Revolution: “Happy Endings”
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Revolution: “Happy Endings”

Let’s talk a little bit about Tracy Spiridakos—or T.R.A.C.Y., as many of you have endearingly dubbed her in the comments for her bionic approach to acting. Consistently maligned as the weakest link of the show in season one, season two found a better way to use her by almost not using her at all, switching over to the role of stone-faced killer and barely uttering a sentence or two per episode. It worked around her limitations, and also worked well from a storytelling perspective as it was a natural assumption that her journeys and losses had left her largely dead inside.

“Happy Endings” breaks that silence, with the longest conversation she’s had since the start of the season. Having taken Connor into her bed—“You were cute, I was bored,” she explains to his mild surprise—she expresses her belief that whatever fight they have with the Patriots is one they’re destined to lose and whether or not she goes down swinging, she’s still going down. It’s the most explanation we’ve gotten for why she is the way she is, and surprisingly there’s no part of it that made me wish she’d just shut her mouth again. It’s a bleak worldview to have, but there’s a matter-of-factness to her delivery—and pursuit of Connor—that somehow weirdly undercuts the darkness.

And that attitude is something that flows through a lot of “Happy Endings,” an episode that almost seems to respond to my complaints last week about how bleak the show can be. There’s a feeling of taking a breath here, characters trying to find a moment of respite amidst the chaos or pursuing schemes that are at the moment less serious than waging war on the reborn United States government. It’s not perfect, but it’s a nice breath for the show to take before it goes on Olympics hiatus for a few weeks, and also rearranges things to a point that promises more.

Some of that fun may be tied to how quickly the episode moves fast the bleakness of “Captain Trips.” After a series of ominous cliffhangers last week, Revolution should earn some kind of prize for the speed with which it resolves said cliffhangers: Miles and Monroe snipe the guards holding Connor, Gene keeps breathing just long enough for Connor to sprint to the plague tents with the vaccine, and everyone rides out of the Patriot camp with only a minute’s hesitation from the guards at the gate. It’s a good sign that none of these conflicts are going to be drawn out, but the adjustment is jarring, as if the writers got bored between episodes and decided to skip ahead to something new. That feeling grows even more prominent when the action skips right ahead to “five days later,” Gene on the mend and an almost domestic rhythm between our makeshift band of heroes.

Of course, the five-day jump is necessary to account for the results of the other cliffhanger resolution. Dragged away to a brutal Patriot imprisonment, a beaten Neville finds himself dumped on the carpet of a very familiar office, and looks up to see for the first time the president of the United States. After speculation that they’d go for a more prominent guest star as the commander in chief, President Davis turns out to be a comparatively unrecognizable choice: Cotter Smith, who portrayed another President in X2: X-Men United. Davis presents himself as a casual, business-like sort to Neville, presenting the man with an offer to hunt and kill Monroe. However, you don’t get to be the leader of either the free world or a tyrannical neo-American force without a steely spine, as he shows by casually discussing removing parts of Julia as he munches on bacon and eggs. It’s a good introduction for our previously faceless Big Bad, as being able to order Neville around is a skill most people don’t have.

Part of me sees the approach as more than a little contrived—releasing someone like Neville into the wild is begging for trouble regardless of what hold you have over him—but I’m so happy to finally see him reintegrated into the main story I’ll forgive that trespass. As much as Neville’s ruthless approach to goring the Patriot machine has provided engaging stories on a weekly basis, there’s been a growing sense that Giancarlo Esposito and JD Pardo are on their own show that’s only tangentially related to everything going on in Texas. Before this week, it was almost to the point that I was going to call for the show to try out a few episodes where they pick Willoughby, Washington or Lubbock and just stay there for the entire hour. It’s a large cast that needs to be serviced, but their current approach to storytelling fragments the show and disrupts engagement with certain plots.

Consequently, seeing Neville return to the fold is a welcome sight. Not only do his interactions with Miles and Rachel stir up fond memories of the time he told Miles to go back to being the general of his nuts or the time he nearly killed Rachel for trying to secretly make a bomb, it adds a layer of complexity to the resistance that’s been stumbling along for a few weeks. Neville returns to his story about wanting to take down the Patriots for vengeance, but is he merely playing the role of double agent to serve up Monroe to his new Patriot overlords? Or is he still playing the Patriots with the idea that Miles and Monroe would be useful allies in this struggle? His intentions are still heavily cloaked, but we all know that the only person Neville has any loyalty to is Neville, and odds are good that before this is over very side’s going to wish they killed him when they had the chance.

However, whatever Neville’s plans are they’re sidetracked by the fact that Monroe isn’t anywhere near Willoughby. After realizing the Patriots are playing with biological warfare, Monroe comes to the conclusion that they’re woefully outmatched, and—much as Miles did against him all the way back in “Ghosts”—decides they need to recruit some more muscle in the fight. This suggestion leads to a welcome return to one of Revolution’s most vibrant settings, New Vegas (no, not that one), which was disappointingly abandoned after the season premiere. Going back to its rough carnival-like setting restores some of that energy into the show, and also allows for some new blood in the supporting cast: Enlightened’s Timm Sharp as casino owner Gould and The League’s Katie Aselton as mercenary chief Duncan Page. Both characters feed off the energy of their scenarios, and their history with Monroe lets him seem simultaneously in and out of his element.

Plus, the setting lets Revolution engage in new territory: a good old-fashioned casino heist. Duncan won’t sell the soldiers Monroe needs for anything less than 30 diamonds per head, and the only way to get that money is to take off with the night’s take. He orchestrates a plan to have another fight in Gould’s pit, going up against a figure that makes Ivan Drago look average, and take a good long beating while Charlie and Connor team up to make off with the lockbox. Cross-cutting between the two narratives—well-choreographed fight scene in one and careful maneuvering in the other—it gives the episode a lively caper feel that the show hasn’t approached before, especially when the episode flashes back to show how Connor pulled an switcheroo and was able to walk right out of the tent. It’s so well-executed, you almost think a plan is finally going to succeed and we can see how the characters respond to success.

That is, of course, until Monroe takes a shotgun butt to the face. As it turns out, Gould’s henchmen saw the connection between Jimmy pushing for a fight and the casino robbery. Good for fans of New Vegas (no, not that one)—it looks like father and son will be staying a while—but bad for those of us seeing the umpteenth instance of someone taken prisoner.

Finally, there’s the latest installment of Aaron’s never-ending hike, which may have finally reached a point where something’s going to happen. He and Priscilla have made their way to Lubbock, Texas, where their old friend Peter (Daniel Henney) has found religion and set up a new career as a faith healer. Except the faith manifests itself as fireflies, and the healing powers are Peter’s nascent control of the nanites, a distinction he isn’t yet ready to accept. Given that the show keeps punting the question of what the nanite sentience means, hopefully his statement “It wants us here, and we’re just going to stay until we figure out why” indicates the show’s finally ready to explore how far it wants to take this question, and can approach it in a setting where questions of both faith and science can be asked. And given that this discussion’s taking place in Texas, hopefully it means the rest of the cast won’t be away from it for too long.

Stray observations:

  • Yes, that was actually Poison frontman and Rock Of Love star Bret Michaels in New Vegas (no, not that one), playing an acoustic version of “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” I didn’t see the point of the cameo personally, other than to give some more distinctive background music and offer Monroe an semi-amusing throwaway line: “The world ends, there’s gonna be nothing left but Bret Michaels. Him and the cockroaches.” Now if he’d been cast as the president, then I’d sit up and take notice.
  • Charlie’s mother and uncle unknowingly follow her example, as they enjoy date night at an abandoned drive-in theater and finally consummate their affections. As Rachel aptly puts it after taking off her shirt, “I think 20 years is enough foreplay.” It’s a nice instance of humanity for both of them: They’re not battle-weary or world-weary—they’re just weary at this point and want one night of peace. Plus, the fact that Rachel looks like a teenager being busted by her father when they return to the hideout is a terrific moment of domesticity.
  • Connor doesn’t bother leaving Truman a vial of vaccine. Nice dick move, kid.
  • Even after 15 years, decorum persists in the Oval Office. “Not the sofa. That was Reagan’s and you’ve got dust on your britches.”
  • “Typhus? I don’t know to kill these guys or write them a fan letter.” “Uh, the first one.”
  • “See the mummified remains of Steven Tyler!”
  • “Charlotte, try not to get yourself killed. At least not until you’re on Miles’s watch.”
  • This’ll be the last Revolution review until February 26, as NBC’s boxing up the majority of its programming to make way for coverage of the Winter Olympics. (Being a Wisconsin native, I intend to watch a lot of curling in the interim.) See you in a few weeks!

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