So often, these big high-concept dramas try to introduce a million characters right off the bat. They try to establish every storyline they have planned for the season in the first episode. It leaves viewers confused and the plot jumbled. Fortunately, Revolution did things right in its pilot episode.
The plot centers on a post-apocalyptic future (approximately 2027). In 2012, all the lights went out. Seriously. All electricity ceased to work in any capacity. Governments broke up and various militias formed. Various villages were established and people have gone back to basic survival skills, such as hunting and gathering. There are several similarities with The Hunger Games, as far as the environment in which they live.
The writers for this show are absolutely phenomenal. Eric Kripke (of Supernatural fame) and JJ Abrams (of Lost, Alias, and tons of other awesome shows) helm this show. Kripke wrote the pilot episode and slowly rolled out the characters.
The show really centers on the Matheson family. Brothers Miles and Ben Matheson are at the center of everything. In 2012, Ben (Tim Guinee, The Good Wife) and his wife Rachel (Elizabeth Mitchell, Lost) have a small daughter, Charlie. Then the lights go out and we see the happy family eating everything out of the freezer that is going to go bad. Sad fact: In the post-apocalyptic future, there is no ice cream because there are no freezers. It’s how you know it’s a bad world. Miles (Billy Burke, The Closer) is living in Chicago and appears to be some sort of military guy. Before the lights go out, Ben appears to know that it is coming and calls Miles to warn him that shit is about to go down. Ben has some sort of mysterious USB thingy that appears to hold all the world’s secrets.
Flash forward to 15 years in the future. Rachel is apparently dead and Ben is now dating one of the town doctors, Maggie (Anna Lise Phillips, Terra Nova). Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos, Being Human) is all grown up and is now an awesome archer. Apparently bows are the weapon of the future. Thank you, Hunger Games! Charlie’s younger brother, Danny (Graham Rogers, Memphis Beat) fulfills the hotheaded guy who acts before he thinks requirement. When Capt. Tom Neville (Giancarlo Esposito, Once Upon a Time) shows up to arrest Ben and take him back to the mysterious Monroe, Danny draws his bow and tries to defend his dad. Naturally, it goes miserably and a huge fight ensues. Ben dies in the crossfire and Neville takes Danny to his leader. Just before he dies, though, Ben tells Charlie to go to Chicago and find Miles.
Charlie then sets out for Chicago with Maggie, who insists that she is coming along. Also coming is Aaron (apparently played by Zak Orth of NYC 22, but I totally thought it was the guy who plays Harry Crane on Mad Men). So, off go Charlie, Maggie, and Not Harry Crane. Along the way they meet up with a mysterious guy Nate (JD Pardo, Breaking Dawn), who is very pretty, so Charlie trusts him, especially after he saves the three of them from some totally creepy guys.
Eventually, the three make it to Chicago and wander into what used to be a really fancy hotel. Fortunately, Miles is making himself a drink at the counter in this exact hotel. He first denies that he is Miles, but then agrees to talk to Charlie because after all, she is his niece. He just wants them to leave him alone and maintains that he doesn’t know anything about why the lights went out. Eventually, militia shows up and shit hits the fan. As it turns out, Pretty Nate is actually one of Monroe’s minions and led them right to Miles. See, you can’t trust every pretty person you meet, Charlie. Miles eventually agrees to leave with Charlie and Maggie because he’s not safe in Chicago anymore. The Three Musketeers set off on their journey, to be continued next week.
Meanwhile, Danny is taken by Neville and eventually escapes by unscrewing a pipe to which he is chained and beating some people over the head. He runs off until his asthma stops him and he passes out in some stranger’s backyard. Fortunately, this stranger is former algebra teacher Grace (Maria Howell, The Vampire Diaries) whose son had asthma and she just happens to have an inhaler. She watches over him for a while, until Neville and his men show up. At first, she claims she hasn’t seen anyone in days. Unfortunately for her, Neville was the most badass insurance adjuster ever before the blackout and his job consisted of being able to tell when people are lying. I did not know this about insurance adjusters. He saw tracks from two people leading right to her back door. She steps aside and they head upstairs, just to see Danny trying to jump out the window. Considering his asthma seems to kick in when he takes more than five steps, I predict he wouldn’t be getting far anyway. So, Danny ends up back in the custody of Neville.
The episode ends with two surprise twists. First, kindly algebra teacher Grace still has a working computer (though it is legit old school with green writing on a black screen and everything). She plugs in a USB that matches the one that Ben had at the beginning of the episode and assures the person with whom she is chatting that the militia didn’t find anything when they came. Also, Monroe (David Lyons, The Cape) is apparently Miles’ buddy he was with on the day of the blackout.
Couple things I particularly enjoyed:
Every word that came out of Zak Orth’s mouth was pretty much hilarious. As he explained, before the blackout hit, he worked for “a company called Google.” Charlie’s response: “Isn’t that an Internet thing?” Also, as he explains the blackout, “physics went insane.”
Neville kind of came off as a cranky guy, which made me giggle. When he first found Ben, he just seemed irritated that Ben didn’t immediately come with him. Apparently, he had been away from his “wife, family, and bed” for quite some time. This guy must have the most comfortable bed ever.
Overall, it was a really strong pilot. It introduced just enough to intrigue the audience, but not so much as to overwhelm us. Between Kripke (who is a really solid writer) and Abrams (who, besides being awesome, knows how to manage a big ensemble show with muddling everything up), this series has definite potential. There were definitely a couple moments that had John screaming “BUT! PHYSICS!!!!” in frustration, but unless you’re a science geek like my fiance, you won’t really notice. Last night’s ratings were awesome and it had the highest-rated debut for an hour-long scripted drama since V in 2010. Hopefully, this show won’t end up a colossal disappointment like V did.
Also, I call total bullshit on Rachel being dead. You don’t get as big an actress as Elizabeth Mitchell and kill her off in the first ten minutes. Not. Buying it.