There’s no doubt that Revolution will certainly be hailed as the ‘New Lost’ as one show per season routinely is ever since 2004. It has that awesome sounding premise that Lost had for starters. A plane crashing on an island causes a much of misfits to either band together to survive or die feels like a premise you can really sink your teeth into. It’s the kind of premise that allows for great overarching conflict as well as smaller trivial and internal conflict among the characters. Some might say that eventually became Lost’s downfall; as time went on it became more and more difficult to be a character drama while still entertaining the audience members waiting for answers. Either way, Revolution has that same big premise.
Within moments of the show’s opening we get to see every major electronic device shut down. We’re shown what the world might seem like if all of our televisions, ipads, iphones, mp3 players, cars and planes simultaneously decided to take a prolonged vacation. As one character puts it ‘physics went crazy and no one knows why’. It doesn’t quite have the same resonance that Charlie Pace’s ‘Where are we?’ had and it isn’t given anywhere near the same poignancy, but it’s a start.
However, Revolution trips at the first hurdle. Rather than show how the characters deal with being lurched from a world of wondrous electricity to immigrating to the country and starting small farming villages, there’s a time skip. This is great in one sense because the audience gets to see the modern world covered in vegetation and completely run down but it also disrupts whatever emotional connection we had with the main characters. The premiere did give us a few flashbacks. Nowhere near the same level as Lost, in case you’re worried, but enough to give us a few pieces of information from what happened when the lights went out. So far we know that all ice cream had to be eaten immediately and a tattoo can be used as military I.D.
While I understand that there is a difference in set up and story, I feel like part of Revolution has missed the point here. The story that they want to tell is obviously ‘if all electricity stopped, would it ever work again?’ and in that scenario the complete global blackout is clearly just setting up the actual story. Yet, it’s a little jarring when characters are talking about how dangerous cities became and what they had to do to survive because we have no visual connection to what they’re talking about. We know the blackout happened and some people undoubtedly died but we can’t connect to the emotional trauma those deaths and losses have cost the characters because we never saw it affect them. The audience is just getting this information after the fact.
Consider one of the other big shows that was once compared to Lost, Heroes. Heroes also had an interesting premise in regards to an eclipse activating latent superpowers within various people. The key difference is that Heroes didn’t just skip ahead fifteen years and then have a character tell his children how he coped with finding out he could emphatically pick up another’s powers. No, we got to see Peter Pettrelli as he struggled with his powers and how to use them in a sensitive and responsible way. He has conflicts with his brother, large powerful organisations and a psychopath along the way but it’s always a linear path from A to B to C. There’s no skipping from A to C.
I think for premiere of Revolution to have been more entertaining it should have done two things. One, as I’ve suggested, it should have spent more time on the event which changed the change. If it’s not important enough to show in detail why are the audience expected to treat it as a significant event? Consider it this way, Snap, a very basic card game, takes moments to set up. Chess takes a little bit longer as it’s a little bit more complex. Go, a game which is said to represent the entire universe at work, takes longer still. And the second thing it should have done was to introduce more interesting characters.
As Revolution opens, we’re introduced to Ben Matheson, played by Tim Guinee, as he arrives home to his wife and kids and phones up his brother, Miles. He tells him that it’s all going to stop working, clearly referring to the power. Just as he says that every electronic device in the world flickers dead. Ben’s wife, played by Elizabeth Mitchell seems to know what’s going on too, at which point we skip ahead. In the future, Ben is again the first character we meet, creating a constant between the two points. He’s looking for his kids again, who have obviously grown up in the past fifteen years. And those two are the real primary characters in this story.
The daughter, Charlotte “Charlie”, played by Tracy Spiridakos, is fiery and defiant as she wanders off the beaten trail and scours ruined caravans. You can’t tell her where to go or who her mother is, even if it’ll get her killed or if bringing a doctor along on a prolonged journey would actually be a very good resource. And then she expects her uncle’s support because they’re family. There’s just nothing new about this character that really stands out in this initial episode. Maybe she’ll develop throughout but it feels like she’s the character that the audience is meant to get behind but her whiney, self-righteous demeanour is already putting me off.
The son, Danny, played by Graham Rogers, actually feels like a much better rounded, flawed character. When we first see him in the blackout, he’s a young child who cries in the dark. Fifteen years later, he’s nervous about leaving the trail and when he does the dust and pollen give him asthma attacks. At one point, he does assert himself and it has disastrous consequences for all involved. His character development is far more interesting to me but he’s practically the only character that stood out in the whole premiere.
On the whole this was a rather lacklustre start for what I imagine many expected to be the next big thing. The characters aren’t as interesting as Lost’s ensemble and the event itself isn’t developed in the same way that Heroes or Flashforward allowed their respectively events to shape and change the lives of those involved. If anything, take out the references to all the power stopping and you may as well have a fan fiction video of Fallout: New Vegas. And if that’s what you’re interested in, then you may as well watch Nuka Break. It’s got poorer production values but a better story and better characterisation.