Daniel Grayson has always been somewhat of a dupe, a classic patsy, there to be taken advantage of by all of the devious people that surround him. Throughout the various incarnations of his naiveté in the first two seasons, this caused him to be intermittently sympathetic and slimy, depending on just how thoroughly he was being duped at the time (and, granted, there were plenty of times he was complicit in his own duping).
But Daniel is a dupe no longer. Shooting Emily in a drunken fit of rage and sadness could have been yet another devious Daniel moment the show swept under the rug like it has so many times before, quickly returning him to his normal boring bland nothing state. But the shooting was like Daniel finally fully declaring himself as a Grayson. A lying, cheating, attempted-murdering, do-whatever-it-takes-to-keep-him-on-top Grayson, and damned if it doesn’t look kind of good on him.
Ostensibly, this episode was all about Emily deciding that after her failed plan, she was going to hang up her hat and slink away from the Hamptons for good, letting the Graysons get away with all of their crimes. The show actually does a decent job of almost making you forget that there is no way Emily could actually hang up her revenge hat, lest the show cease to exist. Most of this credit goes to Emily VanCamp, who has done a stellar job in the last few episodes of playing all the shades of Emily’s amnesia and subsequent recall of her defeat. Having Emily’s refocus come from the knowledge that Daniel shooting her took away her ability to have future children was emotionally on point but almost overkill: Is Emily’s quest going to take away everything good in her life?
Really, because Emily’s return to “the life” was a foregone conclusion, the thing keeping me engaged throughout was just how down and dirty Daniel is finally willing to go. It’s easy to see that he’s Conrad’s son when he does things like manipulate Margaux into using Voulez as a way to deflect any blame for the shooting away from him and onto Lydia, or lie to Sara and tell her he didn’t shoot Emily. It’s pathetic and sniveling but also a little genius, because why shouldn’t Daniel turn into this? Surrounded by manipulators, silently complicit in plenty of manipulation in the past, why shouldn’t he finally embrace his family legacy?
What makes this work—makes it genius, actually—is that just as soon as Daniel sort of grabs the manipulation for himself, Emily comes along and beats him at his own game. Instead of letting Victoria and Daniel find out she’s Amanda Clarke and then slipping away into the night, she lets them think she’s just a low-level grifter, glomming onto the Grayson name in order to elevate her own status and power. It’s genius because it’s exactly the type of lie they would easily believe; to the Graysons and their Hamptons ilk, status, money, and power are the holy trinity of life, and nothing is more important. So Emily publicly declaring Lydia her shooter and using this to blackmail Daniel into remaining her husband is deliciously smart and just the type of arrangement that wouldn’t make Victoria bat an eyelash, all while punishing Daniel for shooting her by damning him to a loveless life by her side. Emily’s plan on the boat might have been a complete failure, but the beginning stages of her make-up plan seem even more diabolically devious (and potentially successful).
On a more macro level, though, what I’m absolutely loving about these recent episodes is just how “all in” they finally feel, like someone in the writers room realized if they were going to make this soap thing work, they needed to commit. Amnesia, forced convalescence at the hands of your enemies, blackmail, trapping your husband in an unwanted and loveless marriage—these are the things that make Revenge work. With Emily forcing a marriage on Daniel and Daniel seemingly in no mood to quietly accept it, it feels like the soapy shenanigans are just beginning.
- Great small acting moment: When Daniel kissed Emily’s head, Emily VanCamp did a wonderful, small shrinking back into the mattress. Tiny but very effective.
- Patrick, I wanted to like you, but no one lies to Nolan and then hits him over the head with a log and remains on my good side. I can’t wait to see how Nolan gets his own little piece of revenge. (But hey, at least Patrick firmly and finally picked a side!)
- Now that Emily and Aiden are broken up, Niko seems to be the gateway to giving Aiden his own storyline away from Emily, which I’m not sure is something we need.
- Carl is adorable, as was using his stuffed animal to smuggle a secret walkie talkie to Emily.
- Nolan had a great episode, between his fabulous candy striper outfit and his wave-tousled beach appearance.
- What is Conrad doing with that Voulez article? And are magazine layouts really delivered in physical form these days rather than online?