How does one describe a show as wild as Revolution?
It is one of the most action-packed, science fiction programs I have ever seen. It is actually classified as a drama, not the dreaded “sci-fi,” but whatever they want to call it, I think it is great. I came late to the party, and did not see any episodes of Revolution when they were originally televised on NBC. Fortunately I had heard enough good things about it to watch the newly released Revolution: The Complete First Season on Blu-ray though. I came away a huge fan.
The premise is strong. One day in the very near future, all the power in the world suddenly goes out. It is “The Blackout,” and when it comes, all bets are off. Cars stop running, planes fall out of the sky, the cities go dark, and anarchy is the order of the day. The series takes place 15 years after this event, which seems to have happened sometime after the Obama administration.
I would guess that the events in Revolution are taking place sometime in the 2030s. The former Northeastern United States is now called The Monroe Republic, and is ruled dictatorially by President/General Sebastian “Bass” Monroe (David Lyons), who is headquartered in Philadelphia.
In the pilot episode, Monroe’s men are searching for Ben Matheson (Tim Guinee), who Monroe believes is capable of restoring power. When Monroe’s Militia surrounds Matheson, he is with his daughter Charlotte “Charlie” Matheson (Tracy Spiridakos), son Danny (Graham Rogers), and fellow computer geek Aaron Pittman (Zak Orth). Major Tom Neville’s (Giancarlo Esposito) men kill Matheson, and take Danny hostage. Before he dies, Ben gives Aaron a pendant, and tells them to find his brother Miles (Billy Burke) to help them.
Miles Matheson is Monroe’s former second in command, and the two have known each other since they were children. When Miles left Monroe, it was a deep betrayal, and now something akin to a blood feud exists between the two. Ben’s common-law wife Maggie Foster (Anna Lise Phillips) joins Charlie and Aaron in attempting to find Miles. When they do meet up with him, he tells them that they will need to bring along Nora Clayton (Daniella Alonso) if they hope to have any luck in freeing Danny. This is a fairly large band of heroes, but over the course of 20 episodes, their ranks will shrink. They will also pick up new recruits along the way.
Monroe is a treacherous man, who will stop at nothing to control not only what used to be the United States, but the world. I mentioned Giancarlo Esposito as Major Tom Neville, and he is a wonder. Fans of Breaking Bad will immediately recognize Esposito as the late Gus Fring. He brings it here as well, as deliciously malicious as is possible. In a series full of strong performances, Esposito is first among equals.
There are so many major plot twists in Revolution, even during each episode, that to explain the storyline would be to give it all away. Characters thought dead are actually alive, while prominent members of the main cast are killed off without warning.
Since there is a 15-year gap between the blackout, and when we pick up the story, there are occasional flashback scenes. Actually, the flashbacks go back a couple of years before the blackout even, and help to give us an understanding of how things got to be the way they are.
Ben and his wife Rachel Matheson (Elizabeth Mitchell) were talked into working on a Department of Defense project by Randall Flynn (Colm Feore). I have to admit that the science got a little fuzzy for me in this regard, but what they create are called “nanites,” which evidently absorb all of the energy in the world. They are so small as to be the size of cells, and have two commands, to absorb energy, and to reproduce. Turning on the power means turning them off, which is a monumental task.
To even get near the technology to accomplish this means to get in to a place called The Tower in Colorado. It is the most secure building in the world, and is actually an underground “tower.” The claim in the show is that it is where Dick Cheney hid out on 9/11. As tempting as it is, I do not want to give away what happened in the finale, only to say that it was incredible.
Revolution has at least two well-known Hollywood names listed as executive producers, Jon Favreau and J.J. Abrams. I may be showing my own ignorance with the following, but to my knowledge, there has never been a Led Zeppelin song licensed for use in a television series. In the episode titled “Kashmir,” they use that famous Zeppelin tune, which was surprising. The scene in which they use it is one of the best of the series too. It is a fantasy sequence in which Miles hallucinates a meeting with Monroe, and it is really well done.
A perusal of the episode titles reveals that the people in charge are big Zeppelin fans. Besides “Kashmir,” there is also “No Quarter,” “The Song Remains the Same,” and “Nobody‘s Fault But Mine.” Some of the other interesting program titles include “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” “The Love Boat,” and “Soul Train.” There are actually all sorts of cool little details like that. At one point, someone mentions something about a “Governor Affleck in California,” for example.
With most of the guns and ammo either used up or just plain missing after 15 years of anarchy, the most common weapons are old-school. Real old-school, like knives, swords, bow and arrows, crossbows, and good old hand-to-hand combat. I had never realized how much more violent this type of fighting is. When a gun is shot and a guy falls, it is one thing. But to see him in a knife fight to the death is something else again.
Another detail I really liked was the way they show nature reclaiming the land. This is made abundantly clear in the opening, with a shot of an overgrown White House. Of course it makes sense, but to see this really adds to the realism of the whole premise.
My favorite post-apocalyptic film has always been The Road Warrior (1981), but that was always about the chase. With Revolution, the “end” has come through unchecked technology at the hands of the military, and there is a genuine sense of “this could really happen” about the show to me.
The only aspect of the series that I found myself sometimes wondering about were the number of times that our small band of heroes, or “rebels” as they call themselves, get themselves out of absolutely overwhelming situations. If there is a problem with Revolution, this is it. Watching three unarmed people defeat 50 armed militia-men time after time stretches the credibility factor to the breaking point. It is done far too often. Hopefully this situation will be addressed in the second season, although with J.J. Abrams (Star Trek: Into Darkness) involved, who knows?
The Blu-ray edition of Revolution: The Complete First Season also contains the series on DVD and Ultraviolet. It is a nine-disc package, featuring four Blu-rays, five DVDs, and the printed UV code. The BR and DVD extras are identical except for one thing, there the “Cast and Creative Team at the 2013 PaleyFest” (28 minutes) that is exclusive to the Blu-ray set.
Both formats feature “An In-Depth Look at the Revolution Pilot,” (14 minutes), “Creating a Revolution” (20 minutes), a Gag Reel (two minutes), and deleted scenes from 16 episodes. The most impressive of the bonus features to me are the five webisodes, which were evidently done to drum up interest in the show before it went on the air. This is not explained, but all of the events seem to lead up to the pilot, hence my assumption.
The set came out just in time for us to catch up, and my suggestion is to do just that. Despite my minor quibbles, Revolution is the show I am most looking forward to watching this season, which begins on September 25.