a negotiation technique.
In keeping with another trend, Revolution ends on a surprise that reveals the mysterious Randall – who kidnapped Grace (Maria Howell) earlier in the season – to be none other than Flynn. It's a plot thread that seemed almost forgotten, but the inclusion of Feore into the storyline (both past and present) is a welcome one indeed. Now, if only Revolution could find a way to feature more of Feore and Giancarlo Esposito, fewer episodes like 'The Children's Crusade' would need to happen.
Revolution continues next Monday with 'Ties That Bind' @10pm on NBC. Check out a preview of the episode below: