Thanks to one of my fellow bloggers, ElliotSerranoofChicagoNow'sGeektoMe (and who, it must be said, is pretty close to me in terms of sheer manliness and male charisma), I was able to enjoy an advanced screening of Revolution, a new NBC genre series which boasts some a-level names in terms of production, direction, and writing ...but the question remains: is it worth watching?
My answer - the pilot shows some promise, but quite honestly, there are enough gaps and questions that have me doubtful this will go to a series two.
Revolution seemingly taps into many trends and storytelling hooks of past and present shows. Much like Falling Skies and Walking Dead, it is a post-apocalyptic examination of how people endure after a disastrous event, and the psychological toll it places on their lives. Much like Jericho, the show examines changes in power and authority after such an event, and also includes some aspects of Firefly and The Hunger Games. (There are even subplots and mysteries suggested as in other J.J. Abrams productions) On a surface level, the pilot has enough references and touchpoints that anyone can easily be hooked.
The premise is simple: one day, electrical power goes out all over the world - things go dark quite literally. (In fact, in one of the more harrowing sequences in the beginning, we see planes fall out of the sky, and one falls....directly into a crowded urban area). Fifteen years later, the landscape of the world has changed, and America is split into "republics" under heavy military rule. We found ourselves engaged in a girl's quest to initially find her uncle, but as the pilot unfolds, there are several points of interest and plot complications to insure that we will tune in next week.....
On the plus side, this 45 minute episode is very well produced - so much so that several scenes which take place in Chicago actually appear to have been filmed in Chicago. (Trust me, I should know). In addition, much of the acting is top-notch, and there's one particular action sequence that seemingly comes out of nowhere, but quite honestly, is a refreshing break from the rest of the dramatic action. Several plot points are introduced in a very non-obvious way, and the show jumps time lines almost as effectively as early episdoes of Lost. In addition, the writing is pretty sharp, and the direction really allows the story to open up and breathe.
But the writing....well, this is the weakest link of the pilot. It isn't bad, by any stretch of the imagination (in fact, there are some twists that you never see coming), but there are some initial gaps in the premise and execution that, well....they're not fatal, but can actually undermine any potential storytelling. Without spoiling, here are some egregious examples:
- Realistically - is fifteen years long enough for chaos to ensue and for tyrannical miltary leaders to take over? Or even to bring about the kind of devastation that is displayed throughout the episode?
- One sequence shows characters walking from O'Hare Airport to Wrigley Field. Now granted, they had to edit the sequence for time, but it is implied that the two sites are much closer than theyactuallyareinreallife. A simple line determining time would have helped clarify, but it feels out of place.
- You know, if the power went out, you would still have libraries full of books....and the potential for steam power. What about those as alternatives?
- The last five minutes are....well, it's introducing a subplot. I can't mention without spoiling, but it seems like a needless subplot with everything else that's happening.
(Yes, it is being a little nitpicky, and quite honestly - more will be revealed. Seeing how they resolve those plot threads will be a bit of a challenge).
But despite my misgivings, Revolution is actually a pretty good, engaging series, and the first episode sets up for a good start. You can stream it on its website, or begin watching Mondays at 10 pm/9 pm CST beginning September 17th.
But enough of my ranting - be sure to check out my blatherings via Facebook, Zone 4, and my blog.
As always, keep watching!
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