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Thursday, May 22, 2014


It was a simple concept for a show.  What if it all went away:  Internet, television, radio, central air, electricity?   What if something happened and all society returned to the age before Tesla and Edison?  What if societal breakdown led to the United States being splintered into militias, no more centralized Government, no more regulation?  If you want something in this life, you take by force or other means.   Pretty interesting premise for a show, right?  The world goes away and we are left to watch it feast upon itself. 

That was Revolution, the latest in a long line of shows trying to take the place of the vacancy left by LOST years ago.   When appointment TV shows like LOST end its run, everyone tried to capitalize on some kind of event that led to isolation or reversal in social norms.  Shows like The Event and Flash Forward couldn’t replicate the logic bending appeal involved in a simple premise.     The Walking Dead survived and thrived, but it already had a built up fan base in its comic book (Graphic Novel if you prefer) run.   

Another show attempted to do what Revolution suggests, Jericho.   Though a different catalyst than Revolution, Jericho, like its 80s Cold War telefilm counterpart, The Day After, focuses on a nuclear missile attack.  It had a cult following and was revived before being finally cancelled after its second season. 

But Revolution should have been simple.   Turn out the lights.   Cause panic.   Destroy society.   Establish your heroes and villains.  Introduce your arcs, whether they be, “Why did the lights go out?”, “Who turned them out?”, and “How do we turn them back on?” and go with it.  But within the first few episodes, Revolution went for broke.  The power isn’t gone.  It’s just being suppressed.  Then, to make it worse, it’s being suppressed by cancer fighting nanotechnology that the government leveraged to fight terrorism on the other side of the globe. 

The series boasted some great ideas.  Billy Burke as a Han Solo-esque antihero, complete with a saber to take on militia baddies.  What is the nature of patriotism?  How ingrained is technology into our world and how do we react when it gets taken away?  OK, well, that last one sort of got skipped because the pilot skips fifteen years ahead.   Still, the nature of the LOST style of flashback lends itself to being able to bake in that concept into the series mythology as time moves forward.  Except, it never does move forward, it just stays still like the hands on an electric clock. 

Revolution either blew its wad or jumped the shark within the first few episodes and that’s where it struggled to keep my initial attention.  One of The Walking Dead’s major unanswered questions is what caused the virus that has infected the populous.  We just know that everyone is infected, everyone who dies with their brain intact will reanimate.  Whether or not the eventually come to explain the event is up in the air and that’s what keeps the show going.  The zombies are a part of the life, now, but humans are the real monsters.  We see how everyone deals with post-apocalyptic life.  They start a community and shutter the outside world.  They forage.  They mobilize and militarize.   But the problems that exist in a pre-apocalypse world don’t go away.  They just localize and intensify.  Revolution should have focused on that instead of whiz-bang gadgetry and lofty mathematical equations come Oppenheimer weapons of mass destruction.  Deal with a world that is tech addicted. Deal with civilization crumbling without its infrastructure.  Deal with the struggle between the bad guys that have taken over in the absence and the good guys who want to restore the world.  And, while you’re at it, deal with the struggle between wanting to restore the power and knowing how we dealt when it was removed.  That was hinted at, but never really explored in its entirety.

Granted, maybe comparing Walking Dead to Revolution is an apples to oranges argument and I’m favoring one over the other but I learned to accept Revolution and come back to watching it.  But the endgame of the series and its Nano-can’t-decide- if-it’s-the-machine-of-The-Matrix-or-I, Robot personality just went a little sideways. 

How would I have fixed it?

Drop the nano but keep the philosophy. 
If you are going to start 15 years after the blackout, introduce something that sparks the debate on whether or not the blackout was an act of terrorism or government screw up.  Maybe delve into an inside plot to disrupt the government and return it to the people.   Don’t turn the power back on during the first season.  Hint at it.  Theorize its possibility.  Just don’t even go there until you get to the last moments of the first season and have something small lead you into a cliffhanger.  Second Season, you have the possibility and the threat of electricity on the table and the struggle to take control like Monroe did to establish military supremacy.  Also, delve into the decision of whether or not it would be better to just go without it.  Are we better off with it back?   Are we just going to make the same mistakes all over again with it back?    Beyond evolve the backstory.  Keep the math, but not the science fiction.  If you’re not going to use nanotechnology, have some device in a mountain somewhere that is suppressing electricity.  Or, have the scientists start from scratch and reinvent the light bulb.    Makes you wonder if static electricity was also suppressed by the nano?  What about Faraday coils?   

Adopt a steampunk/Fallout motif somewhere.
Don’t get me wrong.  The one pure stroke of genius this show had, which brought me back was having Brett Michaels play himself.  The acoustic hillbilly rock soundtrack was a nice touch, but why not expand on it?   This is a brave new world.  You have so many survivalists in the real world, why not introduce that into the mix?  Remember LOST’s John Locke?  People who role play, LARP, do reenactments of battles, invent things from junk could be factions, or at least serve as humor.  We have are reduced to simple weaponry and tactics.  They nailed that, but with the nano in play, they handcuff themselves to not moving in other directions.

Keep people on one side. 
The constant flip flopping of allegiances and morality just annoys us.  Yes, there can be qualms, gray area, justifiable acts, but even Game of Thrones doesn’t have this many changes in colors.   The characters don’t change their values, the situations dictate their approach.  As much as I love Giancarlo Esposito, I just can’t figure out what the hell is motivation is.

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