I know who to blame in Revolution’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” – the writers!
The mid-season finale of ‘Revolution’ showed us more of the same: dimensionless characters, on-the-nose dialogue and plot holes big enough to fly a helicopter through. When will they turn this show around?
Normally when a show reaches the midway point of its freshman season, it’s already hit its stride. It takes a while to establish the characters and get all of the necessary backstory and exposition out of the way so that the audience understands the direction the overall story is taking. The first few episodes introduce the main players, the antagonistic forces and set up the world these characters inhabit. And, typically, those first few episodes are the weakest of all the episodes of a series’ run because the writers are still finding their voices, the actors haven’t fully embodied the characters they are playing yet, and the show as a whole hasn’t found its audience.
Usually it is around the sixth or seventh episode when things start turning around … the actors are comfortable with their characters, the writers are writing for that character that the actor “created,” and we as the audience know what to expect by the rules of the world that were established in the pilot and preliminary episodes. We no longer need to be spoon fed information because we understand the characters and the stories the writers are trying to tell.
I, like probably most people reading this, am a fan of the shows and films that Joss Whedon creates. Buffy the Vampire Slayer became a cultural phenomenon. I really enjoyed the show because of the characters and clever writing, but I wasn’t an instant fan. The first few episodes were not that good. The characters were thin, the dialogue a little rough, and they introduced the idea of other monsters, not just vampires, which I found confusing given that the title clearly stated “vampire slayer,” not “equal opportunity monster slayer.” Really, who goes back and watches the episode with the giant praying mantis?
But eventually I was won over once the writers and actors got into their groove and started presenting better stories (and I realized the other monsters were a necessity since watching Buffy just dust vamps each week would get tired). The turning point was after the episodes “The Pack” and “Angel” (coincidentally, episodes 6 and 7), where the characters started feeling more real, they introduced Principal Snyder (an antagonistical force for multiple seasons) and we learn that Angel is, in fact, a vampire (sorry for the spoiler). From this point, the relationships between the characters developed, making them multidimensional, the story-line moved towards the inevitable climax with the Master and the show became much more entertaining. The writers took that time in the first few episodes to flesh out the characters, establish the rules, and set the stage for the remainder of the season and seasons to come.
But here we are at the mid-season finale and Revolution is still floundering around in that murky episode 3 zone. The characters are one dimensional, the dialogue is on-the-nose and the story-lines rarely make logical sense. You can get away with plot holes early on if you take the audience to an interesting place later, but Revolution has taken us from the Midwest all the way to Philadelphia and still managed to underwhelm almost every step of the way.
I mentioned in another post how I felt the writers missed an opportunity when they showed Miles single-handedly taking out a dozen militiamen in the pilot episode. It diffused any sense that Miles would struggle on the group’s quest to rescue Danny … and so far, they have rarely struggled. A key aspect of storytelling is conflict, and time and time again Revolution confuses sword fighting and musket fire with real conflict. Conflict and drama only exist when there’s someone or something stopping the protagonist from reaching their goal. But if the antagonist is easily defeated, then there’s no tension, no question if they’ll achieve their mission and as a result no real conflict. Each weekly “mission” involved Miles warning Charlie how the obstacle-of-the-week was insurmountable, but each week they easily defeat said obstacle and move on to the next one. The barge where they brainwashed children into joining the militia, according to Miles, was a fortress designed to be impenetrable, until they needed to penetrate it and then there were only seven guards running it and they easily kill them all and escape. Then there was Strausser, the sadistic torturer (and implied rapist), sent to track Miles and the gang and get the pendant. Not only does Miles get the upper hand over Strausser (the only reason he doesn’t kill him is because he’s out of bullets and has to flee before reinforcements show up) but later Rachel, using all 110lbs of her strength, overpowers Strausser (in a fist fight!) and stabs him in the chest. And finally the R&D facility where Monroe is building his pendant amplifier which will give him power over all the military weapons he’s been stockpiling – probably the most important aspect of his entire regime – and Miles and Nora are able to sneak in the back door. Plus the guards stationed at the facility are on the inside of the walls, not patrolling outside the perimeter (where they’d see Aaron waiting with pipe bombs) … it makes no logical sense, it’s too easy for the characters, and what it comes down to is lazy writing.
But the biggest issue, I feel, is Revolution’s inability to create a connection between the audience and its characters. We can’t empathize with these characters because there is never a sense that they are in any danger. Even in dire situations the characters never show a hint of panic. When Neville captures Charlie and the gang (sans Miles) at good ole Kip’s place, Charlie smirks and makes some witty retort in response to Neville’s threat. She’s not scared of him, so why should we (the audience) worry about her safety. We know Miles will eventually bust in, swords a-blazing, and save her because that is what the pilot episode taught us … this group is invincible. Compare this to the kidnap and interrogation of Maggie from the final episodes of The Walking Dead. In both scenarios, the writers want to show that these females characters are trying to appear strong despite their situation. But how uneasy did you feel when the Governor ordered Maggie to disrobe as he encircled her in her interrogation? She stood her ground, didn’t cower to his demands to tell him where the others are hiding, but she was definitely scared. Maggie knew at any moment the Governor could snap and kill her. As a result, we were also scared and anxious at what may happen to Maggie and as a result we felt a connection to her.