That sound you heard tonight was all of America collectively screaming “REVENGE!” at the top of its lungs, as everyone’s favorite nighttime soap is finally back. Somehow, this is only the second episode to air in the last two months (with the most recent break being an agonizing six weeks), which in regular season network television time is practically the equivalent of waiting 17 months in between seasons of Mad Men. How was the return? Well… strange, honestly.
Revenge has a remarkable way of staying light on its feet and adapting its storytelling style to fit the current state of the narrative. Its strategy of starting out as almost a light procedural and then slowly evolving into an all-out, serialized soap is genius in retrospect, a way to build the world and characters before putting them all in a bottle and shaking them up. That’s definitely where we are now, deeply invested in this world that has just blown up, set into a tailspin by Daniel’s murder arrest. The best thing about this development is how it so clearly delineates each character’s specific character and motive, and also how it so clearly defines the world of the show. No one on Daniel’s side is really concerned about finding out the truth about who really killed Tyler. In fact, the event almost becomes a case of history repeating itself, with Victoria and Conrad willing to do anything to make sure anyone but their family is implicated in a crime.
The best thing about this Daniel story is how it brings Victoria and Emily together to accomplish a common goal, while still almost competing against each other to make sure the way the goal is achieved works out in their favor. Victoria wants to blame Amanda Clarke for the murder but eventually settles on framing Jack Porter, a move Emily just cannot tolerate. Emily has decided Daniel taking the fall for the murder is unacceptable, but Jack taking the fall would be a fate even worse.
Although Victoria and Emily are working toward a similar goal, there is one big difference between them right now, and that is control. Emily—whose loss of control caused Takeda to step in and make this whole mess in the first place—is completely in control of herself now, executing carefully laid-out plans with ease, while Victoria is in a complete tailspin. Victoria’s tailspin allows Emily to learn the identity of Victoria’s New York heavy, and that Victoria used this heavy to have Daniel beat up so he could get released from jail. This tailspin also accounts for one of the stranger stories this show has introduced, and one that still has me scratching my head.
Yes, I’m talking about Victoria’s (or should I say Vicky Harper’s?) sudden affair with the Artist Who Is Afraid Of Shirts. Her emotional state makes this understandable: Her child is in prison, her marriage is over, and her entire family basically hates her. It’s the execution of the moment that just felt off, somehow. Revenge is usually fully in charge of its soapy machinations, but this was perhaps too much, too fast, with too little explanation. One moment, a stranger is buying Victoria a drink. The next, she’s face first in ecstasy against what appears to be some terrible art. It was jarring and disorienting, enough to make me not fully know if the entire sequence was a dream until she saw him again. The reveal that he is the man she left Conrad for is interesting, as is learning he seems to be some sort of international art forger, but the introduction was not the show’s best work. At least James Purefoy is always a pleasure.
Other than Victoria’s odd sojourn into a Joe Eszterhas movie, the rest of the episode was classic Revenge fun. Emily’s decision to lure Mason Treadwell back into the fold and then use his enmity toward Victoria to clear Jack’s name was pure Emily Thorne revenging of the highest order, and Nolan’s help was delightful as always. Interestingly, one of the better plot threads tonight was Charlotte and Declan and their conflict over Jack’s implication in Tyler's murder. Charlotte has been infinitely more interesting since she found out about her true parentage (and, honestly, since she started popping pills to deal) and her cold dismissal of Declan once she learned of his betrayal was pure Victoria Grayson. The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree indeed, Charlotte.
Still, I can’t shake the uneasiness of this Victoria storyline. Something about it just felt so off, so artificially soapy, so intrusively inserted into this show that has managed to avoid such pitfalls. At least this time we won’t have to wait six weeks to see how the story develops.
- I'm not a huge fan of the opening and closing voiceover and the "themes" of each week, but I thought the "Doubt" theme here was quite well executed, especially with Victoria's speech about the little bit of doubt needed to set Daniel free. Good stuff.
- We finally get to see Emily’s hand-to-hand combat skills come into use here, as she attacks Victoria’s heavy and makes an impression of one of his keys. All while wearing a kick-ass wig, I might add.
- The Treadwell Report is a real site, of course. I know Mason fancies himself a reporter but you’d think his language would be a little bit more frivolous and a little bit less functional.
- This week, Nolan is awesome: bringing Emily a croissanwich, wearing a sweater with lobsters on it. Nolan is the best.
- Mason: “My typewriter is now an unsightly heap of molten dreams. I’ll never write again.”
- Charlotte: “What if I am on drugs? My father’s a mass murderer. My half-sister is an arsonist. I guess the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, does it?”