Revenge: “Forgiveness”
B+

Revenge: “Forgiveness”

B+

Revenge

“Forgiveness”

Season 2, Episode 5

As it matures, Revenge is getting better at nailing down its individual episode themes. Last season so many of the show’s signature voiceover bookends were strained, overly serious attempts to provide some sense of unnecessary gravity to what was a fun, frothy soap. But as the stories dig deeper and the emotional stakes get higher, these themes are becoming more relevant and more enlightening than was possible in season one. Tonight’s exploration of forgiveness was on the nose in a way that totally worked in its favor, resulting in an episode that framed forgiveness as always being laced with sadness and regret.

The primary forgiveness in question here is Emily and her struggle with forgiving her mother for disappearing from her life so many years ago. As it always is in Revenge, this abandonment isn’t the only factor: There’s also Emily’s sudden recollection of her mentally ill mother attempting to drown her right before she was gone for good. Emily learning her mother was alive all these years is a level of betrayal almost beyond what the Graysons have done to her. This is a woman who has dedicated her life to avenging a wronged parent; to find her other parent could have saved her from a life of being alone—perhaps prevented her from turning into what she’s become—is devastating, especially because she can’t even have any sort of clarifying moment with her about it, lest it run all her hard work.

Emily solves this dilemma by sending in the newly awake Amanda to once again do her dirty work for her, and send her mother away so she can continue on her quest to take down the Graysons. This is when the forgiveness comes in, started not by Emily herself but by Amanda. For all her faults, and as many times as the writers have used her simply as a pawn to stir up drama, Amanda has always been a fairly sympathetic character: a lost, lonely girl just looking for her own version of a family. So when Emily’s mother confesses she let her believe she was dead because she feared she would harm her in the throes of her illness, Amanda’s immediate forgiveness for the transgression (while Emily silently weeps outside the door) feels almost as if Emily is doing the forgiving herself. As Emily admits to her mother later, in a sort of conversation-by-proxy Emily has become accustomed to since assuming her false identity, and even if Amanda hasn’t completely forgiven her yet, she wants to. That just might be enough.

This moment leads to perhaps the first genuinely honest conversation of Amanda and Emily’s relationship, as they apologize to each other for all of their many transgressions and Emily even admits she lied about Jack not being the baby’s father. It’s a compelling new wrinkle to this relationship between two women that almost feels like it could become an actual friendship and partnership, rather than Emily always having the upper hand. It also highlights Emily’s character evolution, from the steely emotionless revenge robot of the beginning of the series to the much more feeling, broken-down woman we see today. 

As for Emily’s mother as a character, Kara definitely has more to her than probably either Emily or the Graysons can handle right now. Anyone who can return from the dead and immediately give Victoria Grayson a huge hug has boundless courage, especially someone who can so easily weasel their way into getting an invitation to stay at the Grayson mansion while in town. What’s unclear, from both the writing and from Jennifer Jason Leigh’s performance, is if there’s actually more going on than her wanting to reconnect with Amanda and find Gordon White-Hair. Until Emily can figure out whose side she’s on, Kara is simply going to be there as a cold knife in the side, yet another thing that Emily can’t have until she finishes her revenge mission against the Graysons.

As for that mission, things really haven’t been going very well this season, have they? The newest wrinkle is Aiden and his position as Takeda’s proxy at Grayson Global, where Daniel himself says Takeda should pull his money out of the company and run as it is in a full downward spiral. This is where things get interesting, or at least confusing. Through an inquiry into David Clarke’s employment records from Padma (following her discovery of the plaque from David last week) Aiden and Daniel surmise that David was potentially working for Grayson when he made the initial investment in Nolan’s company, and therefore Grayson could somehow have a claim to a significant portion of that company since David signed a non-compete clause. 

The question remains: Why did Padma make this inquiry? Is she really looking out for Nolan’s best interests, or does she have a secret agenda of her own? Their actual relationship so far has been a pretty big snooze, so giving it a bit of edge is a good thing. Conrad Grayson suddenly having a legitimate stake in half of Nolan’s company, though? That is very, very bad. If this happens, I expect Emily’s newfound ability to show forgiveness won’t get in the way of her seeking some serious revenge.

Stray observations:

  • Mason Treadwell, you gloriously slimy snoop. Welcome back. Piece of advice: don’t buy a house, or a car, or basically anything flammable. Emily is not going to be happy when she learns you’re prying into Amanda’s past.
  • Emily feeling genuinely regretful about not being there for Nolan in the wake of his father’s death is the latest in a long string of wonderful friendship moments for them this season.
  • Amanda looks pretty good for someone who just came out of a medically induced coma. Where did all that blood come from if there’s no wound to heal?
  • Jack basically agreed to sell his bar to Kenny, I guess? Is he just going to work there now? Jack will have nothing to do on this show if he isn’t cleaning the bar while he has conversations.
  • Kara: “So smart to build it right on the ocean, you can see your enemies coming.” 
  • Nolan: “I know I’ve been AWOL, but I just became an uncle. Well, one of those non-uncle uncles, like Kracker or Fester.”

More TV Club