Revenge: “Charade”
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Revenge: “Charade”

Well, now isn’t this getting deliciously complicated. Revenge has now fully evolved from its early revenge-of-the-week conceit—which is probably disappointing only for me, because I’ll really miss calling it a revenge procedural—and has confidently transitioned into full nighttime soap mode. I’ve previously acknowledged how the show hasn’t tried to pretend any part of Emily’s revenge takes place in a vacuum and how much this has benefitted the overall storytelling. What’s becoming more clear every week, though, is just how committed it is to constantly creating new, inventive obstacles for Emily to overcome as she continues with her scheme.

Emily’s big obstacle this week is jilted Grayson security officer Frank and his quest to find out what she is hiding. He discovers her stint in juvenile detention, which is where things get really interesting. Up until now, we’ve all been assuming Emily has mapped out this entire revenge plot on her own, using her father’s journals and a whole lot of pluck. This is still probably partially true, but Frank’s visit to her former detention center reveals she also had somewhat of a “revenge guru” in the warden there, played by the marvelous CCH Pounder. What exactly did the warden teach her? How much does she know? You don’t bring in CCH Pounder for a five-minute guest part on one episode, so I’m thinking we’ll be seeing more of her in the future.

The other big piece of the puzzle Frank solves at the detention center is the source of the Emily Thorne alias. I innocently assumed she simply created it whole cloth, but it turns out she actually swapped identities with her cellmate in exchange for some cash. Now Fake Amanda is a stripper who decides Frank is too much of a liability for them both and kills him to get him out of the way, and then shows up right at Emily’s doorstep. Just when Frank is out of the picture, a new, completely different problem pops up for Emily. It’s a really fun and really smart way to propel the series; instead of throwing 20 different problems at Emily all at once, they come in waves, one after the other, all propelled by the force of the thing that came before. It’s less complicated to execute and to understand, but ends up being no less interesting. It’s soap storytelling at its finest.

Also interesting is how the supporting players are getting drawn into the scheming as well. This is especially true in the case of Nolan, who has just been itching to do something devious since day one. Emily finally gives him the chance by tasking him to take down Tyler. Interestingly, Nolan finds an old restraining order against Tyler and gets him to open up as to why he is such an insanely shady person, and it turns out Tyler’s parents went bankrupt and are relying on him to restore the family’s wealth. He’s like a Jane Austen character with more homoerotic undertones. Tyler awesomely decides to try to buy Nolan’s silence with a little sex, but crafty Nolan is two steps ahead of him and tapes the whole affair. I can’t wait for the fancy party where that little video gets shown! Although I’m disappointed the show (or ABC, who knows) chickened out on showing any of the kissing or sex between the two, I do love the casual treatment of both characters’ sliding scale of sexuality and the acknowledgement of sex as a transaction. Next time, though, just show the kiss.

Tyler not only got more involved with Nolan this week but also with Ashley. The peppy party planner Ashley of the beginning of the show was apparently hiding a more sinister schemer, as she admits she’s only hanging around the Graysons so she can one day get some sort of an “in” to become one of the Hamptons elite, rather than just working for them. There’s a bit of a kindred spirit thing happening between her and Tyler, and it will be interesting to see where the show takes it and how it affects what’s going on with Emily. So far Ashley is completely in the dark as to Emily’s true intentions, but will it always be that way?

Emily’s active schemes recedes to the background a bit as she deals with the repercussions of earlier schemes, but her relationship with Daniel is definitely moving forward. She finally explicitly states to Nolan that Daniel was a part of her plan, yet not a target. Mutual love was declared. Her conversation with Jack last week still lingers, though, and I’m sure will continue to linger in the coming weeks. It’s unusual to have Jack confess his feelings so early and although it’s hard to see exactly where the show is going with the triangle, the Emily/Jack dynamic is pleasant enough it doesn’t seem like wasted time.

Finally, we have the Graysons, whose 25th wedding anniversary (and the accompanying New York Times article celebrating this fact) is the centerpiece of the action. Lydia’s fall and Frank’s subsequent fall from grace seem to have been the tipping point for the ruination of their marriage, however, and the episode ends with Victoria kicking Conrad out and him ending up right by Lydia’s bedside as she wakes up. David Clarke was sent to prison 18 years ago, yet the ghost of what they did to him hangs over their marriage every day. It’s honestly hard to believe they made it this long. As we see Victoria feel more and more shame each week for what she did, will she have her own tipping point and confess what happened? Or is her new knowledge that something is truly off with Emily be enough to keep her chained into the prison of a life she’s made for herself? Either way, Madeleine Stowe is an absolute joy to watch, no matter what she does.

Stray observations:

  • The theme this week was the duality of how you present yourself to the world vs. who you actually are, and it was reflected well in the episode. You could argue that’s the theme of the entire show so far, though, so much so that it didn’t really need to be said.
  • That green screen at the docks was painful. The series should just not include “outdoor” scenes if it doesn’t have the budget to actually be outdoors.
  • It’s interesting ABC was selling this episode really hard in promos using the love-triangle angle, when the love stories almost always take a backseat to the revenge plotline. Still, it was a darn good promo and her giving Jack the compass was wistful and sweet.
  • Also, I’m not sure but I think Emily had a threesome with Daniel and that porch swing.
  • “I don’t panic.”
  • “Tell me, what’s a gay hustler doing posing as a Harvard student?” “Gay? Eh. Hustler? Maybe."

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